First, wash your hands. Unfortunately for most people, hand washing is something that happens only a few times per day. However, if there is one thing that is true about all variations of the flu virus, it is that the flu virus is resilient. Washing your hands may not kill it, but it removes the virus and other germs you encounter every day from door knobs, water fountain spigots, desks and other surfaces we commonly touch.
Secondly, wear a mask. Look specifically for something that is at least N95 rated. This is the minimum recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to protect against the influenza virus.
Masks come in a variety of styles and sizes with different filtration options, but something as simple as a basic N95 mask can put a barrier between you and illness. While there is still some stigma associated with wearing a mask in public, this in minor when compared to some of the virulent strains of the flu that are out there. You only need read the second paragraph of this CNN article to highlight this point.
Additionally, for the elderly, the very young and for those who are at risk of flu complications, it is recommended to get an annual flu shot. While this does not guarantee you will not contract the flu, it does reduce your risk. To find your nearest location to obtain a flu vaccination visit the Flu.gov website.
By taking a few simple steps and making minor changes to your hygiene regimen, you can do yourself a big favor and increase your chances of keeping the flu away during the holiday season.
Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, can also ease allergies. Specifically, as DigitalNaturopath.com describes, allergy sufferers who take pantothenic acid supplements before bed often find that their nasal stuffiness clears and they aren't awakened by excess mucus, stuffiness, or other allergy symptoms during the night. It should be noted, however, that taking too much of the supplement can induce nasal dryness.
Livestrong.com also discusses pantothenic acid in relation to allergies, and describes the nutrient's effect on allergies as follows:
"Pantothenic acid is needed to make coenzyme-A, which is necessary for certain chemical reactions to generate energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Coenzyme-A is also used during the production of cholesterol, hemoglobin, brain chemicals and hormones, especially from the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, are particularly relevant to allergic reactions because they secrete the hormones during an immune response, such as cortisone. Cortisone is the primary hormone in preventing the release of histamine and allergic symptoms. According to "Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition," the single most important nutrient for adrenal gland function is pantothenic acid; insufficient levels of pantothenic acid reduce the necessary amounts of cortisone from being secreted."
Interestingly, there is a possibility that pantothenic acid deficiency could be involved in allergies. Dosages for supplementation fall between 100mg and 500mg. Or, you can get pantothenic acid in food rich in the nutrient, including organ meats, fatty fish, shellfish, yeast, egg yolks, avocado, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, and dairy products. Treating allergies with pantothenic acid would be a good topic to discuss with your allergist.
Science Daily's Few Allergies in Unstressed Babies, Swedish Researchers Find covers a recent study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The study sheds light on an additional factor that affects allergy development: cortisol levels in infants. Published in the December paper issue of the Journal of Allergy and Immunology, the study shows that infants with low levels of the hormone cortisol in their saliva develop fewer allergies than other infants.
As Dr. Fredrik Stenius of the Department of Clinical Research and Education at Stockholm South General Hospital says, "Psychosocial factors and the stress hormone cortisol are associated with allergic diseases. Our study found that children with low salivary cortisol levels as infants have a lower prevalence of allergies during the first two years of life, compared to other children."
Such information adds to the growing body of research that attempts to answer the question of why allergic disease is on the rise, and hopefully will contribute to new ways of looking at how to address the issue.
Naegleria fowleri is typically found in warm, freshwater sources and is most often contracted while swimming in lakes, ponds and rivers. Contraction is more common in the American South and Southwest as these areas typically have large bodies of fresh water that remain warm throughout the year. Though the occurrence of contraction is extremely rare, due to the terminal nature of the microbe, reported incidences are often very high profile.
In the most recent instance, a Louisiana woman contracted the Naegleria fowleri after rinsing her nose with tap water. Though chlorination kills most organisms like this, it is not 100% effective. This is believed to be the case twice this year in Louisiana, and currently the CDC is assisting the Louisiana Department of Health in investigating the source of the microbe.
Nearly all types of neti pots recommend using distilled water. Using sterile or distilled water, or even water that is boiled then cooled to room temperature, is safe and effective. And for as much as we would like to believe that the water we consume, cook and bathe with is safe, unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Despite these instances, neti pots remain one of the most effective ways to relieve congestion and rinse away allergens without the use of medication. However, when using a neti pot, please follow the instructions as listed by the manufacturer and remain safe while relieving allergy symptoms.
If you've ever wondered just why infestations happen with such speed and intensity, a study discussed in Fox News article Inbreeding Reason for Bedbug Spread provides some insight.
Entemologists led by Coby Schal and Ed Vargo of North Carolina State University presented a study at the recent American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in Philadelphia. The scientists studied "the genes of bedbugs infesting three multistory apartment buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey and found very low genetic diversity, meaning most of them were very close relatives."
The upshot of this finding is that it may only take one or two bedbugs hitching a ride on some furniture or a suitcase to begin an entire infestation. Imagine how quickly a mated female can proliferate: Once her eggs hatch, the new bedbugs mate with each other and with their mother – and bedbug populations soar.
Interestingly, this type of inbreeding (without the detrimental genetic effects that occur when some animals inbreed) is also found with cockroaches, another insect that can lead to allergies.
For more on bedbugs and bedbug prevention, see:
Allergy Armor Bed Bug Bedding Packages
Bed Bug Prevention Tips
How to Avoid Bringing Home Bed Bugs
The holiday season makes these difficult-to-navigate issues especially apparent. Below are some allergy conundrums that come up this time of year:
What kind of Christmas tree?
Recently, we discussed the presence of lead on artificial Christmas trees. No amount of lead exposure is safe for children or animals, and lead often ends up in household dust. Furthermore, artificial trees tend to harbor dust and other allergens. For these reasons, choosing a real tree seems like the best option.
However, some individuals are allergic to fresh trees. CNN highlights this point in On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and … Wheezy?, which describes how those allergic to pine trees experience itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and even a skin rash if there's contact with a pine tree.
Everyone knows that holiday decorations can be an onslaught for all the senses. Strong artificial fragrances often hit you in the face when walking into department stores or craft stores, to mention a couple. For some, these smells might evoke the holiday spirit, but to allergy sufferers and those with chemical sensitivities, these scents are a powerful symptom trigger.
One allergic woman, Kimberly Burton, who is quoted in the CNN article, describes the effect of these fragrance-laced decorations: "Unfortunately, it makes me dread holiday decorations coming out - and also forces me to get much of my shopping done well before the holidays are even here." Ms. Burton must avoid malls between September and February, when all the scents has been aired out.
Humidify – But Carefully
Since the heater can make indoor air exceptionally dry, many people use humidifiers during cold winter months. Allergy sufferers definitely should use humidifiers because dry nasal and respiratory passages can lead to or worsen allergy symptoms.
But not gauging humidity levels properly can lead to additional problems: Humidity levels over 50 percent can lead to mold growth, which is unhealthy for everyone, but particularly allergy sufferers. If your unit has a built-in hygrometer, use it, and if it doesn't, be sure to have a separate hygrometer on hand to keep humidity at optimum levels.
It's that time of year when it seems that you or someone you know is sick all the time. With many of winter's common sicknesses having similar symptoms, it's often hard to know what the sickness is.
You definitely want to prevent the spread of the flu, especially, and colds as well, so it's important to know how to identify the difference between the flu, colds, and allergies. Because you can show up at the Christmas party if you know it's allergies, but you don't want to risk being a "typhoid Mary" and getting everyone else sick if you have something contagious.
In Is it a Cold, the Flu, or Something Else? Fox News Health offers some very handy tips for telling the flu (both seasonal and swine), colds, and allergies apart. Below is a summary of their advice:
- Seasonal flu symptoms. The key symptom that shows up with the flu is a fever that comes on suddenly. Chest discomfort, aches and pains, and exhaustion are also clues. Populations who are at particular risk from the flu, such as the elderly, pregnant women, and the chronically ill, should be extra vigilant about knowing if what they have is the flu.
- Swine flu or H1N1 symptoms. What makes these flu strains different from the regular seasonal flu is the accompanying symptoms of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms make it especially important to stay hydrated.
- Cold symptoms. Often, the identifying feature of a cold is nasal congestion. Noticeably absent when you have a cold are the body aches and high fever characteristic of the flu.
- Allergy symptoms. While allergies can cause several of the above symptoms (minus fevers), itching tends to be a symptom unique to allergies. While spring or fall tend to bring on the most allergy trouble, the buildup of indoor allergens in winter can trigger allergies.
The key to Mulberry West comforters and blankets is that they use pure silk as their fill. A specific type of silk worm is fed only Mulberry leaves to produce one of the finest types of silk available today. That silk is then used as the fill with a 300 thread count, natural cotton shell to provide warmth, comfort, and luxury all in a hypoallergenic package.
Mulberry silk is naturally hypoallergenic and wicks away moisture, but most importantly for allergy sufferers, it naturally repels dust mites and bed bugs.
Both the blankets and comforters are available in three sizes, and because it is silk, the filling won't shift or bunch. The Mulberry West blankets also feature a satin trim for an added touch, and each is filled with 75 grams of silk. The comforters are filled with 150 grams of silk and naturally adjust to your body's temperature.
In all, Mulberry West bedding is a great fit in our allergy bedding line.
Winter is a time when allergens tend to build up in record amounts in your home. People and pets spend more time indoors, and homes are sealed tight against the elements. In addition, forced air heating systems make nasal and respiratory passages particularly susceptible to allergy symptoms and complications like sinus infections.
This is why allergy sufferers must pay special attention to their cleaning routines during winter months. Getting rid of the excess of dust mite allergen, mold spores, pet dander and other allergens that tend to build up during this time of year can prevent excessive winter allergy attacks.
Vacuuming is a mainstay of any cleaning regimen, and of course of an allergy avoidance cleaning routine. Following are some vacuuming tips to help you get the most benefit from the time you spend cleaning:
• Vacuum top to bottom. Using your machine to dust prevents you from stirring up dust into your breathing zone. Use attachments to dust items like blinds and bookshelves. Starting at the "top" of a room ensures that dust that the vacuum doesn't catch will get cleaned up as you move to the bottom of the room.
• Vacuum in several directions. As tempting as it may be to form straight horizontal lines in your carpet, save this for the end. Vacuuming in varied directions ensures that the carpet pile is moved around enough to suck up the maximum amount of dirt and allergens.
• Vacuum in short, slow strokes. Don't push and pull the vacuum fast. Instead, use slow strokes so that the suction spends time over each area of your carpet. Short strokes rather than long ones accomplish the same objective.
• Invest in a quality HEPA vacuum cleaner that you enjoy using. If enjoying vacuuming is a stretch, just consider making vacuuming as little of a pain as possible – so that you are more likely to do it as often as possible. Features like the Dyson ball make twisting and turning as you vacuum a breeze. Miele vacuums actually purify the air as well as the best air purifiers while you vacuum, and the new line of mid-range machines make these Cadillacs of vacuum cleaners more affordable than ever.
Although it is not as prevalent as it once was, lead can still be found in many items and products, including many children's toys, such as trick-or-treat pumpkin buckets. Further, lead can be found in an array of other objects around the home – especially around the holidays, as summarized below:
• Real Christmas trees do not pose any lead danger, as most PVC-made fake trees do. Keep in mind that fake trees can also harbor other allergens, such as dust.
• Find and use RoHS compliant, lead-safe Christmas lights. Remember that even if the flame retardant chemicals found on electrical cords are rarely handled (or put into mouths, as may be the case with children), the chemicals, including lead, contaminate dust in the home.
• Opt out of cheap jewelry and PVC plastic toys for stocking stuffers or other gifts. Questionable products are consistently found to contain lead. Check out HealthyToys.org and the Center for Environmental Health for a database of information about lead in toys.
• Beware of leaded crystal glassware, and make sure that ceramic and China dishes have been tested by the manufacturer for heavy metals.
• When making holiday art projects with the kids, make sure to use non-toxic, lead free paints (especially finger paints).
Avoiding lead is important because it is a probable carcinogen and a neurotoxin that can cause learning disorders, brain damage, nerve damage, growth problems, digestion problems, and hearing loss. Note that there is no safe level of lead exposure, and the risks are greatest for young children as well as pregnant women.