The focus this year was on utility. After careful review we hand selected a few items that not only help to better control your indoor environment, reduce allergens, and lessen reactions, but work just as well for anyone.
As an example, the Miele AutoEco demonstrates this dual purpose. Most people have vacuums or need a vacuum in their home, but people dealing with allergies, asthma or MCS, most vacuums can actually work to make their situations worse. Not so with the AutoEco. This versatile upright features Miele's AirClean System and uses the combination of a sealed system and 12-stage filtration to eliminate the microparticles and harmful allergens that can aggravates allergies and cause asthma attacks. The AutoEco is just one example of a product that is particularly helpful for allergies and asthma, but works well as a gift for anyone who wants a clean home!
As an added bonus, anyone looking to Buy American, has a wide variety to choose from amongst our Allergy Armor brand bedding. From comforters and mattress covers to pillows and blankets, the majority of our Allergy Armor bedding is made right here in our Atlanta location.
Available as a PDF, browse the Guide, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Breathe easier as this Guide helps to make choosing the right gift this Holiday season, less of hassle.
AchooAllergy.com 2013 Gift Guide
Author: K. Gilmore
Starting in the Northeast - Apparently the deluge is over? At least that's the thought. The forecast of a cooler, dry fall for the central and western portions means relatively normal conditions for ragweed. Rain can be a double edged sword when it comes to pollen. It can increase overall pollen production, while a relative lack of it can mean the pollen that is produced will likely be dispersed over a wider area. As one of the lightest pollens, ragweed can literally travel for hundreds of miles before settling. With temperatures possibly being cooler, despite potential above average rain around the upper Mississippi, the overall effect may likely even out some. As a note though, the far Northeast does appear to be slightly warmer than average, so expect pollen counts in the New England states to buck the trend of the larger region.
Speaking of Rain - The Southeast looks like a coin toss. And as mentioned above, rain can tamp down the dispersal of pollen but may mean greater production of this potent allergen. As showers are typically very hit or miss in the South and Southeast, we could experience bouts of high pollen that will hopefully be cleaned out by nature's natural cleanser, rain. The prediction of average or cooler than average temps should keep the season in line with those in the past.
While out West - Conditions could be wetter, but according to NOAA, only really in the Dakotas region. For much of the West, expect slightly warmer than average temperatures. This can spell trouble in terms of ragweed as warmer, dry conditions often lead to widespread pollen dispersal. On another note, this dryer, warmer than normal forecast offers no relief for the current problem - wildfires and smoke.
To recap, stock up on allergy masks and furnace filters west of the Mississippi, and for the rest of us, stay calm and carry on.
Regardless of where you are, there are a few things you can do to help with ragweed season. Ragweed can be a particularly potent allergen and is light enough to be widely dispersed. With over two dozen species and the ability for a single plant to produce over a million grains of pollen in a single season, it is a far reaching allergen. So to help,
- Monitor the Count - Pollen counts have become a staple of most local forecasts. Keep an eye on this, and outdoor activities that can be rescheduled, should be when the pollen count is particularly high. Warmer, windy days can be some of the worst, so look for rain. The day after rains typically have some of the lowest pollen counts of the season.
- Masks - A good N95 mask or respirator is handy to have around nearly anytime of the year but particularly during peak allergen seasons. NIOSH rated masks and respirators can filter out allergens like pollen, mold spores and dander. HEPA rated masks (N100) do the best job at this, and there is a wide variety to choose from which gives you many options of price, style and size. Disposable N95 masks are great for doing a little yard work or gardening, while a more stylish mask with a replaceable filters might be a better fit everyday use. Regardless of what you choose, any will help block ragweed pollens.
- Filters - If you use an air purifier, fall is a good time to check the filters. Many of the more expensive brands have long filter life and may not need to be changed. Back-blowing can help remove large particles, especially from pre-filters, and extend the life of filters. This simply involves using low pressure compressed air and blowing air back through the filter in the opposite direction of normal airflow. For less expensive air purifiers that often require more frequent filter changes, find your brand and replace the HEPA or particle filter as necessary.
- Furnace Filters - These are likely due for a change. During the summer months, we often get lax about things like this, particularly with more people spending time outdoors. Regular replacement can keep your HVAC running in tip-top shape while also filtering out allergens like mold spores and ragweed pollen. Vent filters are also a good idea, particularly for areas where air conditioning isn't used as much. Fall can mean the first use of the furnace and the dust in the ducts that has been collecting all summer, can be trapped by vent filters.
- Landscaping - Keeping brush and dead vegetation clear can help. In areas prone to weeds, try a heavy coat of mulch or even that fabric-style landscaping cover can keep weeds at bay in flower beds, gardens and other areas. By keeping dead or rotting vegetation clear, you can reduce another common fall allergen - mold spores.
- Keep Up With Your Medication - Maintenance medication for asthma (preventatives), should not be skipped during times when seasonal allergies are peaking. When symptoms do flare up, antihistamines can help. These over the counter medications can reduce the histamines that cause the allergic symptoms in most people, and in more severe situations, prescription medications can offer a more potent form of relief.
- Rinse - Of course your dentist will recommend that you rinse regularly, but I'm talking about a sinus rinse! Using a saline solution can rinse away allergens and help to reduce symptoms. Rinsing can also moisturize and soothe inflamed sinuses. Though a bit odd, sinus irrigation is a non-pharmaceutical way to bring about relief for many.
To view NOAA's temperature and precipitation forecast or the Weather Channel's fall temperature outlook.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
What goes into these commonly used products can sometimes have unintended consequences. Often, layers of cellulose and super absorbent polymer powder (SAPs) are the main substances used to make sanitary napkins. Cellulose comes from plant material, while the polymers are chemically derived from petroleum or wheat, and both are quite absorbent. Tampons are made from bleached cotton, rayon or a blend of the two that have been processed with a variety of ingredients such as chlorine, fragrances and super absorbent chemicals. Chlorine bleaching releases a byproduct called dioxin. Dioxins is a broad name given to large group of chemicals, but according to the World Health Organization, dioxins are absorbed by fat tissue, which can cause reproductive problems and interfere with hormones.
Along with allergic reactions, and byproduct hazards, is possible exposure to bacterial infections in a very sensitive area! A risk carried with the use of tampons is contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), an uncommon but detrimental condition that can occur if tampons have a high absorbency rate and left in for extended periods of time.
So what are the alternatives? A plethora of options can be found online, but here are some that can often be found in local pharmacies, supermarkets and grocery stores.
- Organic Products - Some products are made from 100% organic cotton, and are pH compatible, hypoallergenic, free from SAPs, and chlorine bleaching. Other products maybe derived from wheat but free from chlorine dyes and fragrances.
- Menstrual Cups - These alternatives often save money, and minimize waste all at once. Made from silicone, which is biocompatible with the body, these are great alternatives to bleached cotton and rayon. They can also be used for any activity from yoga to swimming. Like similar products, change 3-4 times a day and wash by hand. Avoid cups made in China, which are not FDA approved, and look for ones made in Canada or Finland.
- Cloth Pads - If you’re the crafty type, you can easily make reusable panty liners, with colorful cotton cloth. If not, you can find sites online that will have a variety of sizes and colors, and will fit any style underwear. Cloth pads can also be made from organic cotton and naturally dyed.
Author: Rachel Power
One of the most commonly used phthalates is di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP). From flooring to catheter tubing, DEHP is commonly used, but likely most frequently, DEHP is found in the packaging of many types of processed foods. This last source is generally the way in which most people are exposed to phthalates, through the consumption of processed foods with packaging containing the agent.
This latest study examined adolescents, levels of DEHP in urine samples and the connection to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when cells in the body become resistant to insulin, which in turn causes the pancreas to produce increased amounts of insulin, which can lead to hyperglycemia and ultimately Type II Diabetes. Insulin resistance is often the first step in the path to diabetes.
Even when accounting for the normal set of variants as well as the role BPA could play in this study, researchers found that elevated levels of the phthalate DEHP in urine samples correlated to a higher rate of insulin resistance in adolescents. This study is consistent with previous research that shows a similar correlation with adults. With other phthalates measured, there was an association with insulin resistance but only with DEHP was it strong enough to be a correlation.
None of this is meant to utterly simplify the relationship between phthalates and possible health consequences as there are many questions that remain unanswered. Is this correlation due to insulin resistant children often having poor diets, eating more processed foods and thus have higher level of DEHP? Do phthalates have a greater impact at younger ages? What about specific factors that may skew or influence the levels of DEHP like mechanism that can cause specific children to metabolize (break down) the compound at different rates, causing different results in urine tests? These questions, and more, remain, but this study provides another diverse but specific age group where the link between levels of phthalates and insulin resistance are evident.
To read the full research paper on phthalates and insulin resistance.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
The first study comes from California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) and focuses on fetal BPA exposure to rhesus macaque monkeys. This primate was chosen since fetal lung development more closely resembles that of humans than previously studied animals (namely rodents). During this study, pregnant rhesus macaques received BPA via a subcutaneous implant during one of two time periods, comparable to the second and third trimester in humans). Since the study was originally meant to focus on BPA's effect on female reproductive development, only female fetuses were examined, and at the end of each group's exposure period, fetal airway tissue samples were collected and analyzed.
With the samples, researchers looked for variations in lung and airway development. For the first group, those exposed during the "second trimester", there was no significant difference in the mucous cell abundance or the secretory protein expression when compared to the control. However, those exposed during the equivalent of the last trimester not only showed a greater abundance of mucous cells, but the expression of MuC5B gene was nearly 6x higher than the samples that received no BPA exposure. The differences in samples was most pronounced in the bronchi. An increase in mucous cells is one early indicator of asthma or bronchitis, and when taken with previous research, this study seems to point towards a link between fetal exposure to BPA and respiratory development.
It should be cautioned that this study was small, and only highlights a potential link. It is also not known whether BPA directly caused this difference between test samples or if it altered some other function during development that caused the difference. Interestingly though, another article, published in Pediatrics calls into question the use of urine concentrations of BPA as indicators of exposure. The author highlights some instances where testing has shown that the concentrations of BPA in serum (a blood fluid) was actually lower than what was recorded in urine samples and that because of the way the body metabolizes BPA, urinary concentrations might not be the best indicator. The ironic part is that while this article calls several things into question, it does note that many of the studies have not been performed on primates. The subjects of both the first and next study I'm going to mention were performed on primates, and only one used urinary BPA levels.
The second study, published today in Pediatrics, focused on BPA and its potential link to chronic disease risk factors in children. When accounting for things like soda consumption, tobacco exposure, demographics, etc., University of Michigan researchers showed that higher levels of urinary BPA were linked to higher odds of obesity. While no connection between BPA and any other chronic disease risk factor was found, it is worth noting that BPA is a highly fat soluble substance. Though not tested, theoretically, someone who is overweight could possibly retain more BPA than someone thinner.
All three of these articles further the debate surrounding the use of BPA, and each adds another wrinkle to the debate over the long term consequences of BPA exposure. This is important if for no other reason than this. A 2007 study, funded by the National Institute of Health (NiH), found that over 90% of urine samples collected in children and adults over the age of six has detectable levels of BPA.
Author: K. Gilmore
For nearly 8 years, the AchooAllergy Blog has been providing the latest in allergy and asthma information and products. From updates in new technology, testing, medication and procedures to highlighting how environmental control can effectively reduce allergens in your home and office, the AchooBlog has seen a litany of writers delve into a wide variety of topics.
I thought it might be interesting to step in the wayback machine and see our inaugural post from December 6th, 2005.
You cannot see it in this image, but the title/tagline of our blog used to be, "Achoo! The Blog - The Cutest Little Blog on the Web".
To see all of Healthline's Top Allergy Blogs.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
With our first set of questions, I'd like to introduce Dr. Frank Lichtenberger, MD, PhD. He has taken the time to start of our series and answer three very common questions about allergies.
How can I tell if it's a cold or allergies?
Determining the difference between a cold or allergies is actually quite difficult, even for some seasoned professionals. Allergies and
colds are very similar in terms of symptoms and presentation. Both colds and allergies can cause inflammation of the upper and lower
respiratory tract, irritated eyes, cough, and fatigue. Colds are infections caused by viruses, and multiple people that share a common
residence, classroom, or workplace can be affected at one time. This is similar to allergies, as many people in the same family, classroom
or workplace can be allergic to the same things in the environment. Finally, antihistamines which are medicines used to treat allergies,
are the most common ingredient in cold medicine because they are very good at reducing nasal inflammation.
So, how do we tell the difference? Colds tend to cause more "systemic inflammation," which include things like joint and muscle aches, nausea and stomach upset. Allergies tend to cause more itching, and thin watery secretions from the nose and eyes.
How are allergies and asthma related?
Asthma, eczema, and allergies (food and seasonal) can all be part of a condition called "Atopy." Atopy refers to a decision our immune system makes on how it is going to behave (fight off bacteria, viruses, cancer, or allergies.) Anyone can be allergic to something, but people that are allergic to lots of things have "Atopy." The same basic processes that cause people to get stuffy noses can cause lungs to develop asthma or skin to become itchy and scaly. We know that children with food allergies, and/or eczema are much more likely to develop asthma later in life.
Can environmental and food allergies be related?
Absolutely. We know that people that have food allergies tend to also have environmental allergies. We don't actually know how the two are connected, but we know that there is a lot of "Cross Reactivity" between pollen and fruits and vegetables. Imagine that the Allergic System recognized allergic things based on a 4 letter code, and if it senses these "codes" in the environment it triggers an allergy. Now imagine that the alphabet only has 20 letters instead of 26, and animal, plant, fungal, and viral particles all had their codes written with these letters, but in very different languages from one another. The plant language, using only 20 different letters with MILLIONS of plants, has some redundancies. For example: some pollen from the Birch family had the code "BRCH," which was similar to the apple fruit's code "BCRH." Because they are very similar, the Allergic System will trigger the birch reaction when it senses the apple's code. This is what we call "oral allergy syndrome" where people think they are allergic to fruits or vegetables when in reality their Allergic System is just over reacting a little bit. Other similarities exist between dust mites and shellfish, and ragweed and melons.Do you have questions you would like answered? Submit them to us via the FAQ form on every product page, email them using firstname.lastname@example.org, send them to us via our live chat or send us something via snail mail. The most relevant and intriguing we'll select to be answered.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
The Eczema Company was founded by a our friend Jennifer, and began for much the same reason as Achoo's did - a personal experience in dealing with allergies and more specifically, eczema. From clothing for children and infants with sensitive skin, to specialized creams, balms and other personal care products, the Eczema Company has the solutions to help relieve your symptoms and keep you feeling better.
Right now the Eczema Company is running a back to school sale. Ending in less than a week, take $5 of an order of $50 or $10 off an order of $100 or more.
Visit The Eczema Company for more details.
Allergy Armor Ultra is our exclusive line of allergy relief bedding. Specially constructed to block allergens, like the dust mites that inhabit everyone's mattress and pillows, the Ultra fabric encases and protects bedding while keeping the dust mite allergen out of the air you breathe. For many people, when allergy bedding is paired up with other environmental control measures (like dusting & vacuuming more frequently and washing your bedding once a week in hot water) there's a noticeable difference in how you sleep and how you feel in the morning. Unlike cheap imports or products that others label "Made in America" simply because 51% of the materials and construction was done here in the States, all of our Allergy Armor Ultra bedding products are cut, sewn and packaged here at our facility in Atlanta, constructed from fabric made here in the U.S. and shipped to you when you order. Best of all, while you might save a few bucks buying a cheap import from a big box store, none of those covers are backed by a lifetime warranty.
In addition to the mattress and pillow covers, we've expanded our Ultra line of allergy bedding. While some have tried to duplicate it, none have succeeded in matching the quality and convenience of our Allergy Armor Ultra Pillow. With the shell of the pillow constructed from the Ultra barrier fabric, there's no need for a separate pillow cover. It's built right in! Machine washable and available in five sizes, each of these pillows is backed by a two year warranty.
More recently, we've responded to a concern from our customers. The duvet (comforter) covers, though effective, don't stop the comforter from shifting around inside. At times, you end up with the comforter all balled up inside the cover. So following the example we set with our pillow, we now offer an allergy relief comforter. With a shell constructed from Allergy Armor Ultra fabric, this comforter features sewn-through box construction, reinforced seams, a 3D corded edge, and tie in loops in each corner. Warm, durable and allergen-free the Ultra Comforter is the perfect addition to any bedroom, and with the sewn-in loops, you can easily use your decorative duvet cover without any worry of the comforter shifting or balling.
All Ultra bedding is machine washable and machine dry, so cleaning is as easy as washing a load of clothes. Each piece features the smallest average pore size in the industry, 2.8 microns, and provides effective, consistent protection from dust mites, pollen, dander, and other allergens than collect in your bedding. From pillow covers and mattress covers to pillow and even comforters, Allergy Armor Ultra has a product to fit all of your bedding needs.
While I do appreciate the author taking the time to put together the article, just as a note for readers, the AirPod was discontinued by Blueair a few years ago. For an inexpensive desktop air purifier, I would consider the compact Alen T100 or the popular Roomaid HEPA air purifier.
To read the full article from Women's Health.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
In modern western society, particularly the United States but also in Europe and other parts of the world, the term best used to describe preservatives would be pervasive. Even found in places you wouldn't normally think to look (The easiest way to remember this is if the product has water in it, then it likely has a preservative), preservatives in things other than foods are just now coming to the attention of people. As awareness grows, so too has the call from certain groups to reexamine our use these substances.
Recently dermatologists in Europe have called greater scrutiny into preservatives in personal care products due to a potential link to the significant increase in eczema and contact dermatitis. While this is mainly fueled by an observational correlation, research is needed to being to prove any type of solid link.
In a whitepaper-style article I recently wrote, I go over some of the basics about preservatives, what they are, where you find them, and why there has been recent cause for concern. To read more about preservatives in foods and personal care products.
Author: Kevin G.