Modern sunscreen consists of a variation of zinc oxide. Though not as common as in the past, many will remember the white line of sunblock that men used to put on their noses while at the beach. Today, there are lotions, spray and even powders (though they should have been removed from shelves by last December) that people use to block sun and harmful UV rays. With so many choices it can be difficult to decide which sunscreen is right for you and in many cases, what is even effective.
FDA guidelines approved last December work on two primary issues. First, the FDA addresses "broad spectrum" protection. Almost all sunscreens blocks UVB light, as this is the type of ultraviolet light that causes sunburns, but UVA also damages skin. UVA has been shown to cause cancer as well as prematurely age skin, so the FDA has mandated to manufacturers that they can only market their product as "broad spectrum" if it blocks both UVA and UVB light.
For beachgoers, a waterproof sunscreen has been the product of choice, but recent findings show that there is literally no such thing as "sweatproof" or "waterproof sunscreen." Some sunscreen can be water resistant, but all sunscreens, after a given period of time, will wear off. Manufacturers are now required to use the term "water resistant" and note the duration of protection, i.e. Water Resistant (40 Minutes). Many people mistakenly believe that if they've applied sunscreen, they are good to go for the rest of the day. Sunscreen wears off, period. It needs to be reapplied throughout the day, typically every couple hours, and sooner if you are swimming or sweating.
Though the new guidelines are a good step in the right direction, the FDA has yet to make any new guidelines on SPF numbers or the use of aerosol sunscreen. Research shows, and your dermatologist will recommend, that you use at least SPF 15 sunscreen but SPF higher than 45 is likely just a waste. We often think more is better, but in the case of sunscreen, there is no evidence to support that. SPF 30 sunscreen blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 45 blocks 98%. So for now, stick with a properly labeled SPF 30 or 45.
As we mentioned last summer, it is probably best to continue to avoid the use of aerosol sunscreen. When a sunscreen becomes aerosolized, it can be inhaled. There is nothing is sunscreen that should be inhaled, and many of the ingredients can be particularly harmful for delicate lung tissue.
In general, keep an eye out for the new labeling requirements. Stick with a good SPF 30-45 that uses no "fragrance." Be sure to reapply at least every 2-3 hours, and avoid the aerosols. Lastly, many of us generally only use sunscreen while at the beach, and since this can be a summer only activity, keep an eye on the expiration date of your sunscreen. It can expire and will not provide the protection you think.
For a sensitive skin or sunscreen that isn't laden with heavy fragrance try Vanicream line of sunscreens. All three offer broad spectrum protection with a limited chemical footprint.
To read the FDA sunscreen consumer guidelines.
Author: K. Gilmore
The Soniclean uprights consist of two models, the Galaxy and VT Plus. Both work well on carpet, are very lightweight, and use Soniclean's patented sonic technology. A sonic bar vibrates hundreds of times per second, and it is this rapid vibration that helps to dislodge stuck-on dirt and debris. Powerful suction then removes dirt and allergens and stores it in an H13 HEPA filterbag. While the Soniclean Galaxy is a bit more in terms of price, it does offer a longer warranty, both in terms of parts and labor as well as on the motor. The VT Plus, though, is likely a better buy. Despite a shorter warranty period, as an AchooAllergy.com exclusive, with the purchase of a VT Plus upright you also get the Soniclean handheld vac for free.
The Handheld vacuum is a small canister style vacuum that also uses a HEPA filterbag. It is lightweight and fits over the shoulder with a strap. Included with this model are two wand extensions, a smooth floor tool, a handheld turbobrush (think PowerPaw), and three mini accessories - upholstery tool, crevice tool and dusting brush, all neatly stored away in a tote bag. You can literally fit everything (hose, wand, attachments, and tools), except the vacuum itself into the tote. This compact handheld unit is the perfect addition to either upright since it provides all of the above-the-floor cleaning ability that the uprights lack. Free with the purchase of the VT Plus, the handheld unit is great for quick spills in the kitchen, dusting through the house or simply as the perfect vacuum for garage projects.
In addition to the uprights and handheld model are two canisters. These use a filterbag, sealed system and separate HEPA filter to trap allergens and dirt. Keep an eye out for product reviews now that in-home testing is complete.
For anyone considering a powerful, lightweight and economical vacuum, Soniclean is well worth a look.
To see all Soniclean vacuums.
Cooking oils used by most restaurants, especially the big commercial franchises that use peanut oil, use a highly processed, refined peanut oil. Why is this important? The refining process involves high heat, deodorization, bleaching, purification, and other methods of processing to strip away the peanut proteins that are responsible for the allergic reaction to peanuts and leaves a purified, refined oil.
The peanut oils to avoid are often the gourmet peanut oils. These types of oils may have things like "cold-pressed," "natural," "unrefined," "gourmet" or "aromatic" on the labeling of the bottle. Found in the cooking oil aisles at supermarkets or specialty stores, these oils often forego the refining process and retain allergic proteins.
There are research studies that back up these findings, and the FDA makes specific note of oils in Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) [Paragraph 1-201.10(B)]. So, if you are craving those fries cooked in the peanut oil, chances are you can probably feel safe eating them. Now, the only reasons to avoid Five Guys might be the actual peanuts in their restaurants or your expanding waistline.
Always inquire about the oil before ordering, and discuss with your allergist if you have any questions or reservations.
For more information on FDA guidelines concerning food allergens or for a convenient way to let restaurant staff know about your food allergies, try our convenient food allergy cards.
While my approach in cleaning the pacifier is probably not taken by many, this recently published study I mention focuses not only on how parents cleaned their children's pacifier but also how it may impact the development of eczema and allergies. In examining 184 children, researchers studied what the children were sensitive to, how parents cleaned their pacifiers, and analyzed the bacteria in the children's mouths. At 18 and even 36 months, children whose parents cleaned their pacifiers by sucking on them, showed remarkable protection against eczema and asthma. Yes, you read that correctly. Some parents clean their child's pacifier by sucking it clean then giving it back to the child. Odd as it may sound, this is believed to be the key findings of the study.
Regardless of how "clean" we, as a species, think we are, there are literally billions of bacteria living on and even inside of us. On our skin, in our digestive tracts and in our mouths, bacteria play a very important part in everything from our immune system to the way in which we break down our food. The theory is that by sucking on the pacifier the parent not only cleans visible dirt or debris from it, but they actually place bacteria back onto it. That bacteria is then introduced to the child, exposing the child's immune system to a broader array of bacteria. This ties into the hygiene hypothesis in that many believe children in western societies are "too clean," and because of this, are at an increased risk of developing things like eczema, asthma or allergies.
When we are infants, our bodies' systems are developing. Think of the immune system like a defense mechanism that is untrained. By nature, this system is designed to find things harmful to us and fight them, so at a very early age, the immune system is trying to determine what is dangerous and what can be ignored. The hygiene theory suggests that lack of exposure to a variety of bacteria and germs means the system doesn't get thorough training and often identifies innocuous substances as harmful. "Well, we have to find the shady characters to defend you against, and I don't like the looks of these guys." So when they immune system cannot find real enemies, they start identifying harmless substances as dangerous.
The hygiene hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis, and there are some studies that run counter to this. This piece of research, though, suggests that there is some validity to it. While it is too early to suggest that parents start sucking on their kid's pacifier to clean it, it really can't hurt. Oh, and just for the record, most parents simply rinse the pacifier. I guess I all into that "other" category.
For an abstract of the pacifier study.
With two included floor tools, the Topaz is ideal for most homes or apartments. The SEB 217-3 offers powerful cleaning ability on most types of carpet while the Twister is the signature Miele floor care tool for all types of smooth flooring. This powerful, compact vac also comes with a sealed system and can easily be upgraded to a HEPA or Active AirClean filter. Seal-sealing FJM bags make replacement a cinch and ensure that debris and allergens collected stay trapped. Lightweight, the Topaz stores easily and is a convenient solution to multilevel homes.
The Topaz is now available in the Tayberry Red color and comes with Free Second Day Delivery included (continental US destinations). To learn more about the Topaz or to view the entire line of Miele S6 midsize vacuum cleaners.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is planning several events to help to raise awareness across multiple age groups. Some of these include kits to help people set up and organize their own events, free webinars, a poster contest for 3rd-8th graders, a sweepstakes and their Ditch the Drip event in Memphis, May 16-18th. For more information on these events, visit the AAFA.
Our the partner, AANMA, is spending the day at on Capitol Hill. There they will focus on a multiple of things including changes in healthcare law, meeting with lawmakers, and providing a variety of free booths that offer anaphylaxis preparedness demonstrations, asthma and allergy screenings as well as consultations with allergists. All of these events are geared towards raising awareness of allergies and asthma while interacting with legislators. To learn more about Capitol Hill Day or for more info on the AANMA.
Lastly, there is the EPA. While this large governmental agency doesn't do much in terms of directly sponsored or coordinated events, they do much in the way of providing educational materials and the tools needed for advocacy groups or just individuals to help spread awareness. This PDF is chock-full of ways that people can help to raise public awareness of asthma and its impact in the community. Some way wonder why the EPA would promote Asthma Awareness Month, but the reason is actually pretty simple. The link between the environment, particularly air quality, and asthma is clear. From ground level ozone, to studies that focus on asthma rates in urban areas (often choked with vehicle emissions), many of the things the EPA does on a day to day basis can have a direct impact on asthma in the United States.
For our part here at AchooAllergy, we know that allergy season is in full swing, so we are offering a 10% discount on asthma and allergy relief products. From window filters, allergy bedding and air purifiers to HEPA vacuum cleaners and nebulizers, save an extra 10% of your purchase of most products. Happy May!
Author: K. Gilmore
Nearly two years ago, more than 200 cat allergy sufferers took part in the second phase trials which involved four doses of the vaccine, ToleroMune®, over the course of 12 weeks. In the fall of 2012, the company responsible for the study, Circassia, released initial results of the patients who returned to be exposed to the cat allergen and reassessed. Then in February of 2013, they announced full results of this double-blind, randomized study.
The results of this stage of human trials continued to show the same promise that began about a decade ago - the development of a vaccine against cat allergies. Those who received the actual vaccine (and not the placebo) continued to show sustained improvement when reassessed two years after the trial began. With this major milestone, Phase III trials have already started.
During this last stage of the trials, 1200 participants are involved in what will ultimately be another two year study that is broader and more in-depth. Upon completion in 2015. The vaccine could potentially be available shortly after the completion of this final phase in 2015. For the tens of millions of cat allergy sufferers, this novel approach represents a more longterm solution particle allergies, and ultimately, this type of development could lead to greater understanding of allergies and bring us one step closer to a cure.
In addition to their work on a cat allergy vaccine, Circassia has also started testing on similar treatments for grass and dust mite allergies.
Author: Kevin G.
Miele Onyx - First on our list in the Miele Onyx. Most people who are considering the Onyx find that it is perfectly suited for home with mostly smooth floors with some low to medium pile carpet and rugs. Quiet, powerful and economical, the Onyx is an easy choice for most.
Miele Callisto - An old mainstay, the Callisto is the most awarded Miele vacuum cleaner in history. Consistently ranking well in consumer reporting surveys, recipient of numerous Best Buy awards, the Callisto is a balanced HEPA vacuum cleaner that fits the cleaning needs of almost any home. Though it is retiring, the Kona is a direct replacement model. Though a new model, the Kona's features, price, and performance are all almost identical to the Callisto.
Miele Quickstep - Compact, lightweight and priced right, the Quickstep has been THE choice when it comes to having a second vacuum for the kitchen or laundry area. The slim design, ability to assemble and reassemble the handle, wand and body allow the Quickstep to go from an upright to handheld in seconds. Small apartment and loft dwellers love this compact vacuum.
Miele Alize - Though only available for a few months, the Alize has quickly become a very popular vacuum. Completely unique features like the sound-reducing DynamicDrive casters and Integrated Spotlight set the Alize apart while these features and the included floor tool makes this an ideal vacuum for anyone with smooth floors and a desire to remove allergens in the home. (Just a note, the UniQ was a close second amongst all S8 models, though the Marin is QUICKLY gaining ground on both .)
Miele Twist - Miele is known for canister vacuums, but since the introduction of the S7 uprights, these vacuums have been making serious headway in terms of popularity. Powerful, almost self-propelled, durable and very maneuverable, the Twist provides the largest cleaning radius of any Miele vacuum, works well all types of carpet and smooth flooring, and is far quieter than any comparable upright.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
While wet, warm conditions are very conducive for the production of pollen, it tends to be drier days that see some of the highest pollen counts. This is because dry, low humidity days are better "pollen travel days". When not encumbered by moisture, pollens are freer to float about in the air and coat, well, everything. Ever notice the air feels "heavier" or "thicker" when it's humid out? There is some merit to this as humidity does make microparticles, like pollen, heavier and more likely to precipitate out of the air rather than continue floating along, tickling the noses of people across a very wide area.
Often rains spell relief for many folks since the humidity levels rises and grounds pollen faster than one of those new Boeing Dreamliners with a faulty battery (too soon?). Rain not only inhibits the spread of pollen, it also washes it away. Areas of the country, like Atlanta, that experience high levels of pine pollen often get that yellow, powdery coat over everything. While these larger, visible particles can sometimes be less responsible for allergic reactions than their smaller cousins, this pollen nonetheless is a good indicator to all that allergy season is in full swing.
So whether you're a farmer in many parts of our drought stricken country or just a seasonal allergy sufferer, spring rains bring welcome relief. Check out a few of the pictures I shot recently. No, it's not a chemical spill. That's pollen!
You can't always wait on the rains to give you a break during week long stretches of high pollen counts, but you can help to reduce the pollen you breathe by wearing an allergy mask, rinsing your sinuses and using OTC allergy medications when symptoms flare up. Or, there is always a rain dance.
Author: K. Gilmore
- AchooAllergy.com Team