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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Allergy Ear Pain

When my patients talk to be about allergies, they exhibit a lot of symptoms. Besides a stuffy nose, ear pain is another prevalent symptom.

The sinuses and ears are connected inside your head. So clogged sinuses may cause ear pressure.

Common examples of ear discomfort says the website are “ear popping and sensations of the ear feeling full, states the American Academy of Family Physicians. This can occur if the mucus produced by an allergic reaction, drains into the Eustachian tube. If the lining of this tube becomes inflamed, then the ears may start to feel full and pop. This can lead to a loss of balance, dizziness and even vertigo.”

In an interesting post on the website WebMD There are various treatments to help the allergy sufferer with earache. They include:

Lubricating sinuses by using a nasal saline spray several times a day or use a humidifier. Also the use of a warm moist washcloth and hot showers is recommended; over-the-counter medicines such as Aleve, Tylenol or Motrin can ease ear pain; use nasal sprays in the short-term (not more than 3 days) or decongestant tablets; avoid temperature extremes; avoid suddenly movements to your head; blow your nose gently; flush your body with plenty of fluids especially at night–this makes the mucus more fluid; avoid caffeine, salt, alcohol, and tobacco products. These substances change blood circulation and can affect your ears.

Flying is another problem that people with earaches should avoid. If you have to travel by air, before boarding the plane, take nasal spray or oral decongestant at least 30 minutes to an hour before takeoff, since it takes time for them to kick in.

Finally, see an allergist if the ear problems are persistent; you have a fever, head, face, or ear pain doesn’t dissipate after taking non-prescription medication; and symptoms last for more than week, or keep coming back.

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Oral Allergy Syndrome

Some of my patients have been recently complaining about watery and swollen eyes, sneezing and itchy throat, symptoms that are commonly associated to ragweed.

Many people might think that ragweed is a spring or summer allergy, but really the ragweed season becomes intense in the fall, beginning, nowadays in August and going strong through October.

Ragweed can also be an oral allergy syndrome (OAS). This means that the pollen which comes from ragweed, a weed that bears a similarity to the proteins in vegetables and fruits. So the immune systems reacts by an allergic response to fight off what the body perceives as a danger.

Certain foods exacerbate ragweed allergies. These are bananas, chamomile tea, dandelion, Echinacea, melon ( honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon), sunflower seeds and zucchini.

According to an interesting article by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), other pollen allergies that may cross-react to certain foods are:

Birch pollen allergy–may react to kiwi, apples, pears, peaches plums, coriander, fennel, parsley, celery, cherries, carrots, hazelnuts and almonds.

Grass Pollen Allergy–people may react to peaches, celery, tomatoes, melons and oranges.

Natural Rubber Latex (NRL) Allergy. Even people handling food with latex may induce an allergic response if one is eating bananas, avocados, kiwi, chestnut and papaya.

The symptoms of oral allergy syndrome can be complex and may constitute a diagnosis of other medical conditions such as food intolerance, other types of food-borne illnesses or food poisoning.

Contact an allergist to determine whether you have OAS or another food illness.

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Food Allergies And The International Traveler

All lot of my patients love to travel. Experiencing another culture is great way to broaden your horizons. But beyond the sights and sounds of distant locales, a primary component of any traveler’s experience is dining out in those countries.

For the food allergy traveler, this can be daunting. But there are four ways for you to dip into cuisine of these countries, safely.

Carry allergy cards. In 2004, a couple’s daughter returned from her trip through Europe, complaining that she couldn’t or was wary of eating most foods there due to her nut allergies. She only ate vanilla ice cream, shishkaboobs and bread throughout her trip.

So her parents started It is company that produces allergy alert cards that are laminated and the size of a business card. The card states the allergy the traveler is susceptible to in English and one of 60 foreign languages and shows a picture of the allergy itself.

Allergy FT: Allergy Food Translator App Screens. This mobile app for iOS only ( lists 62 food allergies and translates them into French, German and Spanish– which claim its developer–will help you navigate cuisine in 57 countries around the world that speak these languages. All you do is select the language, then select the allergy and the allergy warning in those languages pops up on the screen. Allergy FT said is updating its app to include more languages.

IAMAT Directory. If an allergic reaction to food does occur while your traveling abroad, an indispensable resource to have is International Association for Medical Assistance To Travelers (IAMAT) directory. It lists the local hospitals of a particular country that assistant travelers and that speak English. Contact them at (

Ep-iPen. The IAMAT states travelers with food allergies should carry at least two vials of epinephrine in case of a anaphylactic reaction.

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An Allergy Can Turn You Into A Reluctant Vegeterian

I have a friend, a retired doctor, who is a vegetarian. He is strict and won’t eat any red meat, chicken or fish. I know that eating vegetarian is healthy, but once and a while I like a pastrami sandwich, you know what I mean.

But for some people, being vegetarian is not a matter of choice.

Doctors across the country are seeing a phenomenon in which people are suddenly allergic to meat because they were bitten by a certain type of tick.

Most people associate tick bites with other diseases, such as Lyme disease. But this tick is different. Called the Lone Star tick, named for the state of Texas–it has caused severe allergic reactions in people who have eaten a burger or a steak and has landed them in the hospital. The allergy has spread from the Southwest and the East and is spreading to other parts of the US.

An interesting article in Science Daily quotes Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Robert Valet who says, “it is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts. The thought is that the tick has an alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite and that causes the production of the allergy antibody threat then cross-reacts to the meat.”

Vanderbilt reports seeing one or more new cases each week.

In the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Erin McGintee, an allergist on Long Island has reported to have seen as many as 200 Lone Star tick cases in the last three years. She says “the symptoms can occur as long as eight hours afte eating meat rather than immediately.

Allergic symptoms, said Dr. Valet, can range from the hives and swelling, to broader ones such as vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and a drop in lood pressure. Other symptoms such as itching can be treated with antihistamines, but severe or broader ones can only be treated with epinephrine.

People who have suffered an allergic attack are encouraged to carry an EpiPen in case of a reoccurance of symptoms from cross-contimination of any food associated with red meat.


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