AchooAllergy.com Blog
Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 29, 2012
New Study Changes Perspective on Air Pollution ControlIn a study recently released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers complicate our current understanding of air pollution and how air pollution is oxidized in the environment. The initial finds are cause for some concern. The results tend to show that our current understanding of what happens to pollution particles in the atmosphere is not correct, and that the air could be much dirtier than we currently believe.

When initial air pollution studies were completed nearly 20 years ago, they identified different types of particles that make up air pollution. Since then, air pollution control legislation has been largely tailored to target a specific set of fine particles that were thought to represent the most dangerous cross section of emission pollutants.

What this most recent study has shown is that a Secondary Organic Aerosols (SOA) comprise a larger slice of that air pollution pie. Initial air quality studies did not show the elevated levels of SOA's that were found in research completed over the last two years.

As a bit of backstory, Secondary Organic Aerosols are the combination of pollution particles that have chemically bound to airborne organic particles. So they themselves are not directly emitted by combustion engines, but are formed when particles that were previously thought to dissipate, bind to organic agents. And instead of evaporating once in the atmosphere, these new SOA's form tiny tar balls that evaporate much more slowly than originally thought.

While nature will tend to deal with pollutants over time, as the environment has and will continue to absorb and break down much of the millions of gallons of oil from the BP spill, so too will the atmosphere break down air pollution.

However, if current pollution control efforts fail to account for a secondary product of air pollution, especially one that takes much longer to break down, reevaluation of not only control measures but also actual pollution levels needs to be done.

It will take time to parse the study and evaluate it in the context of a larger pollution control effort, but those who are particularly effected by air pollution, allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers, this study is just another that reinforces the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality in your home and office. To that end, proper air filtration systems, like HEPA Air Purifiers and efficient furnace filters still remain your best tools in keeping indoor air clean and free of outdoor pollutants.

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, February 27, 2012
With a steady increase in the number of allergy, asthma and MCS cases in the US, there's always some attention paid to how urban areas fare for allergy sufferers. Typically every year there is a top 5 or top 10 list put out about which cities are the worst for allergies. With allergy season just beginning, we thought it might be helpful to take a look at some of the BEST cities for allergy sufferers.

Allergy CapitalsBert Sperling, teamed with Breath Right and compiled the following list of top five cities for allergy sufferers.
      San Francisco
      Miami
      Salt Lake City
      Boston
      Seattle
In this analysis, pollen and spore levels were factored in to cases of the flu, allergy medication use, and pollution levels. Of the major metro areas examined, these five had better overall numbers than anywhere in the US.

On the other side of this spectrum, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA) used pollen levels, number of allergist per population, and allergy medication use to rate some of the worst cities for fall allergies. Topping the list is Knoxville, TN followed by Dayton, OH.

And while the spring months often mean everything getting a sickly yellow-green coat in Atlanta, this pine pollen usually isn't a major source of allergies. Though local car wash companies love it, our typical pollen levels put us in the lower half of the pack at 59.

Typically most cities don't jump or drop too much within these lists, but things like local climate and changes in public policy can speed trends. Due to the composite nature of most of these types of lists, take them with a grain of salt. So, don't pack your bags just yet.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, February 24, 2012
Electrolux VacuumsFor decades, Electrolux has been a brand associated with caring for your carpet, and as technology and needs evolve, so too do the Electrolux vacuum cleaners available to you. We've recently added two new Electrolux models, each with unique features and suited for cleaning different areas of your home.

When it comes to living in an apartment, having kids or pets buzzing around the house, there are bound to be spills. For sucking up the Cheerios that Jr. spilled or dirt that Max just tracked in on the kitchen floor, it can sometimes be a hassle to pull out the full size vacuum. This is where the Electrolux Ergorapido comes in handy.

Electrolux ErgoRapidoThe Ergorapido is a compact stick vacuum that doubles as a handheld vac. While this lightweight sidekick isn't as powerful as a full size vac, it makes up for that with convenience and versatility. With no bags to replace, no cords to rewind, and about twenty minutes of run time, the Ergorapido is ideal for quick spills and tidying up when time is at a premium. It's also ideal for bachelors who, let's face it, generally aren't prone to bouts of deep cleaning.

Electrolux Nimble VacuumThe second new model in our Electrolux offering is the Electrolux Nimble. As a full size upright vacuum, the Nimble features HEPA filtration, cyclonic suction and maneuverability that blends the Dyson Ball with the Miele Swivel Neck designs.

A brushroll control switch allows you to quickly transition from carpet to smooth flooring, and a sealed system ensures no air leakage. So instead of kicking up allergens, you actually remove them. The included 3-in-1 Versa-tool is a unique add-on unlike most other vacuum attachments available. Designed for several purposes, this one tool makes cleaning carpeted steps or crevices easier. Like the ErgoRapido, the Nimble is well-priced to fit nearly any budget.

So for quick spills, smaller living spaces or as an additional tool in your cleaning arsenal, the ErgoRapido is a great fit. And for full size and more powerful cleaning throughout the home, the Nimble is a vacuum worth checking out.

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Allergy Medications and Increasing Red TapeLike anywhere in the US, there are a variety of over-the-counter cold/flu and allergy medications that can be found in nearly any convenience store, pharmacy, or supermarket. Currently 41 of all 50 states have laws specifically regulating pseudoephedrine, including GA. However, some states, like Oregon and Mississippi have taken this a step further and required prescriptions for the purchase of OTC medications that contain pseudoephedrine. This includes things like Sudafed, Actifed, Allegra D, Claritin-D, TheraFlu and MucinexD.

With more states leaning towards requiring a prescription for these types of OTC, conventional wisdom would say that getting Claritin-D to tamp down allergic reactions is going to get more difficult. Rather than need immediate allergy relief but be stuck trying to schedule a doctor's appointment to get a prescription, it might be a good time to consider taking control of your indoor environment.

By properly maintaining your indoor environment, even during allergy season you can remain reaction free, healthy, and breathing easy. For seasonal allergies, there are a variety of ways you can prep your home, and with a very mild winter this year, allergy season is literally already here for many part of the country

One of the least expensive ways to immediately improve indoor air quality is to replace your furnace filter. Most replaceable furnace filters are electrostatic and due to the nature of this type of filtration, by three months, most are to the point where they simply cannot filter anymore allergens. Alternatively, permanent filters, like Newtron filters can be rinsed, air dried, and used over and over again.

If you plan on opening the windows to allow the spring breeze in, you may want to consider a window filter. With replaceable filter media, REP filters are quick and easy way to keep most of the pollen out of your home while allowing air to circulate.

Silk Comfort MaskAs the pollen counts start to soar, if you need to spend time outdoors, a mask is a simple but effective way to block allergens. There are a variety of masks that target particles allergens like grass and tree pollen, dander, and ragweed.

One of our favorites is the Silk Mask. The reason why we like this mask so much is that it's likely the most comfortable mask you'll ever wear, it is hand washable and thus reusable, and lastly, it's very effective in blocking particle allergens. It also folds easily and stores well in your pocket or purse.

For more effective personal filtration, there are tighter sealing and NIOSH rated respirators and masks, like the AllergyZone N95 mask, Respro Allergy masks and a variety of 3M products.

So regardless of what your state's legislation determines in regards to pseudoephedrine, you can relief allergies effectively without pharmaceuticals by controlling your indoor environment and limiting exposure to allergens and irritants.

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, February 20, 2012
Anthony Shadid - Pulitzer Prize Winning JournalistOn Thursday, two time Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist, Anthony Shadid died at the age of 43. Known for his work with major newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe, Shadid died in Syria of an apparent asthma attack.

Shadid was no stranger to peril, reporting throughout the Middle East from Libya to Iraq, Syria to the West Bank. Over the course of his career, he had been arrested, roughed up and even shot once, so while reporting in an area of the world that has seen more than its fair share of violence, for many it was shocking to hear of his passing because of an asthma attack.

The week prior to his death, he had suffered an asthma attack, and this time, as with last time, it appears to have been linked to the horses they were using to meet guides and access Syria. Though Shadid had his medication on hand, the attack appears to have been so acute that the medications he had on hand were not enough to treat his condition.

While over 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, asthma related fatalities hover around 4,000 annually. Unfortunately, the commonality of asthma has somewhat desensitized people to the potential severity of an asthma attack, yet for those who struggle with asthma, the feeling of suffocating, of not being able to draw air into their lungs is all too real.

In addition to the family, friends, books and articles Shadid leaves behind, his passing should at the very least serve as a reminder to all who cope with asthma. If not taken seriously enough or treated adequately, something as benign as an asthma attack can potentially become a matter of life or death.

For more information about asthma, it's causes and how to relieve asthma, visit our Asthma Solution Guide.
View a video obituary of Anthony Shadid.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, February 17, 2012
Over a year ago, we implemented a FAQ function on our site, and since then, we've answered thousands of questions. Some of these questions you'll see posted on product pages, and others you won't see due to the personal nature of the inquiry. Being the person who answers a majority of these questions, I can safely say that at least half of all FAQ's are about masks and air filtration.

While I would suggest that the majority of the people who visit our site have a good understanding of the link between personal health and air pollution, there continues ongoing studies to determine the exact nature of this relationship. And though there are a variety of factors that can influence this type of study, for the last 20 years researchers have been trying to find a more definitive link between pollution and tangible health consequences - like heart attacks and strokes.

City Pollution and Your HealthTwo recent studies found in the Archives of Internal Medicine seem to support this theory and make direct links between elevated levels of air pollution and health problems. French scientists showed that short term exposure city pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, etc.), increased the immediate risk of heart attack. This built upon an earlier study that had shown when air pollution levels in the Boston area went from "good" to "moderate," there was 34% risk of having a stroke.

Things like memory and the ability to plan and carry out tasks decline naturally with age, but air pollution may speed the decline. In the second study, researchers tested almost 20,000 women for nearly a decade and found that cognitive abilities in this decreased more rapidly for those who had more exposure to air pollutants from city/urban environments.

For the allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers who visit this site daily, the link between poor air quality and quality of life is a bit of "old hat." For those sufferering from particle allergens, the choice in masks has been a HEPA respirator while for chemical pollution, emissions and odors, a mask with activated carbon or charcoal is the best fit. Research will continue, and until large scale changes begin to seriously curb pollutants in our air and water, wearing masks and filtering pollutants remain easy steps to improve your health and quality of life.

For more information on these studies, check out this NY Times article.

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, February 16, 2012
Piggy Time!There have been many studies that have started with the theory that exposure to more environmental allergens leads to an immune system that is less sensitive to common proteins like pollen, dander, etc. This is significant for allergy and asthma sufferers since, in theory, it would lead to less sensitivity and less instances of allergic reaction.

A recent study, led by scientists at the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences, has found that test subjects raised, particularly during early life, in a farm environment had increased levels of regulatory T-lymphocytes (T-cells). This is critical in that the regulatory T-cells dampen immune cells responses, which can lead to reduced allergic reactions to every day proteins and allergens.

In this study, researchers separated two sets of piglets (they chose piglets because of their close physiologically similiarities to humans). The first set was allowed to be nursed by their mother under normal farm conditions. The second set was raised in an isolated, more hygienic environment and fed formula milk, more similar to the rearing of human infants.

What they found was that the piglets in the more hygienic environment had lower levels of the regulatory T-lymphocytes. This means they are more likely to have an immune response and inflammation when they come in contact with every day triggers. Other studies have shown that a reduction in regulatory T-cells has been linked to the development of allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Similarly, this study also found that the farm raised piglets had lower antibody responses when they were transitioned from milk to solid food. A lower antibody response such as this can mean that they are less likely to suffer any sort of reaction when new, solid foods are introduced into their diets.

While the study is still only one piece of the puzzle, it does suggest two things. First, during early development, environmental factors can shape an immune system into one that is hypersensitive to common protein allergens or one that ignores these triggers. Secondly, it leans toward the idea that the environment can also play a major role in the development of food allergies or intolerances.

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, February 13, 2012
Valentine's Day Do's and Dont'sAside from being my parent's anniversary, February 14th is Valentine's day. Like every Feb. 14th, you're probably completely inundated with ads and offers for flowers, chocolates, and every other product, all with a Valentine's day spin. Rather than make a list of our products that would make the "perfect" gift, instead I'm going give you what might be the worst gift.

Unless you're a really in to vacuuming or have a weird fascination with cleanliness like me, a vacuum cleaner probably isn't high on your list of "hot" Valentine's Day gifts. This isn't to say a HEPA vacuum isn't beneficial or an important part of reducing allergens throughout your home.

Cleaning with a HEPA vacuum is a great way to remove many of the particle allergens that often settle on floors and other surfaces. With a high quality vacuum cleaner, things like pollen, pet dander, and dust mite allergen are filtered out instead of just being blow around.

And though Miele seems to be the only early adopter of the philosophy that indoor air quality (IAQ) matters, it is likely that appliances that can clean without sacrificing IAQ are going to be the way of the future. With all that being said, nothing can send the message "I suck" quite like a vacuum.

Vacuum cleaners, much like pans, mops, or a new stove, are necessary domestic appliances. Though you can certainly put a bow on any of them, that doesn't mean they are the gift your valentine was hoping to receive.

You don't need a special occasion to improve your health, and anytime is a good time to trade in your old dust bucket for a newer, cleaner model (still talking about vacuums here). So tomorrow, get something sweet or shiny, but heartfelt and you can start looking for a new vacuum - on Wednesday.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, February 10, 2012
The Reliable Steamboy rated a Consumer Digest Best BuyIn the February issue of Consumer Digest, you may come across a product that has long been a staple at AchooAllergy - the Reliable T1 Steamboy. Aside from being a quick and convenient way to steam floors and remove mess without harsh chemicals, the T1 now carries the label of Consumer Digest Best Buy.

The Steamboy has been in service for years, but only more recently has the cleaning world turned its focus on steam cleaning. Though lightweight and compact, the T1 has a 27 oz. tank which provides a full 30 minutes of cleaning before you have to refill it. That's a leading statistic in its class!

Reliable Steamboy T1 Steam MopIn addition to this, by using a flash heating style, the Steamboy heats up to an impressive 248 degrees F. in seconds. Washable bonnets make for convenience since when you're finished, you simply toss them in the washer. The cord provides 16' of reach, and a replaceable water filter removes hard water mineral content, effectively extending the life of the machine.

All of these features add up to one of the most effective yet economical ways to get your hard floors cleaned and sanitized in minutes. So if you're in the market for a simple yet effective way to kill germs, remove allergens and clean without the use of bleach or harmful floor cleaners, take a minute to give the T1 Steamboy a second look.

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Less Sunlight, More Food Allergies?Though milk is often fortified with vitamin D, from grade school health classes on we've learned that much of the vitamin D we receive is from exposure to sunlight. In addition to keeping bones strong and healthy, vitamin D and sunlight may play an important role in the development of food allergies and eczema.

A recent collaborative study between European and British researchers has found an association between exposure to sunlight and the development of food allergies and eczema.

Focusing on Australia, researchers were able to study a wide variety of climates and regions with widely varying amounts of sunlight. In areas with less sunlight (the southern part of the country), they found that children were nearly twice as likely to develop allergies to eggs and peanuts or eczema.

While this research is still in the early stages, it gives some early indications as to what may be behind these increasingly common conditions, and more importantly, how to possibly prevent them in the future.

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