Archive for the 'Allergies' Category

Helpful Hospital Hints

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Most people do not plan to go to the hospital, and if they do, they may think to pack shampoo and a toothbrush. While I hate to have my color stripped by institutional shampoo, I have some far more important tips to have a safe stay and speedy recovery that you can start TODAY!

Dr. Deb’s Helpful Hospital Hints

1.Have the Discussion with ALL your family

Many times we are scheduled to go to the hospital, but often we end up there as an unpleasant surprise. Today is Valentine’s Day and one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is to advance planning for medical emergencies. This is not just for the elderly, but for all.

A Living Will gives advance directives for different medical scenarios and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows one person to make more specific choices if you cannot speak for yourself. In a crisis there are so many emotions and often it is the family member that feels most distant that will try to go against your wishes to resolve whatever existing conflicts they may have. Making your wishes clear to ALL family members today is essential. Every state has different forms and you can download them here.


2. Prepare a Medical Folder

Make a medical folder that contains copies your Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in addition to a current medication list, including herbal remedies, with doses. Key word is current.  It is also helpful to have a list of medical problems, past surgeries, allergies and a list of specialists with their phone numbers. Include your latest diagnostic test that is pertinent to your medical problems such as recent echocardiogram or EKG. Put this in a folder but keep a small copy in your wallet as well or consider an electronic record on a flash drive. My Chart is a medical record keeping system offered my many doctors’ offices and hospitals, which securely stores your medical information. You can logon via a website and they even have iphone and android apps.

3. Make it Safe

One of the biggest problems in medicine is the fragmented system. You must watch to be sure mistakes are not being made.

Write on your body yes and no on the limbs that are to be operated on.

Bring your own medications in a zip lock bag so you have them. Hospitals are often slow so you can take your medication from home if the hospital does not have it, but don’t take anything until you talk to your nurse.

Ask your nurse about what medication is being dispended EVERY TIME. Tell them your allergies EVERY time you are given medication to be certain there is not a conflict.

4.  Be your Best Advocate

Ideally we would all have a medical advocate that would know your medical history and all your medications but actually YOU are your best advocate. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions.

A PEN AND PAPER is a must. Write down all the medicine they are giving you as well as the names and occupations of all the people that enter your room.

Most doctors only round once a day and usually when you are sound asleep in the early morning. Have a list of questions ready and take notes on the plan. Ask your doctor what test and medication changes will take place that day. You can double check that everything is carried out with your nurse throughout the day.

5. Be Nice

You catch more flies with honey and certainly being nice to the staff goes a long way. While it is important to be assertive, nurses have many patients and too much paper work so being kind and courteous is the best way to get their attention. Ask for your nurse’s name and how long their shift is. I also never found a nurses station that didn’t like treats so if you are generous it will come back to you tenfold.

6. Be Comfortable

Creature comforts are important so if you have time prepare a little bag or these can make great gifts if friends are admitted to the hospital.

Lip balm and Normal saline for the nose are critical as the hospital is so dry.

Ear plugs & Eye mask, as the hospital is not the place to rest with all the monitors and activity.

Glasses, hearing aids, and dentures so you can see, listen and eat.

Stool softener is critical for anyone taking pain medication. Ask for one as soon as you are given any narcotics or put some in your medication bag.

Hand gel, wipes and lotion will help you feel clean.

Pillow from home.

Personal Computing devices with caution: laptop, cell phone and iPod PLUS CHARGERS are great to have but there are sticky fingers in hospitals so don’t bring them unless you have an advocate that can watch them for you.

Toiletries; the hospital has shampoo and toothbrushes but you may like our own.

Ask for a private room: it is hard enough to get rest but with a roommate you never know how much noise they or their visitors will make. The cost of a private room is usually not that high and well worth the peace.

7. Get out of Dodge

The best way to get healthy is to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. This is not a spa vacation and requires work. Use inhaled sprirometry to open lungs and prevent infection. Walk as soon as they will let you. Ask your nurse to remove urinary catheter and IVs as soon as possible. For more tips read my previous blog on Surviving your Hospital Stay.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Instead of candy or flowers, give the gift of love and peace of mind.

Dr. Deb



Colds Away!

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

I love my Pilates class, not just for how I feel, but the relationships I’ve made with people in the class. There is a certain intimacy and trust when you sweat and contort with a small group of people. I also love to share new things, so when I was updating this blog with a cold remedy that I was asked to support, it was only the resounding endorsement of the class that convinced me to promote Cold Eeze. They actually have good data supporting that it shortens the duration of a cold by nearly half, but data can be manipulated. Personal testimony of friends cannot. It’s finally cold and people are getting sick. Here are some tips to keep you healthy!
Dr. Deb’s Tips on how NOT to get Sick!

1. Wash Hands and Nose.

We all know to wash hands but doing it regularly is the problem. Flu virus may live on hard surfaces for 24 -48 hours so we need to keep certain zones in our surroundings free of germs. Think of these zones as an automatics hand wash times, in addition to any other times when you have been exposed to germs.

Entering your car

Entering your house

Sitting at your desk

Before food prep

After the bathroom

Before eating

If you automatically wash every time you enter the zone, you will greatly decrease your risk of infection. Remember effective hand washing takes about 15 seconds so do what I tell the kids, “Sing your ABCs or Happy Birthday” while you wash up.

Hand sanitizer and wipes are also convenient ways to clean up especially in your car when water is not available. Put one in your car and in your kids back pack so they can always keep clean.

Just as important it is to wash your nasal passages. This will greatly reduce the risk of sinus infections as it washes the allergens before your body causes an inflammation response. 5 squirts of normal saline in the morning, night and after exercising outdoors is a great prevention strategy. A nettie pot is a power wash if you have a lot of congestion but recently there were infections with tap water. You may want to use distilled or boil the water and cool before using.

2. Don’t Touch your Face

Many infections are transmitted through hand to face contact through the mouth, eyes and nose. A study in 2009 videotaped people and observed that they touched their face an average of 16 times an hour.  Every time you touch your face you are allowing bacteria to enter your body. You may also be spreading virus as the nose has the second highest concentration of bacteria on the body surface. (bet you can guess the first and it’s not the mouth!)

3. Clean Common Germ Collectors

I am forever telling the kids, “Don’t put your shoes on my food prep area!” They love to plop down book bags and shoes on the counter where I make dinner. Wipe down daily Keyboard, phones, remotes, door handles, microwave ovens handles, pens and put toothbrushes in the dishwasher if you are sick or replace them. Avoid teller machines, vending machines, escalators handrails and elevator buttons and wash after you do.

Desks have 400 times more germs than toilet seat so it is important to keep it a clean zone where you work.  Don’t forget to clean the toilet handle. My kids recently proved that the urinal handle had more germs that the wrestling mats and vending machine button in their science fair experiment.

4. Cold Eeze

A study from the Cleveland clinic showed taking Cold Eeze at the first sign of a cold reduced the duration of the cold by nearly half. It must be taken at the first sign of a cold as it is theorized that the zinc gluconate binds to the cold virus receptor blocking them from replicating, Cold Eeze comes in lozenges and now a new oral spray that is convenient. Just two sprays and you are good to go!

5. Start Spring Allergy Prevention Now

Our unseasonably warm winter may result in an earlier spring allergy season.  My daffodils are already 5 inches high! In addition to flushing with normal saline, if you get recurring allergies every year, you may want to think about starting prevention medications earlier than usual. Nasal steroid medications such as Flonase are most effective when taken at least 2 weeks before the allergy exposure.  A late freeze would stop early allergies. You can track pollen counts in your area and receive alerts at 

6. Probiotics

Probiotics are various forms of “good bacteria” that can be taken as a pill or liquid supplement.  They really help with gastrointestinal infections, like diarrhea but a recent study in Pediatrics showed that children given daily probiotic supplements had reduced colds, fever, cough and need for antibiotics.

7. Exercise

A recent study showed that exercising 5 times a week decreased risk of infection by almost 50% and regular exercisers that did catch a cold had a shorter duration and decreased severity.

8. Listen to Mom: Sleep and fluids

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms you need more sleep.

After exposing healthy volunteers to a cold virus, researchers found that those who slept fewer than seven hours a night were about three times as likely to become ill as those who, on average who slept at least eight hours.

Fluids and good nutrition are also critical to prevent and shorten cold duration.

9. Flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is the surest way to prevent the flu. It is very safe and the most certain way to avoid influenza. It is not to late to get a flu shot this year.

Prevention really is worth a pound of cure so eat right, exercise and listen to your friends.

Dr. Deb


Dr Deb’s Ditch the Winter Itch Tips

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Winter has finally arrived in the Tristate and so has Winter Itch. My son couldn’t sleep the other night because his skin was so itchy. He loves a hot shower for his 5:45am wake up but mixed with colder temperatures and low humidity his skin was quite dry. Constant central heating also removes water from the skin that leads to severe itchy skin. There is usually not much of a rash but scratching can lead to redness and painful cracks or fissures in the skin. Here are my tips to help you stop the scratch.


Dr. Deb’s Ditch the Winter Itch Tips

1. Keep it Cool.

Long hot showers remove the protective oils that keep water in our skin so you should takes short baths (<10 minutes) using warm, not hot water.  Colder showers not only save your skin but will also save your hair, protecting the cuticle as well as prolonging color treated hair.

2. Wash the Essentials

Harsh antibacterial soaps are not needed and contribute to the problem. Stick to mild soaps such as Dove, Oil of Olay or Neutrogena and don’t shower everyday. The essential bath (pits and privates) should get you through most off days. I love my hand sanitizer but nothing dries the skin out like the alcohols in them so use soap or a cleansing solution as often as possible.

3. Lube While Wet

When you get out of the shower, pat skin dry instead of rubbing and apply moisturizer to wet skin to seal in water. Might feel a little slippery for a few minutes but this will really help dry itchy skin. The thicker the moisturizer the better. I like Curel or Eucerin. You can mix a pea size drop of nonprescription OTC hydrocortisone cream with the lotion and apply to the itchy areas. If your skin in thick and hard, like on the bottom of your heals, then exfoliate first, so the lotion will absorb into the skin better.

4. Cycle the Heat

This tip will not only save your skin but will save you some money. Invest in a thermostat with a timer to keep your house cool and turn on the heat only when you need it. We set ours to turn on right before we wake up and turn off 45 minutes later. It will help the air from drying out but allow you to take a cooler shower as your body will be warm instead of freezing when you get out of bed. Adding a humidifier will provide even more relief.

 5. Use a Barrier

Sunscreen should not be forgotten in winter and use gloves to protect your skin not just from cold, but also from drying out.  My mom’s old fashion cure, Vaseline, makes a great barrier as well as moisturizer if you will be outside for an extended period of time. Drink plenty of water and eats lots of omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon or walnuts to keep the water and oil in your skin.

If no improvement in a few weeks then see your doctor and be sure to have your thyroid checked. Low thyroid, diabetes and high blood pressure medication may contribute to dry skin. They may also decide to prescribe a newly approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory cream such as MimyX and Atopiclair or even a stronger cream with steroids for severe cases.

Winter has arrived even if we have not have had enough snow to sled. Cool down and lube up to stop that Winter Itch.

Dr. Deb


Allergies Again? Avoid Top Allergy Mistakes

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Millions suffer from allergies, yet most have not figured out how to properly treat them. We wait until our head feels like it will explode and dredge up every kind of medication searching for a fix, while cursing the doctor for not giving us an antibiotic. Even if we get an antibiotic, it still takes at least 3 weeks before we feel better. I made many allergy mistakes but have not taken an antibiotic for years because I finally figured out how to treat the main cause instead of a Band-Aid that never seems to stick.

Take this test if you are not sure if you have allergies or a cold that comes up every spring.

My twins in allergy season

Dr. Deb’s Top Allergy Mistakes


Allergy Relief: Avoid, Clean, Prevent & Dry

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Just as the flowers have started to bloom, so have our allergies. The sun beckons us after being cooped up all winter but lurking outdoors are millions of allergens awaiting to attack our nasal passages. Certainly this won’t keep my kids indoors but what can we do?

There are so many medications and many side effects; it is hard figure out how to treat allergies. Let me arm you with my simple  4 step plan that has really helped my family and will hopefully help you too.

Dr. Deb’s Allergy Relief Plan (more…)