Posted by kevvyg on Monday, May 04, 2015
May is finally here, and for many of us, it means a relative slowdown in the tree pollen that's been plaguing our nose, throats, and airways for the last two months. Personally, I'm just happy that here in Georgia, the wettest stretch of our spring landed right at the same time as pine pollen started dumping yellow-green dust all over everything. In addition to this welcomed news, May also kicks off Asthma Awareness Month.

GINA - World Asthma Day 2015Globally, it is estimated that as many as 300 million people suffer from and cope with asthma every day. While in the U.S. asthma affects about 8% of the population, asthma is a larger issue that recognizes no boundaries. (You can at least give credit to asthma for being and equal opportunity offender... thanks asthma.)

While the exact cause of asthma is still unknown and a cure seems to be some time away, asthma is a condition that can be successfully managed. Severity ranges from mild forms with occasional flare ups and specific circumstance asthma (like exercise or cold induced asthma) to more severe forms that pose potentially life threatening problems for those affected.

Management can also vary with severity, but one of the most effective treatment for long term asthma are inhaled corticosteroids. This type of medication suppresses inflammation by desensitizing the airways and suppressing the immune system's overreaction to often times harmless substances.

Beyond medication, avoiding triggers (tobacco smoke, pollen, mold, etc.), keeping track of unseen dangers like ground level ozone, learning to recognize the symptoms of an asthma attack or properly use a Using a Spacer for Asthma Treatmentspacers or nebulizers, and having a plan in place for coping with them are all pieces to this puzzle. Air quality is of key concern, as both poor indoor or outdoor air quality are often prime causes of asthma attacks.

Particularly for children but even for adults, the inability to breathe from an asthma attack can be a terrifying experience. Education and planning are key to avoiding and effectively dealing with asthma. So, whether it's and asthma run/walk, reading new literature, attending a conference/symposium, training for educators, or even the opening of a new asthma clinic, there are a variety of events scheduled to help raise awareness of asthma this month. From here in the U.S. to Peru, France to India, and Croatia to Egypt, around the globe events are scheduled to better connect people with the resources they need to better reduce the impact of asthma and breathe a little easier.

As a side note, while reading up on this, I found some disparity between May 5th and May 6th. Here in the U.S. the National Institute of Health is calling May 6th Asthma Awareness day, while globally, it is more commonly recognized as May 5th. Regardless, many clinics, organizations, and advocacy groups have events planned all month long, and organizations like the CDC, NIH, and others have information available online, whenever you need it.

Author: K. Gilmore

World Asthma Day is an annual awareness-raising event organized and sponsored by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). For more information please visit

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, April 13, 2015

Over the last few years there has been a lot of "good starts" when it comes to novel treatments of allergies and asthma. From a vaccine for cat allergies to bronchial thermoplasty for asthmatics, there Food and Drug Administrationhave been a myriad of treatments, in varying stages of testing, that offer hope for the millions who suffer from environmental and food allergies as well as asthma. As the latest in this line, the FDA recently "fast tracked" a novel approach to desensitizing those with peanut allergies.

This new therapy is Viaskin® Peanut. From their website,

"Epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT®) consists in repeated application of antigen with Viaskin® on intact skin. EPIT induces a decrease of allergen specific responses (i.e. decrease of allergen-specific IgE, decrease of TH2 cytokine production, and decrease of local and systemic response after exposure to allergen) and increase of regulatory responses (i.e. increase of allergen-specific IgG2a or IgG4, increase of regulatory T cells (Tregs)."

Viaskin Peanut - The Patch Traps Natural Moisture Loss that Solubilizes the Antigen for Absorption
In plain English, this is a patch that allows small but steady amounts of the peanut allergen (antigen) to be absorbed by the skin. This patch has a small air pocket built into it where it moisture condenses. This allows the antigen to combine with the moisture and be more readily absorbed by the skin. Langerhans cells, specialized immune system cells, capture the allergen in this outermost layer of the skin and migrate it to the lymph nodes. Here is where the modification (desensitization) takes places. As this process repeats it essentially trains the immune system to down-regulate and promote a long term tolerance of the allergen.

Viaskin Peanut - Once Absorbed, Langerhans Cells Transport the Antigen to the Lymph System

Upon reviewing the performance of the patch in earlier rounds of clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration granted the patch a breakthrough therapy designation. This allows for faster development and review of the treatment. This the first drug designed for food allergies, that has received this designation. So why do certain treatments get this "fast track"? It all comes down to results. From adults to children as young as 12, test results show year long treatments with the patch resulted in patients demonstrating the ability to be exposed to at least ten times the amount of the allergen previously needed to elicit a response.

With this type of treatment, there are no painful shots or needles, or weekly appointments for sublingual drops. This patch bypasses traditional sublingual and desensitization treatments. There's also less risk to the patient actually having an allergic reaction since the allergen never reaches the bloodstream to trigger a full-fledged allergic response.

An easy way to visualize this is to think of a brownie. Before the treatment a patient may have an allergic reaction after eating a brownie that had a single, small piece of peanut in it. After the treatment, the patient could eat a handful of peanuts with no reaction. For those with food allergies, this kind of cushion can represent the difference between a trip to the emergency room after snack time and being just fine.

Now, with the FDA designation, there's a very real chance that this treatment could be available within in the next five years.

For more information on the clinical trials.
For more information on Viaskin and DBV Technologies.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Spring allergy season is in full swing. How do I know this, you ask? Easy. When the sneezing around the office sounds like a veritable spring symphony. When the tissue box is always empty. When the gunk coming out of the nose resembles the gunk caked all over everything outside. When visible clouds of pollen literally waft from the trees, prompted only by a slight breeze. For all of these reasons, I know, and if you have allergies, you likely do too. Even if you don't have allergies, the pollen can be so thick it makes it difficult to jog (felt like I was jogging in a dust bowl last week). While there isn't anything you can do to change the pollen-bomb that is going off outdoors, there are a few things you can do keep the inside of your home comfortable. Fortunately, many people already have in place some of the tools they need to keep pollen out, but as with any good tool, keeping them working correctly is key them performing at their best. More simply put, this means Birds, Bees, Pollenreplacing your filters.

From the HVAC system and stand alone, HEPA air purifier to your vacuum cleaner or screens you use in your windows, there are a variety of places filters are trapping pollen, dust, and other allergens in your home. Let's walk through some of these areas and see what cleaning or replacing needs to be done for each filter type.

As the most far reaching home system, central heat/air or an HVAC is common in the modern American home. Unless they are very old, they all should have a filter of some sort. Originally, these filters were meant to keep the blower and motor free of debris, but as time has passed, the filtration of these filters has increased so not only do they protect the HVAC system, but these filters act as your first line of defense against allergens. Unless you have a permanent or semi-permanent filter (like a Newtron), you must replace these filters. Every three months has been, and continues to be, the recommended replacement interval, and 3M remains the most popular brand of replaceable furnace filters.

The next common type of allergen trapping device in the home is the stand-alone air purifier. The most common type is a HEPA air purifier that is rated to remove 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. This level of filtration covers all types of pollen, but the styles, sizes and filtration that an air purifier employs can vary widely. Inexpensive models like the 3M Filtrete have filters very similar to your HVAC filter and should be replaced every three months. Austin Air Purifiers - Simple Design, Superior ResultsOther brands like Austin Air, IQAir, or Blueair have filters with longer time intervals before replacement. Blueair models typically offer six months of filter life while Austin offers 3-5 years (and IQAir tucked in between). Some models, like the IQAir HealthPro series have an additional coarse dust prefilter that, during this time of year, can be particularly helpful. This filter attaches to the bottom of the unit and filters out visible particles, much like the pollen you see that has collected on the hood of my truck. During the spring when the pollen is the heaviest, this is a great way to extend the life of the other filters in your IQAir while getting rid of more pollen. In all, the majority of air purifiers have replaceable filters. Washing Your Vehicle is a Losing Proposition in SpringCheck the manufacturer instructions for times or get in touch with us, and we can help.

Nearly every home has a vacuum cleaner, and many of these have a HEPA filter. Unless you have a model like a Dyson, which has a washable filter, the HEPA filter in your vacuum should be replaced every year. For washable filters, you will want to wash/rinse them every 3-6 months. Vacuum filters are really only as good as their weakest part. You can have the best HEPA filter in the world, but the vacuum is leaky and allows air to escape as you clean, then you're not getting what you paid for. Prior to purchasing, check that the vacuum not only has a HEPA filter, but also a sealed system, and better still, independent testing actually verifying the filtration claims. In general, replace your HEPA vacuum filter.

Vent or register filters are also popular in many homes. They often target visible debris and dirt. While this doesn't necessarily help you with allergies, they can help to trap the visible pollen. These filters can often simply be rinsed, allowed to air dry, and then replaced.

Last but not least are window filters. These are twist on traditional window screen. Screens are great because they let air in but keep insects out. During the spring, screens also allow ALL of that pollen to come indoors. Window filters are like a screen but only with a layer of filter media in them. They do reduce air flow, but the trade off is they block the vast majority of visible and even many of the microparticles in the air. Best of all, many of these now have replaceable filters, so you no longer have to toss the whole screen after use, simply replace the filter/screen layer.

Regardless of what you're using to help keep your indoor air clean, remember to replace or clean the filters regularly. It can mean the difference between waking up feeling tired, gunky, and congested or refreshed and ready for the day. Not only does it help to keep your home free of allergens and pollen, but this basic maintenance can dramatically extend the life of the appliance or system and save you big bucks down the road.

Author: K. Gilmore

And now for a gratuitous baby pic of my sleeping goddaughter.

When You Breathe Better, You Sleep Better

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, March 30, 2015
The Buzz of Bees Isn't the Only Thing Filling the Spring AirAre you considering doing something about your spring allergies and the pollen that is filling the air? Now may be a great time to consider one of the three Amaircare HEPA air purifiers. In a variety of sizes, Amaircare air purifiers offer true HEPA filtration as well as optional smoke, odor, and VOC protection. And the best part is for the next two weeks, order any Amaircare HEPA air purifier and get a year's supply of replacement filters for FREE! That means no filters to buy for two full years.

As spring rains and warmer weather ushers in a new season, sneezes, sniffles, and the faintest hints of yellow and green fills the air. It's spring allergy season, for many, one of the most miserable times of the year. Do yourself a big favor and eliminate allergens like pollen from your indoor air with an Amaircare air purifier. The 2500 and 3000 air purifiers both feature sealed system, steel construction, easy to use controls, and HEPA filtration.

If smoke, odors, or VOCs are a concern, opt for either size but with a VOC canister. Packed with activated carbon, this canister adsorbs odors, chemical vapors, and fumes that pollute your indoor air.

One Year Supply of Filters Free With Every Amaircare Air PurifierFor filtering pollen on the go or keeping your personal space free of allergens, the Roomaid portable air purifier has long been a popular choice. Lightweight and compact, the Roomaid is a truly portable HEPA air purifier. Snag an AC adapter and take it with you in the car. Plug it in at your desk or near your bed. No matter where you use it, it can and will remove allergens and odors.

So if pollen and spring allergies are getting you down, clear the air with an Amaircare HEPA air purifier. Every unit ships for free (continental U.S.) and you don't even need a coupon code to get the free filter kit. One will be included with each air purifier ordered.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, March 25, 2015
As the weather begins to warm again, that most joyous time of year is nearly upon us - spring! Sunshine, warm temperatures, daffodils, and blooming plants of all varieties. The Easter Bunny - Enjoy!So by looking back on were we've been these last few months and peeking ahead as to what the the broader outlook for the year looks like, we can get a pretty good idea of how miserable allergy season is going to be. You didn't think I was just going to talk about bunny rabbits and Easter eggs did you? As much I would like to, that's really not going to help anyone with seasonal allergies, other than by offering a temporary distraction. So, on that note....

Now that that's been covered, time to move on to more pressing matters. From dogwoods and oaks to all manner of tree and bush, plants are shaking off their winter slumber and springing back to life - dumping pollen into the air. Now it also the time when those articles start popping up all over the place, "Worst Allergy Season - EVER!". I do sometimes wonder, has someone with allergies ever went through a spring and thought, "Hhhmmmm.... not bad!" The reality is, this is how spring allergies are going to go.

This is How Spring Allergy Season Is Going to Go

While this winter was harsh enough to push the start of allergy season further into the year, the very wet nature of this winter is likely to mean high pollen counts. So while the spring allergy season is likely to be a little shorter than recent years, don't expect the trend of increased pollen counts and intensity to take a break.

With all this being said, what can you do in terms of relief?

How Do You Spell Allergy Relief?

There are several places to start, but we almost always recommend the bedroom. You'll spend more time here (typically 6-8 hours sleeping) than any other room in the home. Here are some quick hitter solutions to getting a better night's sleep while the pollen flies.
  • Air - With warmer temperatures, many of us are likely to want to open the window. I know for myself, as soon as the temperature creeps above 60° or so, my windows are open. With allergies, you can either keep the windows closed or try something like a window filter. While these don't offer HEPA filtration (to do so would completely block airflow), they do a great deal of the pollen in the air. The other item that can help clear up your indoor air is a HEPA air purifier. Something like an Austin air purifier is a simple way to remove the allergens. The HEPA/carbon filter lasts years before needing to be replaced, and the controls are simple.

  • Spring Allergies Suck, Remove the Pollen with a HEPA Vacuum CleanerFloors - Your floors are often the final resting place of allergens, including dust, dander, mold spores, and pollen. While you can trap a great deal of this particulate with an air purifier, you're still likely to track allergens in. Regardless of flooring type, you can not only keep them looking good but free of allergens with a high quality HEPA vacuum cleaner. When considering a HEPA vac, keep in mind quality. You often get what you pay for, and lower quality vacuums can leak and simply redistribute allergens instead of actually removing and trapping them.

  • Clothes - When the pollen counts are high, it's literally sticking to your clothes and then being brought into your home. Many find themselves washing their laundry more frequently. While regular washing can greatly reduce allergens trapped in your clothes, an anti-allergy laundry detergent can denature protein allergens that escape the normal wash cycle. Ecology works produces a plant-based detergent that is gentle of clothes, free of dyes and added fragrance, ultimately making it easier on your skin.

  • Outdoors - Avoid going out on days when the pollen count is going to be exceptionally high. This is easier said than done for many, but an allergy mask can make a big difference in blocking pollen and other allergens while you're outdoors. Though it can be a little dreary, right after a light rain, pollen levels in the air can dip, so this might not be a bad time to get some of your outdoor activities knocked out.

  • Medication - Antihistamines are the soup du jour when it comes to combating allergies. While most people take these AFTER they begin to experience symptoms, Spring Apple Blossomsmost allergists actually recommend you being taking them just prior to the onset of the allergy season. These help by tamping down the immune response to pollen - inflammation. There are over the counter as well as more powerful prescription antihistamines available, and a quick stop by your local board certified allergist can give you a better idea of which route to go. Or, you can always try OTC methods first, and if relief is still elusive, consult your doctor for more options.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Checking your local pollen counts, wearing a mask while outdoors, taking your shoes off when you come inside the home, and bathing your pet (if you have one) more frequently during allergy season are all things that can also help you avoid exposure to pollen.

Do you have any tips or hints you'd like to share? Leave a comment or send us an email at Otherwise stay tuned for another potential Easter Bunny sighting.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Last week, we took a little time off from posting. As you may have noticed, Miele is completely renaming their entire line of HEPA vacuum cleaners, and it's been created a lot of new work for us. But it's Tuesday, and we're back. I wanted to start with a roundup of some of the recent stories touching on the world of asthma, allergies, and environmental control.

Reaching back the furthest is the announcement earlier this month that there was a proposed class action lawsuit filed against Lumber Liquidators. While traditional home improvement is necessarily something you'll see us writing about, this story was of particular note. Potential Problems with Cheap Laminate FlooringFor many with severe allergies or asthma, a recommendation your allergist or physician will often recommend is to replace your carpet with smooth flooring. This can be anything from linoleum or hardwoods, to tile or laminate. None of these will trap and retain allergens and irritants like carpet does. This story broke on 60 Minutes, and focused on laminate flooring and levels of formaldehyde in the product. As we've often mentioned, formaldehyde is common but powerful volatile organic compound (VOC) linked to a wide variety of conditions. Formaldehyde found in glues, adhesives, new furniture, and carpet can often aggravate respiratory conditions like allergies or asthma and severely impact those with chemical sensitivities. More generally, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and the result of long term exposure to any carcinogen is almost always the same - cancer.

Court Battles Ahead for Lumber LiquidatorsAt this point, there is plenty to be said on both sides. Some within the flooring industry attack the test or testing methods, which is performed by the California Air Resource Board (CARB), the same folks who test home air purifiers to ensure they do not produce ozone. Others have lambasted the company, Lumber Liquidators, as well as the manufacturers in China. While blame and claims fly, and a court battle is likely to drag on for years, there are a couple things to take from this story.

First, while all laminate does contain some level of this VOC, most have minimal levels that are within limits set by the CARB. CARB has some of the most rigorous testing in the world, with regard to emissions, ozone, and other potential indoor pollutants, and while some VOCs Are Common But Constant or Strong Exposure Can Create a Whole Host of Health Problemsmay take issue with how this particular test is performed, it's worth noting that the same testing of products sold by other home improvement stores revealed no issues with elevated levels of formaldehyde. Think of this like paint. Most interior paints contain some level of VOCs, but there are some that have lower levels than others.

Second, remember the source. While products of all types, made in a variety of countries, can and do have problems (think of the string of auto recalls in the last several years), in this instance it was only laminate made in China that so dismally failed CARB tests.

I'm not saying every product that comes out of China is bad or dangerous, but by this point, we should have had enough reason to be somewhat leery (drywall in 2001, toxic pet treats in 2007, melamine in milk in 2008, heavy metals found in toys' paint in 2011). Do a little extra research. The internet has a wealth of information, and in a short amount of time you can often double check a company's claim about its product. I'd also advise you to consider the source of your information. "Jimbo's Awesome Blog" might not necessarily be as credible as a piece found on a major news site or National Institute of Health page.

The second story I wanted to mention was likely missed by many, but it involves the drug Breo® Ellipta® by GlaxoKlineSmith. Commonly used to treat those with COPD, there has been scrutiny on the drug over its potential use by adolescents and children or for any condition other than COPD (which is comprised of emphysema and chronic bronchitis). Breo® Ellipta® - Adults with COPD OnlyAn FDA advisory panel overwhelmingly voted against the use of Breo® Ellipta® in children 12-17. For now, the drug will remain a COPD drug and NOT an asthma medication.

This isn't the first time an issue like this has arisen. Breo® is a two part drug which contains a corticosteroid as well as a long-acting beta-agonist (LABA). LABAs have and continue to be scrutinized for their links to increased risk of death in those who have asthma and use this class of medication. A quick glance at the official Breo® website should give you a pretty clear indicator of this as the warning that this drug is NOT to be used for asthma appears repeatedly on their site.

Air Pollution Continues to Plague to City of LightsLastly, today was not the day to be a Parisian resident with an even numbered license plate, particularly a joyride was on the daily to-do list. As has happened in Paris before, extremely high levels of air pollution has made the city the smoggiest on the planet, if only briefly dethroning Beijing and/or New Delhi. While a view of the skyline may appear rather miserable today, it likely won't last long.

As a final note, April is almost here, and in addition to the dogwoods being in full bloom this weekend, our most dreaded spring allergens are beginning to emerge from their winter slumber. Nicer weather shepherding in weeks of sneezing, congestion, and sinus pressure. Thanks nature!

To see the entire 60 Minutes piece about flooring.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by R. Power on Monday, March 16, 2015
Though similar, eczema is often an overlooked cousin when talking about allergies or asthma. Like the latter, eczema has no definitively known cause. Also like the other two, it's a chronic condition, one that acts differently with different people, and has no known cure. While plenty of research and studies have effectively calculated the real effects of asthma and allergies, in terms of money, time spent at the doctor, time missed from work or school, the same cannot be said about eczema.

More Than A Simple Rash ­ EczemaRecently, Jonathan I. Silverberg, M.D., Ph.D, M.P.H., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, analyzed data he and his team collected from two U.S. population based samples of adults from 2010 and 2012 (27,157 and 34,613, respectively). For the first time they have begun to calculate the real cost of coping with eczema.

What researchers found was that in contrast to those without eczema, people dealing with the ailment missed more work, made more frequent doctor visits, and paid more out-of-­pocket costs. Compared to an employee who didn't have eczema, those coping with the disease spend nearly a full week (six days) more out sick every year. Not only is there a cost associated with missing work and more doctor visits, but those with eczema often paid upwards to $500 more in out­of pocket expenses than their counterparts (additional costs ranged from $371 to 489).

When you expand these numbers out over an affected adult population of about 8,000,000, you can see how these numbers very quickly add up in terms of lost time and money dealing with this itch.

Eczema May Appear to Simply Be A Rash, But It Can Be the Source of Larger ProblemsEczema is a manageable skin disease that comes in many different forms. A few symptoms listed by the National Eczema Association include dry sensitive skin, intense itching, recurring rashes, scaly areas, red, inflamed skin, and more. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can be triggered by a multitude of stimuli such as stress, heat, cleaning products, chemical residues, hormones, and environmental allergens. It is more prevalent in children and many grow out of it as adults, but a significant portion of those effected remain effected.

Although this data is new, it makes sense that those with eczema would need more medical attention, since the skin is the most exposed part of the human body and vulnerable to a plethora of irritants. Eczema Can Affect Skin Anywhere On the BodyBut why hasn't this new data on the cost of adult eczema been collected until recently? Though many grow out of it as adults, one in twenty adults continues to cope with eczema. Perhaps with that small ratio, it is easily over looked, and with eczema ranging in different forms and severity in symptoms, that may give reason to why it's being overlooked. The notion that many often disregard eczema as a minor nuisance makes it easier for eczema to simply be ignored (similar to how many viewed asthma in the past). This current research, however, can help break some of the misperceptions and demonstrate a very real cost in dealing with this condition.

The hope is that as new data reveals a truer cost of dealing with eczema, it can help to effect change. With more awareness it could encourage improved insurance coverage for those who are suffering from eczema. On another level, this type of information could act as a catalyst to spur research and funding to better understand the ailment and perhaps find a cure for eczema.

To answer some of your Eczema FAQs

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, March 13, 2015
It is almost like an annual rite of passage now. I'll write up an article about a product and certain rankings published by a leading consumer testing agency. Then you get to guess who I'm talking about. I could make this easier and just say who tested and rated these products, but this organization has some pretty strict rules regarding the use of their name and not wanting to ever appear as if they are endorsing a particular product or brand. With that, let the games begin!

Let's start with upright vacuum cleaners. First and foremost, upright vacuums are not only the most popular vacuum style here in the U.S. but they are also traditionally associated with vacuuming carpet. While the versatility and use of an upright has certainly grown, particularly in the last 15 years, this associated with use on carpet remains strong. Consequently, when rated, ranked, or tested, it is most often done on carpet. This year, of the multitude of vacuums tested and rated, Miele again come in at the top.

In addition to cost, vacuums are tested for filtration, suction, and cleaning ability. Of the upright vacuum cleaners tested this year, three of the top five were Miele vacuums. If you compare Miele uprights, you see a lot of similarities (partly the reason why they dominate testing/rankings). Another thing you may notice is that of the models listed, the names might be a little different than what you are likely seeing online and in stores. This is because Miele recently revamped their entire line of vacuums. From canister to uprights, everything was recategorized/renamed. The Miele S7 upright vacuums became Miele Dynamic U1 upright vacuums. For canisters, the S8 models became Complete C3 models, and this type of naming was applied across all lines. Top Ranked Miele Twist Upright Vacuum CleanerI mention this only to note that if you see something like the Miele S7 Twist upright listed as a top rated vacuum cleaner, it is the exact as the Miele Dynamic U1 Twist upright. Only the name has changed.

Of the three Miele uprights listed at the top, the Twist came out above all others. The Twist has actually come out on top of this list a few times before as well, and a closer look at the features makes it fairly easy to see why. When tested, the power, suction, and filtration of these uprights immediately place them high on any comparison list. The super quiet operation, swivel-neck maneuverability, 6" lay flat profile, and fingertip brushroll separate it from comparable models, while the durability and brand reputation push each model to the top of the list.

The Twist often climbs above the rest of the Miele uprights for one big reason, price. It's the most economically priced of all the Miele upright vacuums. The tradeoff with this is that it Miele Cat & Dog Upright Pet Vacuumlacks the LED lamp in the front and the HEPA filter (though at any time you can uprgrade to HEPA). Beyond this, it features the same tools, suction, automatic height adjustment, sealed system, ABS construction, and warranty of a Miele upright that costs nearly twice as much.

Coming second on this list (that shall not be named) is the Miele Cat & Dog upright. This model trades in a the AirClean filter of the Twist for an Active AirClean filter. This is useful, especially for homes with pets as the activated charcoal in this filter adsorbs pet odors while offering the same particle filtration as the Twist. With the addition of the handheld turbobrush (perfect for removing pet hair from upholstered furniture or steps) and the LED lamp, the Cat & Dog upright steps up a little in price but has the unique features to compensate for it.

Miele Dynamic U1 Jazz Upright Vacuum CleanerComing in number four on the list is the Miele Jazz upright. The Jazz is a bit of a blend of the other two on the list. It has the same core features but lacks the handheld turbobrush and the Active AirClean filter. Instead, the Miele Jazz comes with the LED lamp as well as Miele's H13 HEPA filter. Strictly in terms of removing allergens or irritants for people with allergies, asthma, or COPD, the HEPA filtered Jazz is tops amongst these Miele models because it can filter out 99.95% of particles as small as 0.1 microns.

With any of these three upright vacuums, you really can't go wrong. Each has the same core features and performance of the most expensive Miele uprights but have a few unique attributes to best fit specific concerns. Twist - price conscientious but without sacrificing performance. Cat & Dog - ideal for pets and pet odors. Jazz - best overall particle filtration of the three. Once you've decided you want a top-rated, durable, efficient, and quiet upright vacuum cleaner, all that's left if picking the specific features you want. With the Miele uprights, there's sure to be one to suit your taste.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, March 12, 2015
Though we've taken a bit of a hiatus, our favorite allergist, Dr. Mardiney, is back to answer some of your allergy and asthma related questions. On deck today are some questions regarding hidden allergens and triggers in the home as well as some of the pitfalls of cleaning. Remember, if you have an allergy, asthma, chemical sensitivity, environmental control, or related question, drop us a line via our email address or send us a comment below, call, or chat.

What Are Hidden Allergens In The Home?

What are some hidden sources of allergens that I may be overlooking in my home?

- submitted by Stephanie C.

Potted Plants can be a nice touch to the home. Unfortunately, they have the potential to become a breeding ground for mold. Standing water and decaying leaves are the primary sources. Frequent pruning as well as plastic pot liners (kept dry and clean) will help decrease the likelihood of mold growth. Finally, an artificial plant may be a wise alternative.

Cleaning and Hidden Allergens in Your HomeRugs and Drapes can be a haven for animal dander and dust mites. The dust mite thrives in dark, warm and humid areas and feast on the shed scales of human skin. The optimum solution is for the removal of the carpet and replacing drapes with mini-blinds. This allows for fewer hidden allergens and an easier surfaces to clean. In situations where this is not feasible, frequent vacuuming (2-3x/wk) with a HEPA filtered vacuum and controlling humidity (35-40%) will decrease both dust mite and indoor mold.

Bedding and stuffed animals are also significant reservoirs for dust mites and animal dander. Encasing the mattress and pillow has proven to be one of the most important maneuvers in reducing indoor allergen exposure.

Washing your bedding in hot water and minimizing the number of stuffed animals is also a must. Washing stuffed animals in hot water or freezing them has proven effective as well.

Air conditioner/central air ducts are also a source of hidden allergens.  Having your ducts cleaned every 3-4 years is the current recommendation. Placing air vent filters has shown to be very effective in minimizing the circulation of indoor allergens throughout the home.

How to Clean Without Allergies?

What are some tips about how to clean properly/more thoroughly?

- submitted by Stephanie C.

Feather Dusters - Colorful But Not Effective for Dust RemovalCleaning without providing proper allergen barriers for yourself is a common mistake. Often allergy symptoms can be delayed to the cleaner and you do not realize the impact until its too late.

Wearing a dust mask, gloves, and goggles particularly with the heavier cleaning, is a good idea. Showering immediately after cleaning is also helpful.

The old-time feather duster should not be used in cleaning as this simply relocates and stirs up dust. Obviously this can be provoking to the allergy sufferer.

Cleaning/dusting should be done with a damp cloth or rag or microfiber/electrostatic cloth to better capture allergens.

Use of an older "low efficiency" vacuum can be a provoker of indoor allergies and asthma attacks. While these vacuums are adequate in picking up dust bunnies and visible debris, it does little to remove the common allergenic particles which are too small for this vacuum to capture. What happens? The vacuum essentially shoots allergens into the air.

Fortunately, most newer vacuums have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters which capture allergens such as dust mite, mold, and pet dander.

At this point, I think it's important to bring up a broader issue when it comes to cleaning inside your home. Most of us have traditionally taken the approach that if it looks clean then it is clean. For many people that approach is fine, but anyone dealing with allergies, asthma, COPD, or a compromised immune system, appearances can be deceiving. Instead, it is far better to clean for your health not for appearances. This means keeping in mind some of the tips Dr. Mardiney outlined above as well as taking note of what you are actually use to clean (types of cleaners, cleaning devices, etc.). It also means adjusting your mindset to consider that even though a floor or kitchen countertop may look clean, it could be chalked full of microscopic allergens or bacteria/viruses.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Bisphenol-A Alternative, BPSOver the last few years, we've discussed BPA (Bisphenol-A), particularly with regard to its potential adverse effects as an endocrine disrupter. While there are plenty of substances in our lives that also fall into this category, the ubiquitous nature of BPA, in everything from plastics and water bottles to the lining of canned food and food packaging. Studies surrounding BPA caused enough concern for the FDA to ban its use in baby bottles and sippy cups. As use of BPA has tapered off some, manufacturers have attempted to replace it, but as new alternatives are presented, recent research complicates this hunt for a suitable alternative. Enter BPS and a recently published study in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives.

BPA has been used in plastics for over half a century. Used to harden plastics and to make resins, most commonly used in lining of canned food containers, BPA has a long history of use, and nearly as long of a history of study. While BPA does have the ability to disrupt endocrine function and mimic the effects of natural estrogen, it is fairly easily metabolized in the body. At this point, the EPA has set safe standards for BPA, but many manufacturers have opted to remove it from their products all together. In seeking an alternative, BPS (Bisphenol-S) has been used as the alternative substance in some "BPA free" products.

Common Sources of BPA in Our Everyday LivesBPS is structurally similar to BPA, and on a most basic level, there are likely to be several characteristics that both share. Research on exposure to BPS is really in its infancy at this point, but a recent study has shown that BPS is linked to irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) in female lab rats. Disrupting of the heart cells ability to store calcium, BPS is beginning to lose some luster as a suitable replacement.

What does this mean? Right now, not too terribly much. The research was somewhat limited, and effects on animals and effects on humans aren't always the same. What is clear is that as industry pushes ahead with alternatives to BPA, science has to keep pace with researching and vetting new compounds and substances.

Author: K. Gilmore

To read the abstract of this research or a summary of other research on BPA.

Tags: BPA
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