Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Circassia Ltd. - Company Behind the Cat Allergy VaccineBack in 2011, we posted a blog about a vaccine for cat allergies, and at that time, it discussed the Phase II trials of the vaccine. Well, two years later, the results are in, they look promising, and Phase III is about to begin.

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.

Got Cat Allergies?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.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, April 19, 2013
Top Five Miele Vacuums 2013 - Consumer ChoiceYesterday we rolled out the updated Staff Pick's of Miele vacuums, and today we're highlighting the Consumer's Choice Top Picks. Factoring in reviews, sales and overall interest in each unit, we've compiled the list of the top five most popular Miele vacuums. As a note, the S8's are the newest of all Miele vacuums and have only been available to the public for a relatively short time. Despite this, they are still well represented here.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 .)

  5. 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.

Top Five Consumer Choice Miele Vacs - 2013Overall there's a lot of variation in the list. Some people prioritize price, others performance or size. All of the most popular models, as chosen by consumers and visitors to the site, feature the sealed system. Two are HEPA equipped while all five are HEPA capable. Regardless of which model you're interested, each has a unique set of qualities and features, and all have the quality, durability, and versatility that has come to personify the Miele brand.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Loads and Loads of Pine Pollen... Messy!Pollen, pollen everywhere! It's like Christmas, except instead of snow, it's yellow pollen, and instead of receiving gifts, all you get is sneezing, congestion, a runny nose, allergic rhinitis or sinusitis. Though pollen levels are traditionally very high during the springtime, nature sometimes tries to do its part to help mitigate the mucousy misery that it spreads. Nature's idea of helping with pollen? Rain.

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!

Rain Giveth and the Rain Washeth Away!

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

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Our Thoughts and Prayers Go Out To Those Effected by The Tragic Events at the Boston MarathonWe'd like to take a few moments today to acknowledge the events that transpired in Boston yesterday. It was a tragic situation that marred what has been traditionally a time of celebration and joy for not only Bostonians but runners from across the country and around the globe. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by the senseless violence.

- Team

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, April 15, 2013
With Spring finally here, the many months of keeping up with my yard begins. From pressure washing away red clay and pollen to mowing and trimming, lawn care is one of those outdoor tasks that can really aggravate those with allergies or asthma. Pollen levels are up but so is the grass, so aside from hiring someone to take care of your lawn (or napalming it), what can you do about allergies? There is one simple item that can help regardless of the season - a mask.

Since I'm not allergic to pollen, I personally don't wear a mask for this reason, though during the dry summers, I do wear one to eliminate dust. Masks remain one of the most effective ways to block tree, weed and grass pollen without having to change your regular lawncare routine. N95 masks are the most common type available. Inexpensive paper masks like this are an easy way to block reaction causing allergens. Most N95 masks are disposable, so after a use or two, you simple replace it.

The N95 rating is a NIOSH classification that means any mask with this rating traps 95% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. While this certainly isn't HEPA, it works well in many situations. With this type of filtration, it will block most of your pollens as well as dust and other particulate in the air. If you try one of these masks but find that the filtration isn't quite doing the job, you can step up to a P100 or N100 rated mask/respirator instead.

NIOSH 100 rated masks meet HEPA standards, trapping 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. This type of filter represents the gold standard when it comes to particle filtration in masks. Some of these masks are disposable while others have replaceable filters, but both types will provide the extra protection against allergens for those who need it.

Aside from keeping up with your lawn, masks also work well for simple gardening. We all like the look of a well put together flower bed or the taste of a fresh tomato from a plant in the backyard (I know I do!) but planting this time of year presents the same problems as cutting the grass for the first time. With gardening, you often don't stir up pollen like you do when mowing, but this can often involve digging around in decaying or moldy vegetation or leaves. Again, an N95 mask can often be your best bet, but if allergies aren't as severe you may be able to go with something like a Silk or Vogmask. The filtration level on these is a bit lower than N95 but both can help to reduce exposure to particles that can cause allergies or asthma to flare. Plus, these types of masks are a little easier on the eyes, fold up to fit neatly in your pocket, and are generally a bit more comfortable.

Regardless of whether your mowing, gardening or simply cleaning up after your dog, masks an easy and convenient way to block particles while helping to keep you enjoying the outdoors longer.

Author: Kevin G.

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, April 09, 2013
It Doesn't Take Long for Pine Pollen to Coat EverythingWell, it's time for Atlanta's annual rite of passage - spring pollen, and particularly pine pollen.  While there are certainly more tree pollens than just pine floating around in the air, pine pollen is what gives this city it's lovely yellow hue this time of year.  For those affected by allergies or have allergy-induced asthma, the next several weeks can be miserable without taking some steps to control exposure.

We generally recommend you first start at home.  What's floating around outside cannot be helped, but what's floating around inside your house can.  This time of year it's important to remember that a few simple steps can help keep many of those allergens outside, where they belong.
  • Take your shoes off.  It seems pretty self-explanatory, but you can track a lot of pollen into the house.  This is also true for pets.  While your cat or dog probably doesn't wear shoes, using a pet wipe or simply damp rag to quickly wipe them down when they come in can help keep them from tracking throughout the house.
  • Change the filter.  This can apply to a couple things.  Your HVAC filter is likely due for a change.  After spending much of the winter indoors, these filters can work overtime trying to keep your indoor air clean.  Start with a fresh filter every two to three months.  If you are using a HEPA air purifier, keep tabs on when your filter change is due.  Often they'll have timer based indicators, but keep this running properly can help reduce the pollen that you're bringing in the house.
  • Don't skimp on the spring cleaning!  Regular vacuuming, washing, and dusting are more important during high pollen times than at any other point in the year.  By letting allergens build you can easily quickly increase your "allergen load" past the tipping point and be overwhelmed with symptoms.
  • Keep the windows closed.  In places with high levels of pine pollen opening the windows can be about the equivalent of coating everything in your home with baby powder, except it will be yellow and likely cause a lot more sneezing.  If you do want to keep the windows open without the mess and allergens, try using a window filter.  They're not a efficient as a HEPA filter, but they do a good job in removing larger particles and much of the pollen in the air.  Besides, if they were HEPA rated, no air at all would pass through.
Who Wants to Eat On My Patio?While these tips can help to keep pollen out of your home, we don't want people to be shut-ins.  So when you're out and about, plan certain tasks around specific times of the day.  Late morning and midday are often your worst times for peak pollen.  There are also a variety of resources that will give you a daily pollen count.  So if something could be pushed off from a particularly high pollen day, you can do a bit of short term planning.  If you are going to be out and about, whether for fun, work or exercise, OTC medication can help prevent and treat many of the symptoms, and a high quality allergy mask can block most of the allergens in the air.  Using a nasal irrigation device can help rinse away reaction causing pollen and other allergens that collect in the nose and sinuses.

None of these things cost much money.  More than anything, it is simply spending a little extra time or stepping up the frequency of things that you are already going.  Spring is here, so buckle up!  We have about three weeks of this lovely yellow powder ahead of us!

Author: Kevin G.

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, April 05, 2013
One aspect of my job here at Achoo puts me in touch with people with little to no knowledge of environmental control, allergy bedding or how specific things inside the house can be causing certain symptoms. One piece of information that I commonly pass along is based on previous studies of allergies and asthma that show links between allergic diseases like allergies, asthma and eczema. About 70% of the time, if a child has asthma, s/he also has at least one allergy. A study recently published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology clear up this picture for adults with asthma who likely also have allergies. The results were a bit surprising to most professionals in the field.

Dust Mites in Your Bed - Allergies & Asthma LinkBy studying and comparing data from over 2500 patients in two age groups, 20-40 and 55+, researchers found that for asthmatics, allergic sensitization was present far more often than not. For the first age group, 20-40, those with asthma were also allergic to at least one allergen 75.4% of the time. In the second group, 55 years and older, asthmatics were allergic to at least one allergen 65% of the time. While this type of overlap has been studied and identified in children, most believed that the link between allergies and asthma wasn't as strong with adults.

Within this data, there is some variation between the types of allergens that these age groups showed the most sensitivity to. For the older set of patients, the most common allergen was dust mite. Over one-third of those who were asthmatic and allergic were sensitive to dust mites. Rye grass, cats, dogs and cockroaches followed. For the younger set of patients the allergen sensitivities were similar with dog and the dust mite allergen leading the way.

Allergies and asthma are two very closely related animals. One is like a llama while the other is like an Alpaca. Both are different but fairly closely related, and like llamas/alpacas, sometimes people confuse the two.

Allergies and Asthma are Like Llamas and AlpacasIn terms of helping people, this stronger correlation can help doctors and allergists better diagnose conditions in older adults. And while asthma and an allergy may be the cause of a particular set of symptoms, some of the same measures to help control your indoor environment will work for both.

To read the article's abstract or access the full article.

Three Ways to Reduce Allergens in Your Bedroom

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, April 01, 2013
Yes, Virginia, Spring allergies suck.  But maybe this year... not so much.With Easter and Passover now behind us, the spring allergy season is set to begin making millions across the U.S. miserable. And while there is no shortage of weather forecasters and others singing "doom and gloom" for this allergy season, I am somewhat more optimistic about it. Why would I be optimistic about this spring allergy season you ask? There are a few reasons why I think the "doom and gloom" crowd are missing the mark.

Don't get me wrong here. Spring allergy season is going to really stink for tens of millions of people. It has, and likely always will, but think back to last year around this time. Do you remember the stories about the upper third of the country being buried under snow? Nope. Instead what we had was record setting high temperatures.

Remember this? A little digging around shows that temperatures in the upper Midwest ranged as widely as almost 70 degrees warmer on days last year versus the same days this year. Speaking strictly in terms of averages, much of the country is still above temperature averages for 2013 (1.9 degrees according to NOAA), but 2013 went even further (3.6 degrees). All that warmer weather last year meant spring, sprung early.

More than simply the temperature, the entire jet stream pattern is different. If you check out images from NOAA for March of this year and last year, you can see a big dip in the west that helped pull warmer air and temperatures up and disperse them throughout the country. This year the pattern more closely resembles the norm, and with it has come more normal winter temperatures and a more than healthy amount of snow to much of the country.

In February of 2012, people in different parts of the country began their annual trek to the allergist, and for most, this was a month sooner than they were used to. It was little wonder though. At the end of last March, we here in Atlanta saw the old pollen count record shattered by 55% (9369 vs. 6013). We didn't see anything even remotely close to that last week.

Again, I'm not saying spring allergy season took a vacation this year. Sneezing and coughing are likely to be the common sounds you hear for the next couple of months, and now is the time to start preparing for another round of springtime sniffles. However, I don't work for a company that has to make a news story out of everything as mundane as an inch of rain. So, time will tell but, I'm not buying that 2013 will be the worst allergy season ever. To quote Dana Carvey (impersonating G.H. Bush), "Wouldn't be prudent. Not gonna do it."

For good information on comparing historical trends, from year to year, visit The National Climatic Data Center, a division of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Author: Kevin Gilmore

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