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.




Gifts Aren’t to Be Paid Back, They’re to Be Paid Forward


We are all familiar with the phrase ‘Pay it Forward,’ whether because you read the book, watched the movie, or have just paid attention.

I encourage you to join millions of people around the world to celebrate International Pay it Forward Day – Friday, April 28th. This day is recognized by over 70 countries and over 50 state and city proclamations, it is a celebration of creating a huge ripple of kindness throughout the world through small, sometimes random, acts of kindness to strangers.

By paying it forward, one person and one seemingly small act can make a meaningful impact in the lives of many. The sum is greater than the parts. You can’t do everything, but you can do something.

Below is a list of ideas. Please use them throughout the year to spread a little joy. Most cost nothing, but could mean the world to someone.

  1. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  2. Clean out all your old clothes and donate them to someone in need.  Your old is someone else’s new.
  3. Donate blood.  One pint of blood can save up to three lives.  Locate your nearest blood drive.
  4. Share your umbrella with a stranger on a rainy day.
  5. Check up on someone who looks lonely.
  6. Let someone with only a few items cut you in line at the grocery store.
  7. Stop and buy a drink from a kid’s lemonade stand.
  8. If you shop online, make your purchase through Give Back America or Amazon Smile.
  9. Drop off your old eye glasses at your local LensCrafters as a donation to the OneSight
  10. Redirect gifts.  Instead of having people give you birthday and holiday gifts, ask them to donate gifts or money to a good cause.
  11. Offer your seat to someone when there aren’t any left. (You can’t always see pain.)
  12. Hug a friend. Just because.
  13. Send a nice email or handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly.
  14. Leave encouraging post-it notes in library books and other random places.
  15. If you see a couple taking a self-pic, offer to take the picture for them.
  16. Donate cat and dog food to an animal shelter, as well as old towels or blankets.
  17. If there’s been an accident or a potentially hazardous situation presents itself on the road, report it to the local authorities.  Your phone call could save a life.
  18. When you’re getting fast food, buy an extra meal for a homeless person.
  19. Compliment the first three people you talk to today.
  20. Send a positive text message to five people right now.
  21. Leave quarters at the laundromat.
  22. Leave unused coupons next to the corresponding products in the grocery store.
  23. Leave a great server the biggest tip you can afford.
  24. Stand up for someone. Lend your voice.
  25. When someone wants to repay you for something, ask them to pay it forward.

Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Feel free to share your stories and ideas to pay it forward.

First Home Upgrades


For most first-time homeowners, the draw of making a sound financial investment is a huge factor in the decision to buy. You not only want to stop paying someone else’s mortgage, but also to increase your return on investment. This is a big decision and you want it to pay off. Below are a few relatively inexpensive upgrades that will not only provide you with comfort and enjoyment, but will also help increase your home’s value.


Swap out your kitchen countertops

Granite, while considered the cream of the crop in countertops, makes an impression, has lost some of its ‘wow’ factor as it becomes increasingly common. If the countertops are the only upgrade you’re planning, splurge on recycled glass (around $85 per square foot) for a truly unique and polished look.  For a less expensive but equally stunning option, try quartz (around $60 to $75 per square foot).

Conventional colors are the best bet here, but that doesn’t mean boring. Stick with neutral colors like white, gray, or “greige,” which will appear clean and bright and won’t turn off potential buyers.

Increase your living space

Outdoor areas are an affordable extension of your home and a perfect place to entertain guests or relax with your family. The possibilities are many – in addition to the traditional raised deck, consider creating patios, outdoor living rooms, and even outdoor kitchens.

Add outdoor lighting

In addition to doorways and porch lights, consider lights along your driveway, walkways, and patio, and uplights on trees. All of these will create ambiance the evening and will increase the quality of any photos you post of your home when it comes time to sell.

Give your exterior a makeover

Have your house exterior and front porch professionally power-washed, upgrade light fixtures (this can be as simple as replacing the bulbs with Edison-style ones that add instant character and warmth), swap out the hardware on your front door, upgrade your mailbox, replace worn-out or broken shutters, and freshen up your landscaping.

What are some of your favorite home upgrades? Please share your experiences.

Bras For A Cause

“We all have had friends or family who’ve been touched by breast cancer,” stated Kim Armstrong, Associate Broker at Bill May ERA and my fellow bra’s for a causer. “This is an opportunity to honor their struggle and support a great cause while having an outrageously fun time as well!”  And so begins my blog about Bra’s For A Cause.

The Blue Ridge Chapter of Women’s Council of REALTORS presents their annual fundraiser “Bras For A Cause”, an event to support Flourish, A Positive Image Boutique located and developed by UVA’s Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center helping those facing cancer to look and feel their best. The event, held a week and a half ago, was fun (and somewhat controversial)  held at the Double Tree Hotel just north of Charlottesville.  Hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar and MALE’s modeling BRAS.

Oh yes.  This event is a live Bra-Fashion Show with male models. These runway ‘models’ will be wearing the most unique bra fashions which will be auctioned off at the end of the event. A portion of the proceeds will go to support Flourish, A Positive Image Boutique. Each bra will also include a Gift Card (varied amounts up to $100).  Local businesses are encouraged to participate by donating $100 to enter a bra decorated in a unique (and even outrageous) fashion. Men in their organization volunteer to model your company’s bra for this spectacular cause – Supporting (no pun intended) Breast Cancer Awareness. The Women’s Council of REALTORS encourages them to invite co-workers, friends and family to attend our event and vote for your Bra! The winning bra will receive a trophy.

The size, stage, rate of growth, and other characteristics of a breast cancer determine the kinds of treatment. Treatment may include surgerydrugs(hormonal therapy and chemotherapy), radiation and/or immunotherapy.[3] Surgical removal of the tumor provides the single largest benefit, with surgery alone curing many cases. To increase the likelihood of cure, several chemotherapy regimens are commonly given in addition to surgery. Radiation is used after breast-conserving surgery and substantially improves local relapse rates and in many circumstances also overall survival.  Some breast cancers are sensitive to hormones such as estrogen and/or progesterone, which makes it possible to treat them by blocking the effects of these hormones.

Worldwide, breast cancer comprises 22.9% of all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) in women.  In 2008, breast cancer caused 458,503 deaths worldwide (13.7% of cancer deaths in women).  Breast cancer is more than 100 times more common in women than in men, although men tend to have poorer outcomes due to delays in diagnosis.

Prognosis and survival rates for breast cancer vary greatly depending on the cancer type, stage, treatment, and geographical location of the patient. Survival rates in the Western world are high; for example, more than 8 out of 10 women (84%) in England diagnosed with breast cancer survive for at least 5 years. In developing countries, however, survival rates are much poorer.  Whatever we can do to raise awareness or funds for research is needed.

Children’s Charity

"children's charity"What is more important in this world than our children?  We have no future without them, yet so many are not taken care of leading them to live terrible lives.  We do need to be aware of child-charities almost more-so than adults because these are people who CAN’T help themselves and need our help and guidance.  There is a Global Children’s Campaign called K.I.D.S. that was designed to do just that.

Kids in Distressed Situations’ (K.I.D.S.) mission is to provide NEW clothing, toys, shoes, baby products, books and more to children and families challenged by poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse, low literacy, military family service, major illness, incarcerated family members, and disaster survival. Over the past 26 years, K.I.D.S. has provided more than 70 million underprivileged and disaster-struck children with over one billion dollars of merchandise, giving these children, and often their entire families, hope and self-esteem through a gift of something BRAND NEW.

Throughout its history, K.I.D.S. has partnered with social service agencies across the country to distribute the new product that it receives as donations from manufacturers and retailers. Building on the foundation we have laid in every state of the country, in 2012, K.I.D.S. is establishing an overall national campaign to solicit product, raise money and increase awareness that connects the dots  between our local and national activities.

The campaign will also build on K.I.D.S.’ relationship with several retailers in which product is picked up or delivered to community agencies from the hundred plus stores that are located in communities throughout the country. Whether working with the local doors of Toys”R”Us, Gymboree, Carter’s or Lord & Taylor, K.I.D.S. has brought together the store managers with recipients to realize the “gift of giving.” These community partnerships will be strengthened and highlighted during the course of the year, ensuring that communities can more actively avail themselves of the donation process.

In addition, local friend and fundraisers will be held not only to raise resources but to increase awareness of K.I.D.S’ within local communities. While families are being helped by K.I.D.S. in the smallest to largest communities in our country, most people hardly know of the organization behind the giving and caring that takes place at K.I.D.S.

Guest Inspiration

The following blog was written by Ken Malinowski of New American Mortgage.  He has also chosen to Win Win For A Cause with his clients.  I’m very happy to have him on board with Win Win! 

Betty Aguilar

This is the Ad from Men's Journal that inspired me to write this blog

Nearly everyone I’ve an opportunity to speak with has a cause or a charity they are passionate about.  More often than not, something occurred during their lives that touched them in some way. They’ve had a loved one who suffered through a debilitating illness or maybe they read an inspirational story (or blog) that really touched their heart.In these tough economic times, many people can’t afford to support charitable causes financially, and working long hours to make ends meet sometimes doesn’t leave room for volunteering their time to that cause.  So how does one with limited financial resources and limited time support their favorite charity?  By promoting awareness!  I came across an ad in Men’s Journal recently that promoted growing a beard in September to promote Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. They called it “Beardtember” and it really got me thinking.  We’ve all seen the pink ribbons for Breast Cancer awareness (Breast Cancer Awareness month is October by the way, so you’ll be seeing more soon).  There are other groups that have had great ideas on methods of promoting awareness.

Here are a few examples: – Distributes purple bracelets to encourage positive thinking – “No Whining” – Shave your head for Cancer Ribbon Week to promote drug free kids – T-shirts made by survivors of domestic violence are displayed on clothes lines to promote awareness.

These are just a few examples of ways you can promote the cause that is near and dear to your heart. If you’re supporting a group, we would love to hear about a unique way you promote awareness!  Please comment on this blog.

Ken Malinowski

Central VA Real Estate Happenings

"WinWinForACause gives $500 to Soup Kitched"

Betty Aguilar, Jonathan Jones (client) and Bob Treacey excepting the donation for Disciples Kitchen

Article from Charlottesville, VA… The Daily Progress Sunday Real Estate Section

Local REALTOR Donates 10%  Her Commissions To Charity

Betty Aguilar, REALTOR with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III, has created a very unique endeavor for herself, and it’s stirring up lots of interest that reaches far beyond her industry.  Win Win For A Cause ( was established to communicate Betty’s “forever endeavor” to give back to the community and possibly encourage others to do the same.  She has vowed to give 10% of all of her commissions from closed real estate transactions to a local charity or non-profit of her client’s choice. 

“I am not wealthy, but I have what I need in life.  Others do not,” Aguilar said.  “Giving to those in need makes me happy. I feel that I can make our world a better place.  I want my clients to experience that feeling as well.”  In her website,, Betty keeps her followers informed of her Win Win progress and also gives readers interesting information about how other organizations are giving back as she is.

This past Friday, Betty delivered a check for almost $500 to Disciples Kitchen in Waynesboro (  Disciples Kitchen provides hot meals and food pantry resources for individuals and families in need.  They have no paid employees in the entire organization, everything is done by volunteers.   The client who recently purchased a home with Betty asked that the money be contributed to the charity that someone he had met at the DMV had recently told him about.  “He talked about his labor of love, Disciples Kitchen, and the great work that the organization is doing in the community,” the client said.  “What intrigued me most about Disciples Kitchen was the inclusive nature (non-denominational ministry) of the organization and method of operations.  Disciplines Kitchen is unique in the fact that it makes it easy for other organizations and individuals to help out the less fortunate by providing and serving hot, nutritious meals.” 

“I am passionate about my work,” Aguilar states.  “I will do whatever is necessary to  make real estate transactions go smoothly so they are completely satisfied with the result – whether they’ve purchasing a home or selling one.”  “I want to be MORE than  just your REALTOR… I want you to WIN WIN for a cause,” Aguilar continues. “You can get the service that YOU need and give to a cause that NEEDS YOU.  Win Win!”