Tag Archives: allergies

How to Fight Winter Allergies

By: Kimberlee Adkins, M.D.

You survived spring pollen and summer hay fever. Now that the weather has cooled off, you’re due a break from allergies, right?

Maybe not. There are no pollens during the winter, but you still have indoor allergens — things that can cause an allergic reaction. And since you spend more time indoors during the winter, you may be affected more by these allergens than at other times. The big four home allergens are:


  • Dander, the dead skin flakes of household pets such as cats and dogs
  • Dust mites, tiny creepy crawlies found in bedding, carpeting and upholstered furniture
  • Mold spores: Mold grows in damp areas like basements and bathrooms
  • Cockroach droppings: These icky critters can live − and poop − anywhere.

Winter allergy symptoms can be confused with cold symptoms: sneezing, wheezing and itchy, watery eyes. However, cold symptoms usually pass in a week or two, so if your symptoms persist, you may have winter allergies.

Allergies At Home

It may not be possible to get rid of winter allergies entirely, but you can reduce your exposure to allergens at home:

  • Clean, dust, vacuum and mop regularly, using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. If you can, avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, which provides an ideal home for dust mites.
  • Get a HEPA air filter to remove particles from the air.
  • Install high-efficiency furnace filters. They capture 30 times more allergens. Also, make sure your furnace fan is always on.
  • Wash bedding and pajamas weekly in hot water — at least 130 degrees — to kill dust mites. Use hypoallergenic cases for mattresses and pillows to keep dust mites trapped.
  • Reduce dander by bathing your pets once a week. Also, keep them out of your bedroom.
  • Remove mold with a bleach solution.

Courtesy Baylor Health Care System

Treating Winter Allergies

If you take steps to reduce allergens in your home, and still suffer from allergies, you have two options for treatment:

  • Over-the-counter allergy medicines to relieve your symptoms. Antihistamines and decongestants can provide temporary relief. You might also try steroid nasal sprays.
  • Ask your doctor whether you should see an allergist. Allergists can test you for allergies and offer treatments, such as shots or tablets, that can provide long-term relief.



Dr. Kimberlee Adkins is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and sees patients in MPCP’s Columbia office.

A New Leash On Life: Pets Are Good For Your Health

Sure, it’s nice to be greeted by a furry face when you come home from work, but besides love are there any health benefits to pet ownership?

Yes, indeed. Research suggests that living with pets can make you healthier, from lowering your risk of heart disease to increasing your overall fitness. Here are four ways pets are good for your health ─ though you can probably think of others.

1. Good for your heart

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health indicate that pets can improve your cardiovascular health. Pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels — all of which can reduce the risk for having a heart attack. And dog owners who have already experienced a heart attack tend to recover better and live longer than those without pets.

Another study looked at people with high blood pressure. Those with pets were found to have lower heart rates and blood pressure than those without pets. Pet owners also seemed to have milder responses and quicker recovery from stress when they were with their pets.

These cardiovascular benefits are thought to be connected with pets’ tendency to help reduce their owners’ overall stress levels. In other words, it’s hard to be uptight when you’re stroking a purring kitty or scratching the ears of a tail-thumping hound.

2. Good for your mood

Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets, and Alzheimer’s patients experience less anxiety. Researchers think that playing with a pet elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine — nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties. These are the same chemicals found in tobacco and some drugs that people abuse. To improve your mood, just say yes to pets.

3. Good for allergies

Some people believe that if your family has a pet, your children are more likely to develop allergies, and for that reason they refuse to welcome pets into their homes. However, a number of studies suggest that kids growing up with furry animals will have less risk of developing allergies and asthma. These kids are also less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. The thinking is that exposure to pets at an early age may actually strengthen the immune system, making children less likely to develop allergies.

4. Good for fitness

Finally, several studies have shown that dog owners tend to get more exercise than other people. Dog owners who regularly walk their dogs are more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who don’t own or walk a dog. Those who regularly walk their dogs also walk faster and for longer times than others who don’t walk regularly. Older dog walkers also had greater mobility inside their homes than others in the study.

Walking is great exercise, but if you want a more vigorous workout, try doing these activities with Fido – and try to keep up:

  • Jogging or running
  • Hiking
  • Playing fetch with a Frisbee or ball
  • Agility training (Obstacle course-based dog sport)


Rachel Sweeney, CRNPRachel Sweeney is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner in MPCP’s Arnold office. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Villanova University and her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Marymount University. She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Family Practice.

Bless You!

A Q&A about allergies and testing with Dr. Janice Rutkowski

After the winter season of 2014-2015, we are enjoying the onset of beautiful spring days, but unfortunately not everyone is enjoying the good weather. Maryland is one of the most allergy-prone states, both in air-born allergens and those in food.

In this article, Dr. Janice Rutkowski answers questions about allergies and testing for them.

Q: What are allergies?
A: Allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance (allergen), such as plant pollen, dust, certain foods, insect stings or bites, or pet dander. When you come into contact with an allergen, your immune system’s reaction can inflame your skin, sinuses, airways or digestive system.

Q: What are the signs I may have allergies?
A: Allergic symptoms include itchy eyes, nose or throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, chest congestion, cough or wheezing, itchiness or eczema (inflamed or irritated skin). The severity of allergies can range from minor irritation to anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening emergency.

Q: Can allergies be cured?
A: Most allergies can’t be cured, but treatment can help relieve your symptoms. In the case of seasonal allergies, many people find relief with over-the-counter medications. But when they don’t respond to the usual treatments, they require testing to determine the cause.

Q: What allergy tests are available?
A: There are two standard tests: skin tests and blood tests.

Skin tests (known as scratch tests) are the most common and are administered by allergists or dermatologists. A very small amount of certain allergens are put into your skin by making a small indentation or “prick” on the surface of your skin. If you have allergies, a small swelling that looks and feels like a mosquito bite will quickly occur where the allergen(s) is introduced.

However, under certain conditions, a blood allergy test is preferable to the skin test.  Allergy blood testing is recommended if you:

  • Might have an extreme reaction during skin testing or have a history of life-threatening allergic reactions.
  • Have severe skin disorders.
  • Are using a medicine known to interfere with test results and cannot stop taking it for a few days. This would include antihistamines, steroids, and certain antidepressants.
  • Cannot tolerate the many needle scratches required for skin testing.
  • Have an unstable heart condition.
  • Have poorly controlled asthma.

MPCP can administer the blood test in our offices for people who have skin disorders or are at risk for an extreme reaction. We can test for many substances in one sitting.

If you are one of many who suffer from cold-like symptoms with the change of seasons or have one of the symptoms listed above, see your MPCP doctor for evaluation and treatment so you can enjoy this wonderful season in good health!

Janice Rutkowski, M.D. is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She sees patients at the Arundel Mills office.

Doctor’s Advice: 10 Tips for Spring Allergy Symptoms

By Tamara Welch, M.D.

Has the sneezing started at your house?  If so you, or your family members, are likely among the thousands of allergy sufferers who have to deal with the high pollen count in Maryland each spring.  In fact, experts are predicting a record high pollen count this year.  Trees are the first culprit, releasing pollen as they bud in early spring.  Then grasses and weeds take over in late spring and early summer.   Individuals who are allergic to pollen and mold spores will have symptoms ranging from headaches to watery, itchy eyes, to sneezing, to a sore throat.

However, there are several effective treatments for dealing with allergies.  Avoiding triggers – or exposure to allergens – whenever possible is the first step.   But we also have effective over the counter and prescription medications.  Some people respond well to allergy shots.  Here are my top 10 tips to help you deal with spring allergy symptoms:

  1. Limit outdoor time when pollen counts are high- usually in the morning and on windy days.  You can find the pollen counts for your area at http://www.webmd.com/allergies/healthtool-pollen-counter-calculator
  2. Spring cleaning – Make sure to clean windows, screens, air conditioning vents and other surfaces that collect dust and pollen.
  3. Take over the counter or prescription medications as directed by your doctor.  You usually want to take medications at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor activities.  Understand the difference between anti-histamines and decongestants and when to take each.
  4. Keep pollen out-  Shut windows at home and in your car.  Take off shoes at the door.
  5. Shower and wash hair before bed to remove any pollen that collected during the day.
  6. Keep pets off furniture and out of bedrooms as pollen can cling to their fur.
  7. Dry clothes in the dryer, not hanging outside.
  8. When gardening or mowing the lawn, wear a filter mask.
  9. Consider using a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter at home.
  10. Talk to your doctor about treatment options if your symptoms persist.  Medications and allergy shots are very effective for many people once the allergen is identified.

Dr. Tamara Welch