Posted by kevvyg on Monday, January 30, 2012
It's almost February, and many of us across the country are still wondering when winter will arrive. Though there have been some cold snaps, followed by 60-70 degree days, another weekend outdoors sans jacket or a coat is giving me the impression that this is about all we're going to get. If that is the case, allergy sufferers are in line for a tough spring.

Winter Often Brings Allergy Relief - Not This Year!Freezing winter temperatures actually help most seasonal allergy and asthma sufferers in a few ways, and for the most part, this winter has not brought these benefits.
  • Cold temps bring relief from those who suffer from pollinating plants and trees. - Colder temperatures drive pollen producers into a winter hibernation, but warmer temps mean some trees and plants are already budding.

  • Lower temperatures and/or snowfall holds outdoor molds in check. - As noted in a previous about mold allergies and fall, warmer temperatures can mean an uptick in mold spores from dead and decaying leaves.

  • Lastly, asthma sufferers are particularly sensitive to temperature/barometric pressure swings. - When temperatures spike and dip, as is common during the fall, asthma sufferers typically see an increase in symptoms, like wheezing, coughing and nasal swelling. Steady temps, warm or cold, minimize this.

With this year's winter feeling more like a prolonged fall, it has not provided the usual level of relief for allergy and asthma sufferers. And as trees and plants already begin to bud and even bloom, everything points to a long spring allergy season.

For non allergy sufferers out there, don't think you're in the clear. Warmer winters typically signal a good year for insects, which is usually only good news for... insects.

So while I may think it's nice to see that the daffodils and tulips in my back yard have already sprouted, the fact that they did so in January probably doesn't make them as welcomed a sight for allergy or asthma sufferers.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, January 27, 2012
In the industry that is allergy relief, just as with any market, there are a variety of products and providers available. One thing that manufacturers often do is proudly display any certifications they have attained for their products. But what do these seals and badges really mean or signify?

Certifications can vary greatly across a wide spectrum. Some certifications come from large, non-profit organizations while others are literally run out someone's basement. This has been and continues to be a huge problem in the area of green products and environmentally friendly certification. As a new market, this space has seen a flood of certification programs that are little more than a money-grab.

As any industry matures, the field of certifications offered, thins, and typically a select few will rise to the top of the certification list. In the case of green products, EnergyStar, LEED, and the new UL Environment certifications seem to have come out on top.

For allergy and asthma products, which seals carry the most weight? Allergy & Asthma Frendly? AHAM? Organic certifications? The logos look great, but again, what do those seals measure and mean to you?

Because seals and certifications are meant to inspire confidence as well as approval of a product, take the time to see what the ACTUAL standards are behind any seal or certification. If you cannot find the standards, criteria or testing guidelines, this can signal serious credibility issues with the seal.

Seal or certification programs help to provide a much needed baseline when measuring and comparing similar products or services against each other. However, they are just one factor, in a list of many, that you should consider when making an informed decision about any product or service that concerns your health.

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, January 25, 2012
If you've spent time on this site investigating indoor air quality or simply looking for ways to relieve allergy symptoms, you have likely come across specific characteristics we suggest that you should look for in a vacuum cleaner.

Miele LibraFor years we have recommended that allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers invest in a quality HEPA vacuum cleaner that features a sealed system. The reason was because only this type of vacuum can truly remove allergens and the ultra fine particles in the air that can trigger asthma attacks or allergic reactions. Researchers in Australia recently published findings confirming what we have long recommended.

In testing 21 different types of vacuum cleaners, researchers concluded that the models tested allowed between 40,000 and 1.2 billion particles to pass completely through the vacuum. The size of the particles in this range was .5 to 20 microns, which means that in a typical household it could include common allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust.

Some of the models tested include Dyson, Hoover, iRobot, and Sanyo. The ages of the vacuums tested also ranged from 6 months to 22 years old.

An article from WebMD highlighted this study, pointing out other practices and products we have recommended for allergy sufferers, including the use of HEPA filters, microfiber or electrostatic dust cloths and the removal of carpet.

While the testing did not cover a comprehensive sampling of models, there are a few important take aways. First, vacuuming with a traditional vacuum cleaner that lacks a sealed system or HEPA filter will NOT help to remove allergens and fine particles. Secondly, using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter can improve indoor air quality while cleaning your floors. Lastly, and most importantly, this study highlights the link between vacuuming and its relationship to indoor air quality in the home.

To read the Study's Abstract

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, January 23, 2012
For pet allergy sufferers, keeping dander out of the house seems like an easy task if you don't own a pet, but there are still some hidden ways that dander can make it's way inside your home and on your furniture.

Since pet dander can be as small as just a few microns, it can easily become airborne and attach to household items, particularly clothing and upholstered furniture. So while your buddy, Phil, may be bringing the cheese dip for the Superbowl party, he's likely also carrying a healthy dose of cat dander from his three shorthaired Persians.

But don't exclude Phil just because he's a cat owner (or a Patriots fan). There are a couple quick and easy ways to ensure that the cat dander that came with him doesn't make you miserable for the next week.

By vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum cleaner, you can not only clean up the nacho crumbs left on the sofa but also pet dander and other allergens that guests can commonly bring inside your home. When vacuuming to improve your health (not just appearances) always opt for a vac that has a sealed system and true HEPA filter. Vacuums that lack these features often only redistribute allergens throughout your home.

For throws and decorative pillows, you can simply toss these in the dryer, on high heat, for 15 minutes to kill and remove most allergens that may have settled on them.

For any surface that is prone to collecting allergens from visitors, another convenient solution is an anti-allergen spray. These come in a few varieties but all do the same thing, denature or oxidize protein allergens.

So even after a house full of guests, these simple things can help remove hidden allergens that have made their way into your home.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, January 20, 2012

Allergy Armor Organic Cotton BlanketAfter months of preparation and planning, we are proud to introduce the exclusive Allergy Armor Organic Cotton Blanket!

For allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers, certified organic products provide relief from the chemicals and toxins that pollute our everyday lives.

Grown in the U.S., without the use of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers, our organic cotton is a natural alternative to modern textiles. Free of dyes and modern treatments like formaldehyde, the Allergy Armor organic cotton blanket is comfortable, features a luxury weave with a natural color.

With well-stitched seams, this blanket is constructed to withstand frequent washing and won't fray. Though the blanket feels like it has some weight, it's light enough for year round use and well suited to compliment your winter comforter.

Machine washable, the weave tightens some after the initial washing (shrinkage is factored into the dimensions prior to construction).

Though we have offered organic cotton blankets for several years now, we have been striving to offer this product exclusively. Now, when you purchase an organic cotton blanket from us, you're not only receiving the benefits of a certified, American organic cotton blanket, but also getting one that is cut, sewn and packaged locally in our Atlanta location. We hope it brings you years of relief and that you enjoy it as much as we do!

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Link Between School Allergens and AsthmaThere have been countless studies done on how certain issues like lack of sleep, and even problems at home, can affect children and their performance in school. More recently, individual states and cities have been taking this a step further and have examined the link between poor indoor air quality and increased instances of hospitalization due to asthma.

Studies like this are important for two reasons. First, they highlight how building maintenance and cleaning procedures (or lack thereof) can impact students vis-à-vis indoor air quality issues (IAQ). Secondly, they illustrate the link between increased instances of asthma and how this can affect students' academic performance.

In this New York State Department of Health study, even school districts with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) programs in place found that there were still environmental allergy triggers and conditions present.

As some of the largest respiratory irritants, dust or dust reservoirs were reported in 99% of schools. Additionally, 84% reported mold or moisture issues, and nearly half (42%) reported possible exposure to diesel fumes and exhaust (usually from idling school buses).

A recent CNN article highlights that these conditions are often exacerbated by a poor economy. With today's slimmer budgets, renovation, upkeep, and the construction of new buildings are often an afterthought. Unfortunately, a possible consequence of this can be a slow but steady increase in the rates of allergies and asthma – both of which can negatively impact a child's educational experience.

These problems are not just confined to students. Surveys of some of the nation's largest school systems have shown as many as 30% of teachers reporting health issues or sickness related to the school environment.

Asthma & Allergies Amongst School Age ChildrenWith 7 million children currently diagnosed with asthma1 and approximately 8.5 million who have suffered from respiratory allergies in the last year, the impact of poor IAQ in our schools is no small matter.

Aside from dealing with these issues on an individual level, either with OTC antihistamines or non-pharmaceutical allergy relief methods, there are some excellent CDC resources as well as helpful tips and guides that can be useful in highlighting this situation and helping improve conditions in your local schools.

1CDC Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children – December 2011

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by Shifrah on Monday, January 16, 2012
We have two cats and a dog, and I do what I know to do in order to keep pet dander around the house to a minimum. I try to keep the animals out of bedrooms, I have a leather couch, I have minimal drapery, and I vacuum frequently with my Dyson. But I'm sure I'm not as motivated to keep pet dander under control as I would be if any of my household were allergic to cats or dogs.

When allergic guests come to my house, however, I become all too aware of how pervasive pet dander can be, and how hard it is to actually get rid of.

Last night, some dear friends from California arrived for a visit, and we had them over for dinner. The husband of the family is quite allergic to cats. I dusted and cleaned the floors one last time at the last minute before they came, and we gave him some homeopathic drops that are supposed help forestall an allergy attack. And of course we locked the cats in a room while he was here.

He seemed to be okay, at least for a while. But by the end of the evening, though it took our asking for him to tell us, he was definitely feeling the effects of his cat allergy. As a hostess, it's an awful feeling to know that your guests are uncomfortable in your home – though of course, the person we should feel sorriest for is the allergic one!

We always keep allergy medicine (as well as those homeopathic drops) on hand for when pet allergic guests come to our house. But sometimes it's not enough. What do you do in addition to your regular environmental control to help allergy sufferers feel at home in your home?

Posted by Shifrah on Friday, January 13, 2012

Knowing that you can do something to take charge of your allergy symptoms is empowering, especially if you've resigned yourself to the sniffling, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes as facts of your life. Butallergen avoidance and environmental control can really change an allergy sufferer's life.

When implementing an allergen avoidance routine, your first steps should include using basic environmental control products, such as air purifiers in the bedroom and allergy relief bedding. In addition, practicing the following simple daily habits will help keep allergy symptoms in check so that you can live every day breathing better:

  • Cleanse nasal passages with a neti pot. Most allergens find their way into your body through your nose. Flushing allergens out of your nasal passages gets rid of many allergens before they can set the allergic response in motion. Keep a neti pot, and safe water, within arm's reach in the bathroom and make a habit of using it every morning and any time allergens are especially pervasive, such as after dusting or when pollen counts are high.

  • Prevent dry skin by moisturizing. Slathering lotion on dry skin doesn't do as much as sealing in moisture by applying lotion after washing hands or showering. Overly dry skin can lead to eczema flare-ups, and a compromised skin barrier allows allergens to enter your body through the skin. Be sure that your lotion itself doesn't cause problems; choose moisturizers without fragrances and other irritating chemicals.

  • Implement a shoes-off policy. It's astounding the amount of chemicals and allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and more that we track into our homes on our shoes. Make it a practice to take shoes off at the door, and find a way to politely suggest that guests do the same.

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and off of upholstered furniture. For most pet owners, Fido and Fluffy are part of the family. But to reduce allergy symptoms, it's important to keep pets out of the bedroom and off of upholstered furniture in order to reduce the amount of lingering pet dander. Provide designated, comfortable areas for pets to relax and train them to stay away from allergen magnets. For more on pet allergies, see Surviving Pet Allergies

  • Check pollen counts. Knowing what you are allergic to and when and where those allergens are abundant is the core concept of all allergen avoidance measures. Especially during spring and fall, check pollen counts and try to stay indoors when pollen counts are high. Note that particular times of day can be higher than others.

  • Choose allergy-fighting foods. With growing evidence that nutrition plays a vital role both in the formation of allergies and in how susceptible we are to the effects of allergens, learning about foods that help allergies and incorporating them into your diet is another easy way to minimize allergy attacks.

Posted by Shifrah on Monday, January 09, 2012
The Allergy Consumer Report recently covered the topic of toxic ingredients in nail polish in the series, Toxic Indoor Air in Nail Salons, Parts One and How Toxic is Your Nail Polish Really?.

The toxic trio comprises three extremely toxic chemicals that, until recently, were found in almost all nail polishes: formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, or DBP. As the article describes:

"Formaldehyde … is a known human carcinogen and can also cause eye, throat, nose and skin irritation. DBP is a known reproductive and developmental toxin, while toluene is a possible reproductive and developmental toxin and can also cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. All of these chemicals can be absorbed into the body through the nail bed."

In 2006 and 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics exerted enough pressure on the nail polish industry to prompt some companies, such as OPI, Sally Hansen, and Orly, to phase out all or some of the toxic trio chemicals.

The European Union went so far as to ban DBP, but the United States does not restrict its usage in beauty products. As with so many matters , particularly related to chemicals contained in everyday household items, we cannot count on government agencies – and certainly not production companies – to keep us safe from toxic products; rather, consumers must educate themselves and check labels.

Check out the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Database for a comprehensive database of personal products and their toxicity ratings.

Posted by Shifrah on Friday, January 06, 2012
The death of a first-grader in Richmond, Virginia highlights the possible unpreparedness of schools to deal with allergy emergencies.

Ammaria Johnson had a peanut allergy. While out at recess, she broke out in hives and began complaining of shortness of breath. Though she was taken to the school clinic, they had nothing they could give her and called 911. Sadly, she didn't make it.

Head of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network Maria Acebal says of the incident, "When consequences can be life-threatening, then you've got to have schools prepared for an allergic reaction. It's very straightforward. There is no magic to this. It's just proper education, how to recognize it, and how to treat it."

Since 8 percent of American schoolchildren have food allergies, it seems imperative that schools have on-hand the life-saving equipment and medication to treat a food allergy attack. But as Shawn Smith, spokesman for the Chesterfield County school district points out, although there are extensive guidelines for treating students with severe allergies, the parents of the allergic children must provide prescribed medication to the schools, along with a form authorizing the school to administer it if an emergency arises.

In the absence of these, the nurse attempts to make contact with the family in time to obtain and give medication – an outcome that seems unlikely given the speed with which allergic anaphylaxis can cause death.

To me, this whole situation seems like a tragic, bureaucratic gap in addressing the severe consequences of an allergy attack. Yes, health officials must know how to recognize an allergy attack, but it seems like we have to find a way to allow schools to carry and administer epinephrine when an allergic attack is evident and death is imminent.

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