AchooAllergy.com Blog
Posted by Kevin on Thursday, August 30, 2012
Dangers of Flood Clean UpThroughout the South and Southeast, Hurricane Isaac is having a two-fold effect. In some areas, the heavy rains are providing much needed relief from drought conditions. Though in other areas, the rains are so intense that they are causing severe flooding of homes and businesses. When storms like Isaac hit, there is little you can do to prevent severe flooding from causing damage, and often you are simply left cleaning up after the fact. Take precautions when cleaning up after a flood and avoid the hidden dangers that floodwaters can often hold.
  • Mold - Mold spores are ever-present, and unless you live or work in a highly specialized area where the filtration is exceptional, there are mold spores around you every day. Air purifiers can lessen the mold spores in the air but because they so ubiquitous, they are difficult to completely eliminate. Severe flooding can cut power and put homes under several inches to several feet of water. The warmth of summer and introduction of this excess moisture makes flooded homes ripe for mold growth.
  • Cholera - Though instances of Cholera are rare in the United States, severe flooding can cause major problems as water treatment plants and other infrastructure that handle waste waters can back up and contaminate flood waters. Hurricane Isaac has raised worries of a flare up in cases of Cholera in Haiti.
  • West Nile - Standing water is the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and with mosquitoes come a host of problems. In recent years, cases of West Nile, spread through mosquito bites, have risen throughout the South. This year in particular has seen a spike in West Nile cases and fatalities. Receding flood waters can leave pools of water where mosquitoes lay eggs and further the spread of diseases like West Nile. While spraying efforts can dampen the effect, wearing loose fitting clothing and using repellents can do much to alleviate this hazard.
Other mosquito-borne illnesses (like malaria) as well as other bacteria and viruses can also use flood waters as a breeding ground and means of dissemination.

Though weather caused flooding is not often preventable, there is much you can do to limit the damage and health problems that can arise from flood waters. Using proper protection during clean up, like gloves, HEPA masks, and rubber boots can limit exposure to harmful viruses, while heavy duty air purifiers and water damage dehumidifiers can inhibit mold growth and filter out airborne contaminants.

If you have weathered summer storms, take care while cleaning up after the fact and don't let one major problem spiral in to several others.

For more information on flood water clean up or the health effects of excess moisture.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, August 24, 2012

Shop and Be Entered to Win $500

This is your last weekend to enter to win during our Summer Closeout Sale! From allergy bedding and air purifiers to dehumidifiers and steam cleaners, save on ways to remove allergens and smoke, germs and dust from your home. Across the site you can find the best allergy relief products in stock and on sale. Place an order between now and the end of the month and be automatically entered to win a $500 VISA gift card. Send summer off with a bang for chance to put some extra money in your pocket!

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Protect Your InvestmentPurchasing a new bed is something where you can spend as much or as little as you like.  Coil, air pocket, gel, memory foam, organic, adjustable, pillowtop - the choices are almost endless.  Regardless of the style you ultimately select, a mattress is something you will spend a good deal of your time sleeping on as well as something most people intend to keep around for many years.  In my family, it's not uncommon for mattresses to actually be passed around, and for something that you can easily sink $1000 or more into, it's not hard to see why.

When you do purchase a new mattress you want it to last. You want to protect your investment. So what are some of the things that (queue dramatic music) turn a good mattress, bad?

Children and pets are two very good places to start. Kids are unpredictable, and that's part of what makes them great! At the same time, this means no matter how many "rules" you may have about eating or drinking in bed, it's still probably going to happen. So when the cookie crumbs are left and milk is spilled now what? Sour milk smell for a couple weeks? And with pets, some of us like to sleep with our pets. Other pets like to sleep on the bed when we're not around. Either way, they can leave behind a lot of dirt, hair and dander.

Allergens are another good reason to protect your mattress. If you've had a mattress or really any amount of time, it's teaming with dust mites. You can't see them. You can't feel them, and you can't hear them. But, if you have allergies or asthma, your body will almost certainly know they're there! Fitful sleep, sneezing, wheezing, runny nose, congestion, and watery or puffy eyes are all conditions that can be attributed to dust mites in your mattress.

So how can extend the life of your mattress and protect your investment? A mattress protector is a very good place to start. Inexpensive and washable, mattress protectors are there mainly to keep your mattress in great condition despite what life throws at it. They are lightweight, waterproof and block allergens by completely covering your mattress (top, bottom, and sides).

These types of covers are also great to have if you plan on moving. Let's face it, moving a mattress is about as much fun as a paper cut. It's bulky, heavy, and easy to get filthy while moving, but a mattress protector can help in a couple ways. First, should it sprinkle or rain and the mattress is exposed, you're covered! (What an awful pun) Not everyone who moves uses movers or rents a box truck, so if you don't have plastic and the mattress is going to be exposed to the elements, a protector can keep the mattress dry. Keeping a mattress clean can be challenging too. Moving trucks aren't the cleanest place you can put a mattress, and cleaning a home or apartment is often done AFTER you've moved everything out. A protector can help keep the mattress clean during the move.

There are two basic types of protectors - one you'll sleep on and one that can be used for moving and storing a mattress. Classic and Bed Bug are two great protector types that can be used for all purposes. Waterproof, stretchy, and allergen proof, these covers work to guard your mattress against whatever your hectic life can throw at it. The last type, Vinyl is best used for storage or moving. Since it is vinyl, it is very inexpensive, waterproof and durable, but it can be entirely too hot to sleep on.

When you consider you'll pay $500 to $1500 for a mattress, a quality mattress protector is a minimal investment to keep your mattress looking good and providing you with a restful sleep each and every night.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, August 17, 2012
Ragweed FAQWith August nearly halfway over, allergy sufferers' attention often turns to one particular allergen - ragweed pollen. Generally starting in mid-August (slightly later throughout the South), ragweed causes allergic flare ups for millions of Americans every year, and with extremely hot and dry conditions gripping much of the country, this year could prove to be particularly challenging.

Ragweed is a generic term that actually covers over three dozen different species of plants. Here in the U.S., the most prevalent form of ragweed is A. artemisiifolia. Ragweed is fairly potent when compared to other types of pollen, and can be a problem for allergy sufferers even in areas where ragweed plants are not prolific. The pollen of ragweed is so light that in some instances, it can travel hundreds of miles before finally settling out of the air. Because there is a severe drought gripping nearly 3/4 of the country (and ragweed is well suited for warm, arid conditions), this year's ragweed season is likely to be a rough one!

There are several things you can do to reduce the impact of ragweed pollen during this time of year, but there are two general paths you can take - avoidance or treatment of symptoms. In terms of treating symptoms, there are a variety of allergy medications available. When taken prior to actually seeing symptoms, many can actually prevent the sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and other conditions that typify an allergic reaction. For some there can be issues with side effects or adverse reactions with other medications that person may be taking, and for other people, the expense of constantly taking allergy medication for several continuous weeks through ragweed season can just be too much expense.

On the hand, there is avoidance. Avoidance can and is more difficult than simply taking a pill. However, the benefits of it can mean less cost to your bottom line, no worry of adverse reactions, and less dependence on pills or potentially addictive nasal sprays. In terms of avoidance there are a few basic tips to keep in mind.
  • Keep Your Windows Closed - Whether at home or in your car, keeping your windows closed is a basic step to keep pollen out. If you want to keep your the windows open, try using a home window filter. These trap much of the pollen, ragweed and otherwise, but still allow some air to pass through and circulate throughout your home.

  • Watch the Pollen Count - This information is readily available through your local news outlet or a variety of online sources. Knowing when pollen counts are particularly high can help you schedule certain outdoor tasks to reduce exposure.

  • Rinse Your Sinuses - Many people who suffer from allergies already employ this method to flush allergens and soothe sore or inflamed sinuses. When used properly a simple, inexpensive device like a neti pot can make a big difference in how you feel and how well you can breathe through your nose.

Other methods to help avoid pollen including wearing a pollen mask when outdoors or using an air purifier indoors to remove allergens from the air in your home.

Whether you go with avoidance, medications or a combination of the two, both can bring relief and help to minimize the misery that ragweed season can bring.

For more information on ragweed pollen. Happy Breathing!

Author: Kevin Gilmore aka KevvyG

Posted by Kevin on Thursday, August 16, 2012
For some an allergy mask is a year round accessory while for others the need typically arises during the spring and fall. Though the spike in pollen during these two seasons often means asthma and allergy sufferers use a mask, the summers can present some unique situations where masks would be helpful.
  • Pollen - While the pollen types and volumes are generally less than during the springs months, plants like sumac and thistle produce pollen throughout the summer. For many allergy and asthma sufferers, fresh cut grass can be a continuing source of irritation during this time. And because people typically spend more of the summer outdoors than any other season, exposure to pollen can be greater than during peak pollen months.

  • Emissions Pollution - Traffic in many areas of the country can increase or decrease seasonally, but no matter where you are the warmer temperatures mean that any pollution in the air more readily forms ground level ozone. So whether it is vehicle exhaust or emissions from factories, the formation of the lung irritant ozone is much more common during the summer than in any other season. Ground level ozone is the primary reason why you see so many air quality warnings throughout the summer. Additionally, though these conditions usually affect urban centers, some of the highest levels of ground level ozone are recorded in rural areas. As the air and air pollution moves, geography like mountains and valley create natural collection points where pollution from urban areas can settle and build. Much like water, air has a natural flow that allows for it to pool and form pockets far from the original source.

  • Wildfires - Every year wildfires plague Dust Mask Tan sections of the western U.S. The soot, ash, and chemicals carried in wildfire smoke can be particularly troubling for those with asthma and other respiratory conditions like COPD. Drought conditions exacerbate this and can make areas where wildfires are usually not a concern, a serious problem. Even those who aren't directly affected by the fire can be affected by the smoke.

  • Special Summer Events - Many people will be attending summer music festivals and concerts across the country. Most outdoor events don't require a mask, but if you do plan on spending time in areas where campfires are going to be abundant, it's never a bad idea to bring a mask along.
Even during summer there are a variety of uses for a quality allergy mask, and when selecting, keep in mind what your specific filtration needs are as well as what type of pollutants you are dealing with. No matter your budget or need, there is a mask that is a perfect fit to keep you breathing easier no matter where you are!

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Sunday, August 12, 2012
Genetics and Allergic DiseasesLike many health issues and conditions, the primary determining factors are genetics and the environment. Both are not weighted equally in any given situation, but both play a role in the development of most medical conditions and diseases. Even when the specific causes of a condition, like allergies, asthma and eczema, are unknown, evidence is strong that these two factors are important. A recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests a very strong link between parents with allergic diseases and the chances of their same sex offspring in developing allergic diseases.

Using a combination of IgE blood tests, skin prick tests and close examination of parental history, researchers studied parents and monitored their children for their entire childhood. In collecting and analyzing the data they found that when a mother had asthma or eczema their female children demonstrated a nearly 50% increase in the risk of developing that same condition. The same was not true for male children. However, this a near identical increase in risk was seen when examining paternal conditions and their male offspring. Simply put, if a mother had asthma or eczema, her daughter was 50% more likely to develop the same condition. Her son, saw little to no appreciable increase in risk. If a father had asthma or eczema, his son was 50% more likely to develop the same disease while his daughter was not.

This is important for two reasons. In the more long term, it more clearly defines the genetic link between parents and children when it comes to allergic diseases. The genetics behind conditions like eczema will ultimately be key in preventing them. In the short term, because this link has been more readily defined, it could make it easier in the future to diagnose allergies and eczema. Patient history is a critical factor in determining asthma but even more so for allergies. Blood and skin prick tests can show sensitivities but it is not until a doctor sees the full picture of the patient's medical and family history that a most accurate diagnosis can be given.

To read an abstract of the study.

To view eczema friendly personal care products.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Home Owners vs. Renting Allergy SufferersAs allergy and environmental control specialists, we have a variety of checklists and steps, from allergy proofing your bedroom to >easy ways to control indoor humidity, that we recommend to reduce allergens in your home and office. As with any advice, it's really only effective if you follow it. A recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology underscores these same points as well as how renters and homeowners differ in how far they go in addressing their indoor environmental issues.

For allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers, the key point in allergen avoidance is changing the conditions in your home that create or foster the allergens. In terms of allergies and asthma, removing carpet in favor of smooth flooring, using allergy bedding, HEPA air purifiers and vacuum cleaners, and controlling humidity with a dehumidifier are all important and fairly easy ways to reduce conditions favorable for dust mites and mold. Of things like this, the only one that really is not easy to accomplish for a renter, vs. a homeowner, is removing the carpet. But if removing carpet is really the only large task on here that separates what a renter vs. homeowner can change indoors, why did 91% of homeowners make recommended changes while only 63% of their renting counterparts followed the same advice?

Perhaps people feel less "vested" in a home they rent as opposed to one they own. Certainly washing your bedding in hot water, to kill dust mites, isn't too much to ask? The study is unclear as to WHY people are less apt to make environmental changes, but when connecting this to housing bubble and falling home ownership rates, it is somewhat alarming that this growing population is less likely to affect their indoor environment as much as they could.

Regardless of whether you own a home or rent, there are a variety of ways you can improve allergies and asthma by making a few changes around your home. First, invest in quality allergy bedding. Once you have it, be sure to wash your standard bedding, regularly and in hot water. You can use a laundry additive or special detergent that denatures protein allergens, but if that is too expensive, simply wash your bedding in hot water.

Second, keep the humidity level in check. You can pick up a very inexpensive hygrometer to check the relative humidity in any room in your home. A room dehumidifier is a simple yet effective way to reduce humidity in your home to levels where dust mites and mold cannot grow (45% or less).

Lastly, use some type of air filter. A HEPA air purifier is the best solution, and they range in price to fit nearly any budget. If that's still too expensive, use a quality furnace filter. A high quality air HVAC filter can make a big difference in the air quality in your home.

Though cost is always a concern when making improvements around the home, the best way to approach the situation is to take a slightly different approach. When you take steps and use products to reduce allergens and humidity in your home, you're not only improving your home but more importantly, improving your health!

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, August 06, 2012
Further Evidence of A Positive Link Between Allergies and CancerAn article published in the most recent issue of the Journal of National Cancer Institute touches on a subject that we first wrote about several years ago - the link between cancer and allergies. At that time we pointed out recent research that seemed to point to a link between allergies and a decrease in the risk of developing cancer. This most recent study goes beyond the survey style methodology that was the basis of much of the earlier research. Instead, these newest results rely on a more quantitative measure - blood samples.

Blood samples taken from nearly 600 patients diagnosed with glioma and a matching control group free of tumors were tested for two types IgE protein, common markers found in people who have allergies. Confirming earlier research, the results showed that with higher levels of IgE came a lower risk of developing glioma. What really makes this study unique is that the blood samples of the glioma patients were actually collected two decades ago, long BEFORE any diagnosis of a tumor.

Despite the decades that separated when the samples were taken and when they were tested, the results showed a near 50% lower risk of developing glioma. For women, allergen specific IgE testing, like those used to test for pollen, dander, and mold allergies, showed a 50% lower risk of developing glioblastoma. Unfortunately for men, this latter result was only observed in women.

Glioma is a type of brain tumor that can be either benign or malignant, with a widely varying prognosis. Glioblastoma, on the other hand, is the most common and most aggressive of the malignant brain tumor types.

Though the exact reasons behind this association are still not clear.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, August 03, 2012
As a long time early riser, I am typically up and reading the news before the sun ever begins to peek over the Atlanta skyline. There's the typical hubbub - Congress is lazy, politicians trading their usual election year barbs, tips on how to lose weight faster, etc. I caught an article about gearing up for fall allergies, and while fall is about a month away, 115 degree temps in OK possibly melting streetlights, a severe drought and warmer than average temperatures across the country tell me it's still a bit premature to start talking about fall allergy season. One story did catch my eye, and it came courtesy of the folks over at Ford.

Allergy and asthma sufferers will often check the air quality and pollen levels for the day, as these two things can significantly impact their health on any given day. Ford is taking this a step further and integrating current allergen data into their SYNC Voice Control feature via their Allergy Alert app. This means that while sitting in morning traffic or on vacation in a new locale, you can get a quick rundown of pollen levels and types (extra tissues anyone?), UV index (make sure you pick up some sunscreen), and other information that can be helpful for allergy and asthma sufferers.

This is likely just a first step in integrating health and wellness data and applications into vehicles. Ford has made no secret about creating "a car that cares." Currently, the SYNC AppLink is available in almost a dozen of the new Ford models. As another positive, because the app is integrated into the Synce Voice Control, it's hands-free and allows you to simply ask your car for the information you want. Wasn't there a show like this once? Ok, so the SYNC Voice Control isn't quite like Kit from Knight Rider. It's not as if your car can drive itself.... yet.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

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