Allergy Season Survival Tips

If the weatherman holds true, spring will be coming to NYC this week.

With the rain and warmer temperatures in the forecast, trees and grasses will begin their seasonal production of pollen.  Once that pollen catches a breeze, allergy season opens.

How were your allergies last year? If you find yourself already dreading spring, you aren’t alone.  I am constantly asked “How can I stay ahead of my allergies?”

To answer that question, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that may help you avoid your allergy trigger.  If these actions don’t satisfactorily ease your symptoms, give me a call – there are many new treatments and medications available. You may find relief is possible without a battery of allergy shots.

The first – Know what triggers your symptoms.  Early spring symptoms can be triggered by tree pollen, grasses, mold and even dust mites (stirred up from spring cleaning). If you aren’t certain what’s causing your discomfort, get a skin test.  A skin test can assist in proper diagnosis and treatment. Allergy drops and tablets (called sublingual allergy treatment) are great solutions for grasses and even some pet allergies.

Next – avoid being outside when pollen level are at their peak.  The best times for outdoor activities are before dawn, late afternoon and early evening.

Something else to consider, the material making up your clothing, synthetic fabrics coupled with movement (fabric rubbing against itself) can create a small electric charge. This charge can actually work as a magnet, drawing pollen to the “charged” fabric. Consider natural fibers during allergy season.

If you are heading out, gardening or doing some yard work, take an antihistamine ½ hour before going outside.  An antihistamine can offer some support by blocking your body’s allergy response, suppressing your allergy symptoms. A mask can also help. Use a mask rated 95 by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for the best protection.  Do not touch your eyes.  Again, if you find the antihistamine makes you drowsy, there are alternatives available to you without the OTC antihistamine side effects.

When you come in from the outdoors, leave your shoes at the door and shower, making certain to wash your hair. Wash your clothes.  Vacuum often and use machine washable furniture and floor coverings.

We’ve had a long winter, and springtime in New York is not to be missed – or observed from afar.  If these tips don’t ease your symptoms, or if you find your allergies are affecting your quality of life, see an allergist (I welcome you to contact me for a consultation). There are a number of good treatment options that are unobtrusive yet effective that can get you back outside.

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About LEAP and Its Consequences in Medical Practice & Prevention and Lifestyles

The study I touched on in my previous post, Learning About Peanut Early, confirmed that early exposure to the product, in controlled doses, can actually significantly reduce the risk of an allergic onset later on in life. The test was carried out on children who were considered at-risk of developing peanut allergies later in life, based on skin-prick tests and their allergies to things like milk and eggs.

Experts quickly jumped onboard and started debating the ways through which not only medical professionals should approach the findings, but also about how they should be implemented worldwide. The same experts continuously warn parents that the study is not a base for giving their children peanuts or products containing them, unless they were instructed to do so by their physicians or pediatricians and the practice is done in a controlled environment that disposes of the necessary equipment to deal with emergencies.

The problem arising from the study is that medical professionals from around the world would need to be instructed in finding new approaches in dealing with peanut allergies. Skin-prick tests are crucial, and without them, the study wouldn’t have been possible in the first place. So getting those tests in areas where there are none is a huge priority.

Another issue is that this whole idea is based on a very strict timeline, so timing, in this case, is the most important factor. Skin-prick tests and other signs like egg allergies can quickly determine whether an infant is prone to developing a peanut allergy immediately. A course of action can only be followed once this has been confirmed, and, once again, only under the strict supervision of a professional healthcare provider.

As these debates unfold and solutions are being brought to the forefront, new studies are called for. Can the practice be applied to children over 1 year of age, and will the results confirm the practice in that case as well? Many more questions remain unanswered, but now that a red flag has been raised, there’s little doubt that steps will be taken in the right direction in due time.

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Breakthrough in Understanding Peanut Allergies

For quite a while now, physicians and healthcare providers have emphasized the fact that people prone to developing a peanut allergy should steer clear of them and products containing peanuts. But a new randomized clinical trial, presented in Houston at this years AAAAI Convention, comes to dispute that concept, clearly showing that children who were served products containing trace amounts of peanuts, even though they were prone to developing an allergy later on, had considerably avoided it.

The study focused on whether adding products which contained peanuts in the first year of life to children prone to developing the allergy would have any effect, positive or negative. Out of the control group who were instructed to give their kids products with peanuts in them at least 2 or 3 times a week, only 3% developed an allergy. In the other group, which completely avoided peanuts and products containing them, a staggering 17% developed allergies.
For everybody else, this is both good and bad news. For starters, medical professionals may have been wrong all this time, advising people to steer clear of products they were prone to develop an allergy to. Inadvertently, they may even have contributed to the spike of people suffering from various allergies. The study clearly shows that introducing these foods early on in life, particularly in the first 11 months of a child’s life, can help them develop the normal immune response and not the allergy outbreak.

A word of caution though – this does not warrant you or your kids eating things you know you’re allergic to, or introducing trace amounts of them into your weekly diets. Research still needs to be made and an appropriate portion determined for your own safety.

If you have question and live in the NYC area, give me a call for a consultation, DO NOT introduce a known allergen into your body without consulting a reputable healthcare provider. Already developed allergies can be managed through avoidance and special medication successfully.

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New Report Links Carbon to Pollen Production

Another impact of climate change was presented today in a paper by the Minnesota Department of Health. The paper reiterates; more carbon, higher temperatures, longer growing seasons for weeds and also adds, carbon dioxide loving plants produce greater amount of pollen. Top on this list is the already prolific ragweed family of plants.  Seems allergy sufferers are getting weigh-laid from the mechanisms behind climate change, increased emissions cause higher temperatures, extending growing seasons and then carbon is triggering some plants create more pollen.

We’ve long surmised allergies are affected by climate change; patients are affected earlier, longer, with more severe symptoms. While estimates of seasonal allergy prevalence is varied,  50 million American are affected by nasal allergies and as much as 10 percent of the population in North America is believed to be allergic to ragweed, tree pollen and grasses. People suffering with asthma are often affected by seasonal allergies that trigger their allergic asthma symptoms. People predisposed to sinus infections also see deterioration in their condition due to increase mucus production.

Medical technologies and treatments are attempting to keep up with the changing landscape of allergy season. We have tablets and drops to control symptoms in mild to moderate grass allergies, but if you have asthma and are prone to sinus infection – don’t wait until your symptoms become severe.  Early control can help you get a jump on the season, lessening the chance asthmatic episodes and sinus infections.

We are all contemplating warmer weather as we bundle up to head outside today, anticipating our beautiful NYC springtime.  Keep in mind this growing season, there are several new tools to control your allergies with very minimal side effects.

Feel free to contact me in advance of the tree, grass and weeds allergy season if you’d like a consultation on how to overcome your seasonal allergy symptoms. Learn more at 



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Shut Inside this Winter?

We shut out winter’s cold by sealing windows, cutting drafts and weatherproofing our living areas.  And as we insulated ourselves from the outdoors, we are also sealing in several allergens that can trigger allergy symptoms despite January’s bitter temperatures.

Pet dander.

Your pets are your babies. They are spending less time outdoors and more time in the same dry air environment drying out their skin and yours. Pet allergy symptoms may increase during winter months. Give yourself a safe haven – don’t let Fifi sleep on your bed or groom herself on the couch. Vacuum more often and have someone less susceptible brush your pets between groomings.


As the heat inside goes up – moisture trapped in walls, basements and bathrooms can trigger mold growth. While most molds are benign, those susceptible to mold spores can find allergy symptoms disarming; troubled breathing, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, throat and/or inside of ears, hives, swollen eyelids, coughing, and wheezing.  A simple blood test can confirm if your symptoms are attributed to a mold allergy. If mold is to blame, it is important to remove the source of the mold to successfully eliminate it; repair leaks, ventilate the bathroom, discard old periodicals and newspapers and use a dehumidifier in damp basements.


Although there is no “Allergy to People” diagnosis, as we are forced indoors we may find ourselves a little shorter with our coworkers, mates and children. Stress lowers immune responses and can lead to increases in cold and flu and even hives. Winter Blues (more casual connotation) or Seasonal Affects Disorder can be attributed to lack of quality time outdoors and decreased exposure to sunlight. For example, many of us are leaving for work at dawn and home after dark, missing out on sunlight and fresh air.  Maximize your exposure to sunlight, if possible sit near a window at work or lunch. Plan activities and outings to break up your winter routine. Vacation in the summer? Why not take a few days off in the winter to relax and unwind? For more serious depression, see a specialist.

If you have any questions regarding winter allergy symptoms, feel free to give my office a call. I’d be happy to set up a consultation to help improve your quality of life; enjoy winter while waiting on spring.

Having sinus problems? Visit this post for several tips to ease sinus pain









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6 Tips to Ease Sinus Congestion, Pain & Pressure

Cold NYC weather means upping the heat, lowering humidity and for many – painful sinus headaches.

If you are experiencing sinus pain here are 6 Tips that may help.

  1. Recognize what is causing your sinus problems

Are your sinus problems caused by a physical ailment?  Narrow sinus passages, a deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps, allergies, or chronic infections? Each can interfere with sinus drainage. To alleviate pain, congestion and chance of infection, it is important the sinus pathways stay open, uncongested and moist for proper drainage.

  1. Humidify Your Indoor Air

Heated indoor air wreaks havoc on delicate nasal membranes.  As dry air dries out nasal passages, mucus becomes much thicker, clogging sinuses, and resulting in sinus pain and pressure.

A standard recommendation is to use a room humidifier in your bedroom from October until April, maintaining humidity at 30%. Higher humidity levels can aggravate asthma and can encourage mold growth.

  1. Irrigate Your Nasal Passages

Many people find sinus relief by irrigating nasal passages with a saline solution.

Irrigation helps to rinse out allergens, irritants, and excess mucus. There are saline sprays available at your local drugstore, or you can make your own solution at home.  To make your own saline mixture, combine about 16 ounces (1 pint) of lukewarm distilled, sterile water with 1 teaspoon of salt. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda make the wash gentler on nasal membranes.  Place the mixture into a Neti pot.  Leaning over the sink at a 45-degree angle, place the spout into your top nostril and gently pour the wash in. The saline water will flow through your nasal cavity into the other nostril and out. Blow your nose to get rid of remaining water. Repeat the steps on your other nostril.

  1. Keep sinuses open and draining

Drinking plenty of fluids will help thin the mucus. A warm, moist washcloth applied to your face several times a day or inhaling steam two to four times a day, can help open spaces in your sinuses. Be cautious when inhaling steam. To avoid burns, try sitting in your in the bathroom with the hot shower running.

  1. Avoid Sinus Irritants

Pollution, cigarette smoke, cleaning products, hair spray, perfumes, air fresheners can irritate your sinuses. If you suffer from allergies, avoiding allergens or allergy triggers is central to keeping inflammation down and sinuses draining properly. During winter months, allergies to pets and mold can be especially hard on those susceptible to dander and mold triggers.

  1. Treat Sinus Problems

Using medications to help control your sinus symptoms can be effective in the short term. Do not use other the counter sprays for more than 3 days or other the counter oral medications for more than 7 days.

Decongestants can help reduce the swelling in your nasal passages along with easing stuffiness and pressure.

Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicine can be used to treat the pain of sinus pressure, but be sure to follow the label directions carefully. Again, do not use these medications for more than 7 days.

Allergy medicines, antihistamines can help if your sinus problems are related to allergies. Over-the-counter antihistamines include cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Genahist, and others), fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin). It is important to see an allergist for recurring allergy related sinus problems or if your allergic sinus condition leads to reoccurring sinus infections.

Need more help?

If the 6 preceding tips don’t help, we still ease your symptoms.  We can use intranasal or oral steroids to decrease inflammation and mucus production in the lining of the nose. Nasal steroids can also treat nasal polyps that often cause obstruction. While there are OTC steroid nasal sprays, do not use them for over 7 days without consulting a physician.

Take control of your reoccurring sinus problems and remember that you don’t have to suffer with sinus pain, pressure or infections. We have the technology to discover the cause of your sinus condition and the tools to end your pain and discomfort.

Contact my office with your questions or concerns or read more about Allergic Conditions on our website at


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The Dangers Of Raw Milk

As a doctor, I am interesting in preventing disease as well as treating it. So I try to encourage my patients that having a healthy lifestyle is key is lessening their frequency of having allergies and asthma.

What concerns me is that in the public’s quest to eat healthy, some may have gone overboard. Many people who promote organic food–because it has less additives and pesticides, which is a good thing– are now promoting a food that has potential dangers in its so-call pure state: that is raw milk.

Under the mistaken belief that raw milk is better for your health, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement that “substantial data suggest that pasteurized milk confers equivalent health benefits compared with raw milk, without the additional risk of bacterial infections.”

Pasteurization is the term in which heating milk to a high enough temperature for a long time period to kill disease-causing bacteria has been used safely for over 100 years. And states the New York State Department of health that “pasteurization is the only way to ensure that milk products do not contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia, Brucella, Coxiella and Listeria.”

In an interesting article by the FDA, it stated that CDC reported between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the US became ill due to drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. Also the CDC stated that “unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause food borne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations. It is especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, children, older adults and pregnant women.”

Symptoms of people becoming ill from raw milk include: vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal pain, fever headaches and body aches. More serious reactions such as blood-stream inflections, kidney failure and inflammation of the nervous system can occur. Consult a physician in you or your children exhibit these systems.

When shopping for milk or milk products, make sure to check the package to see it its states pasteurized.

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The Flu And Your Child

Cooler temperatures have moved into the area and with them, the threat of the flu. I tell my patients that they should take certain measures to watch for symptoms of the flu, especially in their children.

The flu season starts in the fall but peaks in February and can continue into May, so it is important that people get a flu vaccine starting now.

Flu symptoms are more severe than a childhood cold. And may include:

*A high fever up to 104 degrees F
*Extreme tiredness
*Body and headaches
*Dry cough, sore throat
*Vomiting and stomach distress

An important advisory from The New York State Department of Health warns that “children aged 6 months through 8 years old age who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine need to get two doses of vaccine spaced at least 4 weeks apart. And healthy children over the age of two who don’t have a history of wheezing or asthma may have the option of getting the nasal spray influenza vaccine.”

Also, the State Department of Health recommends that “pregnant women and caregivers of children younger than 6 months or children with certain health conditions should be vaccinated.”

If your child gets the flu, remember that the flu is a virus and using antibiotics to treat it are useless since they treat bacterial infections. Antiviral medications can be used for high-risk cases, but there a number of home remedies that can be used to treat it:

*Plenty of rest
*Plenty of liquids
*Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lower fever, but avoid giving aspirin to children or teenagers since this could lead to Reye’s syndrome, a rare disorder that might cause severe liver or brain damage.

The FDA recommends that over-counter-medicines should not be given to children younger than 4, and as with all over-the-counter medicines for children, in general, it is advisable to consult your doctor.

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Non-Allergic Asthma. Causes And Treatment

A big part of my practice is seeing patients with asthma. They often ask me, “Dr. Lubitz, what triggers my asthma and how can I control it?”

I tell them first that I have to determine whether they have allergic asthma or non-allergic (intrinsic asthma). The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states both types of asthma exhibit the same symptoms: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breating and chest tightness. However where allergic asthma is triggered by allergies such as food, pollen and other allergens, non-allergic asthma does not involve an immune-system response (like intrinsic asthma) but is triggered by other factors.

The Asthma Center Education and Research Fund states that symptoms that provoke non-allergic asthma include “weather changes, cold air, exercise, indoor pollutants (household cleaners and chemicals cigarette smoke, perfumes), outdoor pollutants (ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide) and strong odors (perfumes, scented sprays, fresh pain, moth balls).”

Also, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that stated that New York’s Columbia University Medical Center commissioned a study on asthma that found “an association between asthma rates and phtalates, chemicals used in many plastic products that have raised concerns.” Though more research needs to be done.

There are a variety of drugs that treat non-allergic asthma. Corticosteriods, such as prednisone, administered with an inhaler, works well for allergic asthma because it “dampens the body’s immune response to an allergen, but is less effective on nonallergic asthma. Instead, these patients might be given another type of drug called a beta-agonist, such as albuterol and levalbuterol, which works by relaxing lung muscles.”

If you exhibit any symptoms of asthma, it is important to see a medical professional immediately.

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What You Should Know About The Enterovirus

Flu season has just begun yet a lot of my patients who have kids, are concerned about another illness that may affect their children–the Enterovirus D68.

This enterovirus virus first appeared back in August, in the Mid-West It has now spread to many states throughout the country. The New York Health Department has reported 14 cases in the western part of the state in early September, with new cases having now spread to New York City and Long Island.

In an interesting post on Web MD, Dr. Mary Anne Jackson of Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO said that the D68 virus doesn’t follow the normal course of most viruses. She said “viral infections start out with a fever, cough, and a runny nose. But kids with D68 infections–from 6 mos of age to 6 years old– have a cough and trouble breathing, sometimes wheezing. They act like they have asthma, even if they don’t have a history of it.”

Since it is a virus, there is no vaccine to prevent it nor do antibiotics help since it is non-bacterial in original. Symptoms, however can be moderate to severe.

For moderate symptoms, give children plenty of liquids and rest, says Roya Samuels, MD, at Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park. But for more severe symptoms she says “if there’s any rapid breathing, and that means breathing more than once per second consistently over the span of an hour. Or there is labored breathing, it’s time to head to the doctor’s office or emergency room.” Once hospitalized, children may receive supplemental oxygen or get medications like abuterol to open airways.

Prevention is key. The New York State Department of Health advises the public to take the following preventive measures:

*Wash hands often with soap and water.

* Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

*Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups of eating utensils with people who are sick.

*Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

*Use the same precautions you would to prevent the spread of influenza.

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