Is It Really ‘Just’ Allergies?

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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.

Cold

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.

 

 

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

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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.

Local Cheesemaker & Local Non-Profit Provide Touching Experiences

Caromont Farm in Esmont, Virginia, well known for its cheese, has recently gained even more acclaim for its baby goats.  In 2016 Caromont owner and cheesemaker Gail Hobbs-Page issued a social media request for volunteer “goat snugglers” willing “to assist in bottle feeding infant goats, keeping the herd warm and dry, and maintaining cleanliness of the equipment and pens.”

Within days, the farm had reached its capacity for baby goat snugglers for the season. Over two thousand people from all over the world responded to the message to help them with the care and feeding of 120 + newly born goat kids.

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People from every walk of life signed up for a shift on the farm, including veterans with PTSD, victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, autistic children, the terminally ill, and urban dwellers just wanting a day in the country with their kids.

Gail Hobbs-Page wrote that “It was joyful, energizing, and frequently heartbreaking to share in people’s stories. As the weeks went by, what became evident was that our working farm was doing something much bigger. We were providing necessary healing experiences for people who were hurting in many different ways.”

Gail was so moved by this experience that she wanted to do more.  She reached out to her long-time friend Tara Hodges, the founder of A Fertile Foundation, a local non-profit with a focus on farm-centered therapy.  Due to lack of their own space, “Fertile” has in the past been more of a roving farm therapy program.

This year “Fertile” will build on Caromont’s success by partnering with them to expand their therapeutic “snuggling”, creating a permanent space to provide farm-centered therapy to community members.

The partnership provides a home for “Fertile” as well as allowing for animal and farming education programs provided by Caromont. What started last year with a simple call to volunteer with baby goats will grow this year to allow the continuation of A Fertile Foundation’s work.  Caromont provides the terra firma, the baby goats provide unending and unconditional love.

To learn more about A Fertile Foundation, please click here. All donations are fully tax-deductible and directly support their programs.

 

Protecting Plants from the Return of Winter Weather

The Valley, and large parts of the country, have seen unseasonably warm temperatures this winter. As a result, many trees and plants are budding and blooming prematurely. Like spring, these much-enjoyed warm days will be interrupted by some frosty nights. And unfortunately, a dip in temperature will put new growth in jeopardy.

Luckily, protecting plants from cold damage can be accomplished in a variety of quick and easy ways. The key is to have your plants covered during the hours when frost develops. This critical period is from late night to early morning, when moisture on the plants can freeze. A good rule of thumb is to cover plants by 8 p.m. the night before a forecasted frost and uncover them by 8 a.m. the next morning.

Pots and plastic containers – they’re great for protecting plants on frosty nights.

Buckets and plastic plant pots are great for covering tender plants. Simply turn the bucket or container upside down and place it over the plant. (It’s a good idea to put a rock or brick on top of the container to keep it in place.)

Next time you get a large plant or shrub in a black plastic pot, save it. These large containers come in handy for those frosty nights.

Old bed linens – great for covering plants and protecting them from frost.

They’re great for cover use, since they’re lightweight and won’t crush the plant. Place sheets loosely over plants, and use a stone or brick along the edges to keep the sheet from blowing off. (Sheets are also great for draping over blooming shrubs.) Newspaper and burlap work well, too.

Don’t forget to remove your plant protection in the morning when the sun hits.

If a plant is injured by frost, damage will be noticeable within a few days. The plant growth will turn black, drop off or turn into “mush.” Sometimes new growth will reappear after a week or two, but in a lot of cases, you’ll just have to start over.

What are your plans to protects plants from the returning winter weather?

To Care for Those Who Cared for Us is One of the Highest Honors

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I am pleased that one of the newest members of the Win Win for a Cause family is the Daily Living Center right here in the Valley. The Daily Living Center is a licensed adult day health care serving the Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County area for over 27 years. By providing an excellent standard of care, The Daily Living Center allows family and friends of those who are not able to care for themselves to attend to their daily lives knowing that their loved ones are being taken care of in a positive, safe, and caring environment.

The Daily Living Center is a non-profit, United Way agency and also a member of the National Adult Day Services Association and of the Virginia Adult Day Services Association. The Daily Living Center prevents the pre-mature placement in a long-term care facility or institution-enhancing the quality of life of our participants and their caregivers, keeping them at home with their families and in our community!

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In addition to providing a safe and secure environment, clients are part of socialization and recreational activities, receive health monitoring and medication management by licensed professionals, and nutritious meals and snacks. There is a monthly support group for the caregivers, as well.

To learn more about The Daily Living Center, I encourage you to visit their website. My clients have the option of selecting this wonderful agency as the recipient of their Win Win for a Cause donation from completed closings.

First Home Upgrades

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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.

Home Prep for Cooler Weather

With the weather turning cooler outside (at least at night), now is a great time to get moving on some preventative maintenance to prepare your home for the chilly weather before it arrives.

Check for Peeling Paint

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Inspect exterior walls to see if any paint is peeling or blistering on the house or outbuildings. Peeling paint means that the existing paint film can no longer adequately protect the siding of the building. Lower humidity and cooler (not yet cold) temperatures make fall a good time to paint the exterior of your home.

Gutter Check

Regularly clean gutters and downspouts. Make sure all drainage areas are unblocked by leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier.

Caulk Windows

Be sure to caulk around windows and doorframes to prevent heat from escaping. Caulking and sealing openings is any inexpensive and easy-to-do maintenance job to check off. Openings in the structure can cause water to get in and freeze, resulting in cracks and mold buildup.

Inspect the Roof

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Inspect your roof, or hire a licensed professional to examine your roof for wear and tear. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it’s time to replace the entire roof. Also, check the flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys.

Heating Systems

Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating contractor. Heating systems will use fuel more efficiently, last longer, and have fewer problems if properly serviced. Clean and replace filters in your furnace or heating system.

If you use a hot water system for heating, drain the expansion tank, check the water pressure, and bleed your radiators. 

Seal the Driveway

Inspect your driveway for cracks. Clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer. Sealing the driveway now will help extend the life of the asphalt through the winter and beyond.

Air Circulation

Change the direction of your ceiling fan to create an upward draft that redistributes warm air from the ceiling. Clean your humidifiers regularly during the heating season. Bacteria and spores can develop in a dirty water tank resulting in unclean moisture misting out into your room.

Clean Yard Equipment

Prepare your yard equipment for storage. This includes draining fuel from all gas-operated equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws.

Protect Yourself and Your Home

Each fall, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and put in fresh batteries. A carbon monoxide detector can also save lives if a home has oil or gas-burning appliances, like a furnace or water heater.

What home maintenance items are on your autumn list?