Friday, September 21, 2018
Health

Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

The toxic algae bloom known as Red Tide has left a trail of dead fish in its wake up the western coast of Florida. The bloom that had been wreaking havoc on our southern neighbors has now made its way to the Tampa Bay area. High concentrations of the algae have been found in water samples at several local beaches, and beachgoers are seeing and smelling the effects. Many allergy and asthma sufferers have been feeling symptoms for weeks.

Red Tide is a marine algae known as Karenia brevis that produces toxins that can be harmful to sea life and humans. Algae are vital to our ocean ecosystem, but under certain environmental conditions they thrive, feeding on a variety of pollutants like phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer as well as runoff and wastewater. In this environment,
K. brevis can grow quickly, forming large blooms that create a reddish-brown color in the ocean. This creates the phenomenon we know as Red Tide.

K. brevis releases a toxin called brevetoxin that can cause problems when ingested or inhaled. This toxin kills large amounts of fish and negatively affects our shorelines. During Red Tide season it is wise to be cautious when ingesting shellfish but important to know that the state of Florida closely monitors shellfish beds in Red Tide areas and closes them until shellfish are safe to eat again. The brevetoxins tend to accumulate in shellfish and, when ingested, can cause neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, which is marked by gastrointestinal symptoms as well as neurologic ones like tingling in fingers and toes.

Toxins can aerosolize in the wind that drifts ashore and trigger or worsen upper and lower respiratory problems. There is much evidence of upper and lower respiratory tract irritation upon exposure. In my experience, patients who suffer with asthma or allergies are more likely to experience symptoms with Red Tide exposure. These patients experience itching and burning of eyes, irritation of throat and nasal symptoms like congestion, sneezing and itching. Coughing, wheezing and chest tightness have also been reported. Asthmatics may develop exacerbations of previously stable asthma requiring more intensive treatment. Many patients also report skin irritation like stinging, burning or a rash when coming in contact with the seawater.

Swimming in the water during Red Tide can also cause ocular and skin symptoms. If you experience skin or eye irritation, rinse off with freshwater.

If you have known allergies or asthma, it’s best to avoid the beach during a Red Tide outbreak. If you have asthma and do decide to visit the beach, bring your rescue inhaler.

With our changing climate it seems Red Tide blooms are becoming an annual occurrence. Until we find ways to reduce their occurrence, people with pre-existing upper and lower respiratory conditions like allergic rhinitis, asthma and COPD should be cautious. You can check the conditions at local beaches at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s website (visitbeaches.org).

Dr. Mona V. Mangat is a board-certified allergist and immunologist at Bay Area Allergy & Asthma in St. Petersburg. Find her at bayallergy.com. Contact her at [email protected]

Comments
Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

TAMPA — As John Reisinger waited with family at Tampa General Hospital, grief settled in like a fog. So some of the details are hazy.But he remembers the moment when three women in white lab coats approached him.The day before, his niece, Jessica Rau...
Published: 09/21/18
I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. Here's what Netflix shows get right and wrong about it.

I was hospitalized for my eating disorder. Here's what Netflix shows get right and wrong about it.

It took me a year and a half to watch Netflix’s To the Bone. The movie, which debuted in January 2017, portrays Ellen, a 20-year-old woman battling anorexia nervosa, and her experience being in and out of various treatment programs. When it w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
All Children’s unveils a $95 million research center. Next step: ‘Cure some diseases.’

All Children’s unveils a $95 million research center. Next step: ‘Cure some diseases.’

ST. PETERSBURG — "Vicky Hopkins" is 37 weeks pregnant and splayed on a bed at Johns Hopkin’s All Children’s Hospital. Four obstetricians surround her as she groans."My back is killing me," she complains, but she keeps pushing. Soon the round shape of...
Published: 09/20/18
Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

WASHINGTON — Thousands of foster children may be getting powerful psychiatric drugs prescribed to them without basic safeguards, says a federal watchdog agency that found a failure to care for youngsters whose lives have already been disrupted...
Published: 09/17/18
Doctors dismissed her, but she turned out to be right after years of needless suffering

Doctors dismissed her, but she turned out to be right after years of needless suffering

The prominent New York City gynecologist didn’t bother to conceal his disdain."Stop practicing Google medicine," Lina Kharnak remembers the doctor chiding her when she asked about a possible cause of her worsening leg and back pain. The disease about...
Published: 09/16/18
Updated: 09/17/18
Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion advised not to use running water after water main break

Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion advised not to use running water after water main break

Since Saturday morning, patients and staff in Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion and Rehabilitation Center have been advised against using running water.As of Sunday afternoon, it was not known when the recommended ban would be lifted.According t...
Published: 09/16/18
Anger management: Learn healthy ways to handle it, and unlearn bad behavior

Anger management: Learn healthy ways to handle it, and unlearn bad behavior

What makes you mad? Dropping your new phone in the toilet — after deciding not to take the extra coverage that would have replaced it? Being cut off in traffic? Having a parking place "stolen" from you? Doing dishes after shopping for and cooki...
Published: 09/14/18
Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

The toxic algae bloom known as Red Tide has left a trail of dead fish in its wake up the western coast of Florida. The bloom that had been wreaking havoc on our southern neighbors has now made its way to the Tampa Bay area. High concentrations of the...
Published: 09/14/18
In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor.

In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor.

The health care business in Florida and across the nation is the midst of monumental change as insurers, hospital chains and even retailers begin to venture outside their traditional roles. Hospitals are getting into the insurance end of the busines...
Published: 09/17/18
Calling teen vaping ‘epidemic,’ officials weigh flavor ban

Calling teen vaping ‘epidemic,’ officials weigh flavor ban

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials are sounding the alarm about teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an "epidemic" and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their flavored vaping products pulled from the market. The w...
Published: 09/12/18