When is a Cough Serious?

A man sitting on a couch coughing.Coughing is a normal reflex and often does not signify a serious underlying medical condition. However, a cough could be connected to a more significant health issue and should be evaluated by a doctor when it is:

  • Severe
  • Worsening over time
  • Occurring frequently over several days or weeks

A cough can be either “acute,” meaning that it lasts less than three weeks, or “chronic,” meaning that it lasts longer. Some causes of acute cough, such as the common cold or exposure to airborne irritants, are not necessarily causes for concern on their own, but others, such as pneumonia and influenza, are potentially life-threatening for some people, such as older adults, infants, and people with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions.

In many cases, chronic coughing is also not indicative of a major, life-threatening health problem, such as when it is caused by mild allergies or asthma. However, it may be a cause for concern when it is severe, frequent, or accompanied by one or more other symptoms, including (but not limited to):

  • Coughing up blood
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

These symptoms could indicate that a cough is associated with a serious underlying medical condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, or pulmonary embolism. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to get evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.

You can receive diagnostic care and specialized treatment for your cough at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

How Can Mold Impact Your Health?

Mold growth is a common issue in many homes, and one that can cause a variety of medical problems. Many of the potential physical responses to mold exposure, such as a stuffy nose, sneezing, and red, itchy eyes, may occur more strongly in people who are allergic to mold or who have asthma. In some cases, severe reactions such as fever or shortness of breath can occur.

Mold is typically found in moist areas, such as parts of your home that have experienced flooding or leaks from your roof, windows, or pipes. It’s most likely to grow on wood-based products such as paper or cardboard, as well as some ceiling or floor tiles. Other materials that mold can grow on include:

  • Paint
  • Drywall
  • Carpet
  • Fabric
  • Insulation
  • Upholstery

You can often identify mold by its sight and smell. It often produces a musty odor and appears as one or more patches that are slimy, fuzzy, and/or discolored; these patches grow larger over time. Mold may also grow in places that are not easy to see, such as behind or under furniture, as well as inside pipes or walls. You can look for areas of your home where mold is most likely to grow by looking for signs of water stains or warping due to water damage.

If you notice signs of a mold problem in your home, make sure to identify the source of any water leakage and correct it, as well as discard any items with extensive mold growth or water damage that can’t be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Small areas of mold growth can be cleaned with soap and water, but for large-scale mold problems, it may be best to hire a licensed contractor to correct the issue.

If you are experiencing medical problems due to mold exposure, you can receive treatment at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

How to Tell the Difference Between Allergies and a Cold

Seasonal allergies and colds can lead to a variety of similar symptoms, such as sneezing or a runny nose. However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between both conditions to ensure that you’re getting appropriate medical treatment and to determine whether the people around you may be at risk of getting sick.

Colds and allergies are caused by different factors; as a result, they generally require different types of medication for effective treatment. Colds, which are viral, can be treated with pain relievers, antiviral medication, and rest. Allergies, which are immune system responses to certain substances, are best treated with antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. Some medication, such as decongestants, can be helpful for both colds and allergies.

Colds and allergies can also lead to different symptoms. For example, allergies are more likely than colds to lead to eye irritation and itchiness. On the other hand, a fever, as well as general aches and pains throughout the body, can both occur due to a cold; however, they will almost never occur because of an allergy. A cold is also more likely to cause:

  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Chest discomfort

Allergies and colds also differ in terms of how long symptoms may take to resolve. The symptoms of a cold typically last up to a week. Symptoms of an allergy, however, could take weeks to resolve. This is due, in part, to exposure to allergens; if you have a seasonal allergy to a substance such as pollen, for example, it may be difficult to avoid exposure during the course of your daily activities until the end of the season.

You can receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for either seasonal allergies or colds at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Allergic Rhinitis

A seasonal allergy, often called allergic rhinitis or hay fever, is an allergy that occurs during a specific time of the year. Seasonal allergies are most often caused by three types of pollen: grass, tree, and weed.

Seasonal allergies can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life and are a significant burden on the healthcare system. Approximately 600 million people are thought to be affected by rhinitis, and there is evidence showing that those numbers are on the rise.

Rhinitis is generally divided into two groups: allergic and non-allergic. Differentiating between allergic and non-allergic rhinitis is critical, as half of patients prescribed antihistamines for their reported allergic rhinitis have symptoms that are not due to allergy. Symptoms such as sleep disturbance and daily fatigue, along with inappropriate use of antihistamines, can result in impaired performance at school and work. 

It is important to use testing for allergen sensitization to help you decipher allergic from non-allergic rhinitis. These results, along with a physical exam and medical history, can ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment sooner, as well as helping to reduce avoidable antihistamine use.

To get tested, schedule an appointment with our Family Medicine Center by calling (718) 206-6942.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

When To See A Doctor If You Have A Sinus Infection?

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is a very common type of infection that occurs when the sinuses or cavities in the front of the face, around the eyes, and behind the nose become filled with mucous.

The majority of sinus infections are caused by viruses.  Sinus infections can also be caused to a much lesser extent by bacteria or fungus, however,  and are less likely to be transmitted from one person to another. They can also be caused by allergies, blocked nasal passages, asthma, and nasal blockages due to polyps.

Acute viral sinusitis typically lasts seven to ten days and may follow a cold. Chronic sinusitis can last for 12 weeks or longer.

Symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Facial pain or pressure on the forehead or between the eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Thick yellow, green, or cloudy nasal discharge
  • Inability to smell
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

Sinus infections typically begin to improve by themselves in about 10 days. You should contact your physician if the infection is not improving or if it is getting worse. Anyone who experiences any of the following should see a physician as soon as possible:

  • Fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Vision changes
  • Swelling and redness around the eyes
  • Intense headache

A sinus infection can spread to the brain or the eye if it is left untreated. People who have frequent or chronic sinus infections should see an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) to see if there is an underlying reason these are occurring.

If you think you may have a sinus infection, you can try several remedies at home such as a warm compress on the face, over-the-counter decongestants, saline nasal sprays, and over-the-counter pain relievers. These shouldn’t be used for more than three days.

Speak to your physician if the symptoms of a sinus infection don’t improve or worsen after ten days. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a physician at 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Multiple Allergies and the Symptom Threshold

Everyone has their own unique combination of allergic triggers and not all of them are obvious. You may be sensitized to several allergen sources, but your sensitization may not be enough to trigger symptoms when you are exposed to only one of them. But when you encounter multiple substances you’re allergic to at the same time, they can add up, and you may start experiencing symptoms, such as itchy eyes or a runny nose.

Determining if you’re allergic and identifying your allergic triggers can help you stay below your symptom threshold—the point where you start experiencing allergy symptoms.

Most people with allergies—up to 80 percent—are allergic to multiple allergens. And for some of these people; symptoms may appear only when they encounter two or more things they’re allergic to at the same time.

Minimizing your exposure to your allergic triggers may help lessen or eliminate your symptoms. For example:

• You could have a low-level allergy to dust mites, mold, and grass pollen. During large parts of the year, you’re exposed to dust mites and mold but may have little to no symptoms.

• But in the spring, when pollen is in the air, you may experience symptoms. You then might think that you have only a pollen allergy. But without a test you won’t know for sure.

Your best defense against your allergic symptoms is to know what’s causing them and to avoid those triggers. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to cut everything you’re allergic to out of your life. You’ll just have to reduce your exposure enough to get below your symptom threshold—the level where you start to experience symptoms.

One of the best ways to find out what’s causing your allergic symptoms is to get tested. There are several different options for allergy testing, including blood tests, skin-prick tests, food challenge tests, and allergy provocation tests. Together with your healthcare provider, you can decide which test is best for you. After your elected allergy test is performed, the results are reviewed by your healthcare provider alongside your medical history to help establish an accurate diagnosis. 

To schedule an allergy test at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Helpful Spring Cleaning Tips

Studies show that an unclean and cluttered environment can negatively impact our physical and mental health.

Particles such as dust, dander, mildew, or mold in the home can trigger allergies and affect respiratory health.

A cluttered space can make some people feel mentally overwhelmed and can contribute to depression. Clutter has also been shown to affect sleep. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it was found that people sleeping in cluttered environments were more likely to develop sleep disorders.  Lastly, clutter can increase the risk of falls and injury.

A thorough spring cleaning and decluttering of the home can greatly improve environmental and air quality and help reduce the risk of illness or injury.

Here are a few helpful tips to make spring cleaning easier and our homes more conducive to better health:

  • Always remember to read the labels of cleaning products before using them. Certain chemicals such as ammonia, sodium hypochlorite, and formaldehyde can trigger allergies
  • Clean blinds with a duster or damp microfiber cloth (dampened cloths will attract more dust)
  • Clean windows with a glass cleaner
  • Wipe down walls, door frames, and baseboards. These areas are notorious for collecting dust but are often ignored
  • Use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum, to clean carpets, fabric shades, and drapes, also pay attention to fabric couches and mattresses
  • Organize clutter by sorting items into four categories: donate, store, dispose and keep
  • Clean wooden furniture by using a duster or microfiber cloth
  • Mop hard-surface floors with a microfiber mop
  • Wash bedding as recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t forget to also wash bedding accessories such as pillows, throw pillow covers and stuffed animals
  • Thoroughly clean bathrooms to avoid a buildup of mold and mildew. A cleaning solution of three parts water and one parts bleach is often recommended for cleaning mold and mildew
  • Clean kitchen cabinets and drawers with cabinet cleaner and degreaser
  • Clean air conditioning and heating filters
  • Don’t ignore hard-to-reach places such as ceiling fans and light fixtures. These can be cleaned by using a duster with an extendable handle

Spring cleaning can offer great benefits. For many, this includes achieving a sense of accomplishment and having a home that is tidy and free from clutter. The most important benefit however is, that spring cleaning helps to minimize exposure to allergens and other environmental hazards that can be harmful to our health.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Is it Allergies, the Flu, or COVID?

The fall season presents a convergence of health concerns for many of us.  This time of year marks the beginning of cold and flu season, but for many it is also the time of year when they experience seasonal allergies.

Determining if you have the flu or are suffering from fall allergies could be a difficult task during most years, but  this year to further complicate matters we are living with the very really threat of COVID-19.

While there are some similarities between the flu, COVID and seasonal allergies, it is important to know that each possess distinct differences as well.

Jamaica Hospital is providing our community with the following information on how to distinguish the differences between the coronavirus, the flu and allergies.

  • Allergies are characterized by coughing and sneezing. Allergy sufferers also experience facial pain, nasal drip and itchy eyes, mouth and skin.  Those who have allergies and also have asthma may experience wheezing as well. Those with seasonal allergies generally do not exhibit fatigue, body aches or fever.
  • The flu shares some of the symptoms associated with allergies, such as coughing and sneezing, but unlike allergies, the flu is also accompanied by head and body aches, fatigue and fever.  Unlike allergies, which present more chronic symptoms that can last for weeks or months, those with the flu typically exhibit symptoms for five to seven days.

  • COVID-19 symptoms can be very similar to that of the flu. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of COVID include: fever and chills, cough, fatigue and muscle or body aches. The most significant difference between COVID and allergies or the flu is shortness of breath, which is a common symptom of the disease.  Other symptoms associated with COVID that are different from allergies or the flu are loss of taste or smell as well as gastrointestinal issues.

Both COVID and the flu are both viruses and mild cases are generally treated similarly with pain and fever medication, such as acetaminophen. Allergies on the other hand are often treated with antihistamines.

If you are a known allergy sufferer you should be aware of when your seasonal allergies typically begin. Additionally, to help minimize the risk of contracting the flu, it is highly recommended that you receive your annual flu shot. If you are experiencing any severe symptoms associated with COVID-19, you should contact your doctor immediately.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Dust Mites & How They Affect Our Health

allergies and dust mites

Dust mites are tiny, microscopic relatives of spiders and ticks that lurk around our homes.  They feed on the dead skin cells that we shed.  Due to their diet, dust mites are commonly found in the areas where dust and dead skin cells accumulate the most. This includes carpets, mattresses, bedding, curtains, stuffed animals and furniture.

Dust mites are allergenic- meaning materials from their skin and fecal matter can cause allergic reactions and symptoms, especially in people with allergies and asthma.

Common dust mite allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy nose, mouth or throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Coughing
  • Red, Itchy skin
  • Itchy, red or watery  eyes

In people with asthma, symptoms can include:

  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

It is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites, even in the cleanest homes.  However, there are ways to limit exposure and reduce the risk of symptoms. Here are a few:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • Cover mattresses and pillows in zippered dust-proof covers
  • Dust regularly
  • Avoid carpeting if possible or vacuum frequently
  • Use certified allergen capturing filters in vacuums and air conditioners
  • Keep the humidity levels in your home under 50% (Dust mites thrive in environments with humidity levels of 70 to 80%)

If symptoms persist, relief can be achieved by taking over-the-counter or prescription decongestants, antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids.  Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets can also be effective. 

The Division of Allergy and Immunology at Jamaica Hospital focuses on the diagnosis and long-term treatment of allergic and immunologic conditions. To schedule an appointment with an allergist, please call 718-206-6742.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Fall Allergies

Ever ask yourself, “Why are my allergies kicking up, it’s not spring or summer?”  The answer may be that if you are a warmer weather allergy sufferer, you will most likely be sensitive to allergens in the fall too.

While the fall season signals the beginning of cooler temperatures, it can be especially difficult for those who are sensitive to mold and ragweed pollen. If you are one of these people, symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion and headaches can reoccur leaving you feeling miserable.

There are several things you can do to find relief. If symptoms are mild, try the following suggestions which may provide temporary relief:

  • Closing windows and doors at night or whenever ragweed counts are high
  • Trying over the counter remedies such as decongestants or antihistamines
  • Rinsing your eyes with a saline solution
  • Trying nasal irrigation
  • Taking steamy showers
  • Wearing a mask while doing yard work
  • Washing clothes and linens frequently
  • Using air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters
  • Keeping indoor air dry by using a dehumidifier
  • Thoroughly washing your face and hair when you get home

If your symptoms are continuous and affect your ability to carry out routine activities, you should speak with an allergist.  Your allergist will be able to help you identify what triggers your seasonal allergies and provide the best course of treatment to offer relief or stop symptoms.

The and Immunology at focuses on the diagnosis and long-term treatment of allergic and immunologic conditions. To schedule an appointment with an allergist, please call

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.