Tag Archives: spring health

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.

Gardening as Exercise

by Clare Ross, CRNP

Working in the garden on a pleasant day is certainly good for the soul, but how about your body ─  does it count as exercise?

Yes, indeed. Gardening is similar to other moderate to strenuous forms of exercise like walking and bicycling. Gardening works all the major muscle groups: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. Tasks that use these muscles build strength and burn calories.

Digging, lifting bags of mulch and pushing wheelbarrows all provide strength training similar to weight lifting, which leads to healthier bones and joints. Yet there is minimal jarring and stress on the body, unlike aerobics or jogging.

Gardening can help keep you limber since there can be a great deal of stretching involved, like reaching for weeds or branches, bending to plant or extending a rake.

It takes at least 30 minutes of exercise several days a week to really receive any health benefits from gardening. However, you can break that time up into shorter active periods throughout the day. So you can do a little weeding in the cool of the morning and go back out to the garden in the evening to prune and trim.

Gardening can also help you burn calories and lose weight. The number of calories burned depends on several factors, including your size and the task you are performing, but the National Gardening Magazine provides these examples:

Activity Calories Burned Per 30 Mins.*
Watering 60
Planting seedlings 160
Weeding 180
Trimming shrubs (manual tools) 180
Digging & tilling 200
Gardening with heavy power tools 240

* Based on a 180-pound person. Lighter people generally burn fewer calories, and heavier people typically burn more.

If you’re new to gardening, start slowly and build up the length of time of your workouts. Avoid injuries by using your legs to lift heavy loads. Don’t stretch too far to reach awkward shrubs; this will prevent muscle strain. Vary your tasks and your movements and make use of the major muscle groups to get the most benefit. Make sure you incorporate a little stretching before and after gardening and take things slowly on hot days. Drink plenty of water if you are outside for more than 30 minutes. Use gloves and wear long sleeves to prevent cuts and scratches.

After you are done, have a hot shower to soothe your muscles, wash off any possible poison ivy residue, and check for ticks. And as with any other form of exercise, check with your doctor first if you’re not used to strenuous activity.

So go out into your garden, enjoy the lovely spring weather, and get some exercise!

Clare Ross, Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner, sees patients in the Queenstown office. She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in Family Practice, and joined MPCP in 1997.

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