Is It Really ‘Just’ Allergies?


A stuffy nose and headache are common symptoms of allergies, as well as many illnesses. So how can you tell whether the culprit is a sinus infection, a common cold, or allergies when the symptoms of these three conditions are so similar?

It can sometimes be difficult even for doctors to differentiate, but there are some key differences that can give you some clues to what is causing your congestion.

Sinus Infection

Sinus congestion can cause an aching sensation and a feeling of fullness in the middle of your face. A sinus infection may also be accompanied by other symptoms like post-nasal drip, green (or yellow) nasal discharge, aching in your teeth, fever, bad breath, and sinus pressure or a headache that worsens when you lean forward or lie down. Your face may also feel tender, and upon examination, a doctor should be able to see pus draining near the sinuses.

Causes: Bacteria or viruses trigger sinus infections. Colds, allergies, asthma, and other health conditions can also cause them.

Duration Sinus infections may clear up on their own without treatment, but some might require medication. If your symptoms last for longer than seven to 10 days, your doctor may consider prescribing antibiotics.


Allergy2With the common cold you can expect a stuffy nose, but also some runny, discolored mucus. You may also experience a sore throat, cough, sneezing, headache, or fatigue.

Another sign is a rising temperature: Colds often trigger a fever, but sometimes those fevers are so mild that people think they have allergies instead.

Cause: A virus.

  • Duration: People usually fend off the cold virus (without treatment) within seven to 10 days. But if your symptoms have lingered past that window of time, you might have sinusitis. If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you should talk to your doctor.

Allergic Reaction

You may experience some nasal congestion with allergies, but it usually accompanies a runny nose (clear, watery discharge), sneezing, and itchy nose and eyes. One big key clue– allergies do NOT cause a fever.

Causes: Allergens cause an allergic reaction. Common indoor allergens include mold, dust, and animal dander, while outdoor triggers include pollen and ragweed.

  • How long it lasts: If you have seasonal allergies, you may struggle with allergy symptoms throughout the spring and fall. If you’re allergic to indoor allergens, you may experience symptoms year-round.

How to Treat Congestion

Because sinus infections, colds, and allergies share some similar symptoms, including congestion, medications like nasal sprays, oral antihistamines, and eye drops can help minimize your discomfort.

If allergies are to blame, do your best to avoid your known triggers and steer clear of any other potential irritants, such as smoke or air pollution. Long-term treatments like immunotherapy (allergy shots) can help desensitize you to allergens and improve symptoms over time.

If the culprit of your congestion is allergies or a cold, it doesn’t mean you won’t develop a sinus infection later on. Both cause the lining of those nose to swell, preventing proper mucus drainage. Be on the lookout for the symptoms of sinus infections, and treat them promptly.




Who Made the List? Newest Recipients Chosen!

Earlier in the month, I challenged my readers to help me pay it forward by nominating local non-profits to be the next recipient of Win Win for a Cause donations. I am pleased to say that we received multiple nominations for deserving charities in our area who are making a positive difference in the lives of our neighbors. 

Instead of choosing just one to add to the list of current Win Win for a Cause recipients, I chose them all. The nominations received were all for wonderful organizations doing meaningful work that serves our community in different areas. The next Win Win for a Cause recipients my clients can choose include mental health and counseling services, grass roots organizations challenging injustices, adult day care resources, a non-profit fighting pediatric cancer, and more.

I created Win Win for a Cause to give back to the community and allow my clients to do the same through an alternative to the traditional closing gift. A portion from my commission of closed real estate transactions is donated to a charity or non-profit of the client’s choosing within 30 days of closing.

To see a full list of current Win Win recipients (including our newest!) click here. Over the next several weeks, we will highlight the individual organizations and the work they are doing to improve the lives of others. We are so thankful for their efforts and I look forward to letting my clients share in the joy of giving back to our community.



Voices of Hope and Healing

sara 2

SARA is another local organization doing truly extraordinary work and one that I am so proud to offer my client’s the choice of supporting through a Win Win for a Cause donation from my commission. Their vision is a community free from sexual violence is one we can all rally behind.

The mission of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) is to eliminate sexual violence  impact by providing education, advocacy and support to men, women and children.

Each year they reach approximately 550 survivors and 1,100 students, as well as hundreds more through community outreach and prevention programs. SARA is fully accredited through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the only such sexual assault crisis agency in this service area, and has been providing services to the community for over 40 years.

Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, SARA serves residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Nelson, Louisa, Fluvanna and Greene. They serve anyone who has personally experienced, or cares for someone who has experienced any kind of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual molestation, incest, sex trafficking, stalking, sexual harassment or unwanted touching.

Services are provided free to all survivors, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, age, economic status, education, parenthood, physical and/or mental abilities, national origin, immigration/documentation status or any other status.

Support Services Include:

24-Hour Crisis Hotline – free, confidential, 24-hour support to survivors, their families and friends, allied professionals, and the public.

Therapy – free and confidential therapy for men, women, and children of all ages who have been affected by sexual violence.

Emergency Room Advocacy -SARA staff members are on call 24 hours every day of the year to accompany sexual assault survivors in the UVA Emergency Room. ER Advocates offer support to the survivor, help to address urgent needs, and ensure that survivors understand their rights and their options.

Additional support services include Legal System Advocacy, Support Groups, Therapeutic Horse and Farm Camp for Young Girls, Counseling and Advocacy for Non-Offending Parents and Families of Abused Children.


In an effort to reduce the epidemic of sexual abuse, SARA also provides programs to prevent anyone in our community from becoming a perpetrator of sexual violence.

sara 1

SARA’s community education and training efforts increase public awareness about the impact of sexual violence, promote community involvement, foster a multi-disciplinary systems approach to victims of sexual violence, and challenge the prevailing attitudes and dispel the myths which perpetuate the problem of sexual violence. SARA offers free specialized training, workshops and sexual violence prevention programming to the general public, as well as professional groups and individuals in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties.

There are several ways to help this vital organization achieve and maintain its goals.

A donation of time or money can mean all the difference in the world to a survivor living through one of the worst events of their life.


 $20 keeps the hotline running for a day.

 $30 provides a new set of clothes for a victim seen at the ER whose clothes are collected as evidence.

 $125 provides a therapy session for a child or adult victim of sexual violence.

 $150 provides a full day of prevention programming to a local school.


Join their team as a Volunteer Hotline Advocate or Community Outreach Volunteers.

By funding these positions, you are supporting a fundamental change in our community, where survivors of sexual violence are supported and heal well, and where the next generation stops sexual violence before it starts.

Is there a local charity you would like to see join the Win Win for a Cause list?

Before You Dive into Building a Pool

Does a pool add value to a home? Yes and no. In a few circumstances, a pool can add value to your home. However, once you figure in construction, planning, and maintenance, the value add becomes more a matter of quality of life and enjoyment of your own home.

In general, building a pool is not the best way to add value to your home – at most, you may see a 7% increase. If you don’t plan to sell in the next twenty years, you may actually detract buyers with an aged pool. Keep in mind that it could also be off-putting to buyers with young children or who are looking for a low-maintenance home. If an increase in home resale value is the goal, you’re better off making physical improvements to your actual house instead of adding a pool to your yard.
A pool can add value to your home IF:

  • You live in a higher-end neighborhood and most of your neighbors have pools. In fact, not having a pool might make your home harder to sell.
  • You live in a warm climate, such as Florida or Hawaii.
  • Your lot is big enough to accommodate a pool and still have some yard left over.

But only you, the homeowner, can determine the true return on investment. A pool can add value to your quality of life and enhance the enjoyment of your home. You can’t put a price tag on that. But we can put a price tag on how much a pool costs to build and maintain.


The average cost in the U.S. to install, equip, and fill a 600-sq.-ft. concrete pool starts at $30,000. Add in details like safety fences (most states require them), waterfalls, lighting, landscaping, and perhaps a spa, and you’re easily looking at totals approaching $100,000. Costs also depend on the type of pool you choose. You can pay more upfront with gunite, a popular mixture of cement and sand, that has become the higher-end standard, or pay more later by installing pools with fiberglass shells or vinyl liners that typically need replacing every 10 years or so.


All pools require that the water be balanced for proper pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. They also need sanitizing to control bacteria and germs, which is where chlorine typically comes in as the least expensive option. In a seasonal swimming climate, you can plan to spend about $600 for maintenance if you do the chemical balancing and cleaning yourself. Budget closer to $20 per week in a year-round climate.

Insurance and Taxes

Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover a pool structure without requiring a separate rider, but you should increase your liability from the standard amount. It costs about $30 a year to bump coverage from $100,000 to $500,000. Many underwriters require you to fence in the pool so children can’t wander in unsupervised. In some areas, adding a pool may increase your annual property taxes, but it won’t necessarily add to your home’s selling price.

The decision is primarily a personal one. Adding a pool may not give you the greatest return when it comes time to sell, but it can definitely add a lot of fun.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite parts of owning a pool?


Pre-approved? Avoid Making These Eight Mistakes


It may feel like the home stretch, but if you have been pre-approved for a mortgage on your next home, there are few absolute ‘no’s’ to keep in mind over the next several months. Remember that loan pre-approval is not loan approval.

Don’t apply for new credit

With a new home it can be tempting to apply for a credit card at a home improvement store or a furniture store to make your house a home, but applying for credit can lower your credit score. Not only will you lose a few points because of a credit inquiry, but if you are approved for new credit, a lender may worry that your debt-to-income ratio will change, making you a riskier loaner.


Don’t close any credit accounts

This may also seem like a great time to get all of your finances in order by closing unused credit accounts or transferring your debt to a new credit card with a zero-interest balance transfer offer.

While that’s a smart move financially, it’s a bad one for your credit score because you lose points when you have a higher usage of debt compared to your limit on one credit card and to your overall credit availability.

Don’t move your money

Your lender will need the most recent bank statements before you go to settlement, so if you have any unusual deposits you will need to provide complete documentation of where the money came from.

Don’t increase your debts

In addition to your credit score, your debt-to-income ratio is extremely important to a loan approval. If you take on more debt you could be in danger of going above the maximum acceptable debt-to-income ratio.

Don’t skip a payment or make a late payment

Your history of on-time, in-full payments of the most important elements of your credit score. Do not get caught up in the excitement and forget to keep up with your current finances.

One single 30-day late payment can knock 60 to 110 points from your credit score.

Don’t make any major purchases

Depletion of your savings or the addition of a new loan could derail your mortgage application.

Don’t change jobs

Even if a job change means a raise or career development, it could also delay your settlement. Your lender needs to verify employment and will need paystubs to prove your new income before your loan can go to settlement.

Don’t spend your savings

You’ll need cash on hand at the settlement for your down payment and closing costs and your lender may even verify your cash reserves one more time, so make sure the funds stay in place.

The key here is to ensure that nothing has changed since your pre-approval. You must take care to maintain the same credit profile that led to your loan approval until your mortgage paperwork is completely signed.

What advice would you offer buyers who are in the process of closing?


Exploring the Shenandoah National Park


Whether you are a local or a visitor, there is so much to do this summer in the Shenandoah National Park. Just 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers outdoor entertainment for just about everyone. If you live in Central Virginia, I encourage you take advantage of this national treasure right in your back yard.

Discover cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—take a hike, meander along Skyline Drive, or picnic with the family. Learn about the history of the Valley, and learn about the indigenous animals and plants of the Shenandoah National Park.

Take a hike

Shenandoah National Park has over 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Some trails lead to a waterfall or viewpoint; others delve deep into the forest and wilderness. Over 50 types of mammals inhabit the area – keep your eyes open for white-tailed deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and even bobcats.

Skyline Drive

The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. With 75 overlooks, It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park.

Wildflower Weekend

May 7th is a weekend of special hikes, walks, and talks designed to feature Shenandoah’s diverse and beautiful wildflowers. Wildflower Weekend celebrates the over 850 flowering plants that thrive in the Shenandoah National Park.

Explore Shenandoah with a Ranger

Ranger-guided programs give visitors the opportunity to explore the wonders of the park with a ranger. Programs are offered in spring, summer, and fall. Discover the many stories of Shenandoah’s past, take a walk through the splendor of a unique mountain meadow, or learn about the many animals and plants that thrive in Shenandoah National Park.

Blackberry Delight

Blackberry Delight is an annual event held at Skyland each July that celebrates the sweet-tart fruit in all its glory. Skyland chefs create amazing dishes (even wine!) with fresh berries picked from open areas along the roads, trails and streams of the national park. The day is full of live music, dancing, Shenandoah storytelling, and kid’s activities.


There are four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park that are open in the spring, summer, and fall. Reservations are recommended.


Mathews Arm (mile 22.1)

Big Meadows (mile 51.2)

Lewis Mountain (mile 57.5)

Loft Mountain (mile 79.5)

What outdoor activities are you looking forward to?

Making a Difference at Home


I can only speak for myself, but spring (which is right around the corner) inspires such happiness and hope; feelings of renewal and joy. All of us have varying degrees of blessings, be it a roof over our head, an able body, a capable mind, loved ones, the longer days, sprouting gardens, and warm sunshine. I am also reminded not all are so fortunate. For the next several weeks, I will highlight local organizations making tremendous contributions and positive impacts in our communities.

AHIP Celebrates 40 Years

Some of our neighbors find themselves in difficult or unsafe homes due to economics, illness or injury. Thankfully, there is Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) serving low to moderate income residents in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.  AHIP is home repair nonprofit based in Charlottesville, VA that “changes lives, saves livelihoods, and makes neighborhoods and our community a better place for everyone”.


For over 40 years, AHIP has answered the calls from local homeowners looking for help; allowing them to preserve their homes, protect their health and safety, and stay safe at home. Their network of crews, subcontractors, and volunteers work year-round in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, helping individuals, young families, working people, retired people, senior citizens, disabled people, and multi-generational households improve their living conditions and their quality of life.

To get the job done, AHIP works with a spectrum of community partners, including local and state government, neighborhood leaders, social services agencies, regional funders, and a wide variety of volunteer groups.

I am thrilled that several of my wonderful clients have donated to AHIP through WIN WIN.  Individual monetary donations are always needed, but you can also contribute in many other valuable ways by volunteering your time and skills, helping AHIP with fundraisers and special events, or simply by spreading the good word about the organization. To volunteer or donate in any way please contact the hard working folks at: .


Donate through March 31st to help AHIP reach its goal of $25,000 to help 10 local families in need of emergency home repairs.

Individuals and corporations can donate through bequests, charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, and gifts of endowment, gift and pledge agreements, personal property, life insurance, real estate, and corporate matching.

What will you do to make a difference today?