AchooAllergy.com Blog
Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
In the last two years, there has been an incredible amount of research into what is called the human microbiome - the wide variety of microorganisms that live on and in us. It is still a difficult concept for many of us to wrap our heads around, but research has shown that the cells of all the microbes on and inside of us actually outnumber the total cells that make up the human body and by a pretty wide margin. Only recently have we started to consider the larger roles these tiny cohabitants play in our lives and in our health. Last year I wrote a piece about fungi in the lungs and how the types and numbers of them found in those with asthma vs. control patients varied. More recently, a research piece published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) highlights the link between bacteria in the gut and food allergies.

Mice, Peanut Allergies & Gut Bacteria - Probiotic Solution to Food Sensitivities?Researchers started by examining the role gut bacteria play in food sensitivities and food allergies in two groups of mice. Playing on the "hygiene hypothesis" researchers put together one group of mice that were raised in a sterile environment. In the other group, the mice were given a large dose of antibiotics at just two weeks of age. After being given peanut extract, both groups were observed, and from here researchers began introduction specific groups of bacteria to see if they had any effect on the allergic response. Specifically, Bacteroides and Clostridia bacteria groups were the focus, two types that are commonly found in wild mice.

The results were very interesting. First, mice that were given antibiotics showed a high sensitivity to the peanut extract. Antibiotics given early in life have recently been shown to be linked to a myriad Clostridia Bacteria Introduced Into Gut Reduced Peanut Sensitivityof problems later on, including things like the development of allergies and asthma. Of the second group, the reaction to the peanut allergen was even more severe with some showing signs of anaphylaxis. While the introducing Bacteroides into the gut of mice had little effect, Clostridia was another story.

In both groups of mice, the introduction of Clostridia bacteria into the mice resulted in reduced allergic responses to the peanut allergen. This is extremely important for two reasons. First, it shows a link between specific gut bacteria and the development of allergies, again highlighting the link between the microbiome and the health of the animal. Second, these results point toward the potential of treating food allergies with the use of probiotics.

This study also refines the "hygiene theory" somewhat. While traditionally, it was suggested that a lack of exposure to germs and microbes early on could lead to the immune system overreacting to innocuous substances like dust mites, peanuts, or pollen, these results would suggest that a more sterile environment or perhaps even an overuse of antibiotics could lead to less diverse and less numerous gut bacteria, which would in turn be setting the stage for allergen sensitivity.

While the notion of treating allergies or food sensitivities with probiotics are still many years away, this latest research solidifies the link between gut bacteria and allergies. More importantly, it opens the door for potentially novel, new treatments of allergies, asthma and possibly other allergic diseases.

To read the abstract of this study.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, August 21, 2014
Tree nut and peanut allergies are some of the most common as well as some of the most commonly discussed food allergies. Without fail, every year we hear at least a handful of stories about those who are severely allergic coming in contact with and ultimately dying from food allergies. The standard way most deal with food allergies is with allergy shots (or another type of desensitization procedure) or strict avoidance. Yet neither is fullproof. A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are approaching this problem by not changing the person dealing with allergies but instead by changing the food.

Allergy-Free Cashews? Maybe!Allergy-free peanuts? While it may seem a bit farfetched, this is just what they are working on. Started with a cashew extract (oil), researchers are treating the proteins found in the oil with heat and sodium sulfite. You may recognize sodium sulfite, as it's a preservative commonly found in a variety of foods. What this process does is change the molecular look of reaction-causing protein in the cashew, making it more difficult for immunoglobin (IgE - the antibody that kicks off your body's response, aka, allergic reaction) to recognize and bind with the protein.

Test results showed that when mixing unmodified and modified cashew proteins with the IgE of a nut allergic person, 50% fewer of the IgE molecules bonded with the altered proteins. This is important for a few reasons. Even though this isn't the first experiment to attempt this, it is the first that uses a compound generally regarded as safe (GRAS) to disrupt the protein structure of the allergen. It is also important because unlike other treatments, it is aimed at treating the food, not the person. Lastly, its success shows the potential for reducing or possibly even eliminating the binding of IgE to food allergens, the root of the allergic response.

For now results show a allergy-reduced nut, which isn't as helpful a non-allergenic one. However, these results at least point towards the possibility of this as a solution. What's up next for researchers? Modifying whole cashews then ensuring the cashews still taste they way they should! Until then, avoidance remains the best option for most dealing with severe food allergies.

To read the full abstract of the research.

For more information on food allergies.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by Rachel P. on Monday, August 18, 2014
All of a sudden school is back in session and people are moving around, filling up dumpsters and sidewalks with furniture that won't fit in their co-ops, dorm rooms, apartments or simply clashes with their new interior decor. For dumpster divers, freegans, "urban foragers", or frugal residents eyeing the sofas and comfy upholstered furniture outside of the dumpster, don't forget about bed bugs! In all of the excitement of finding something new for your living room or bedroom, the last thing you want to do is bring home some very unwelcomed guests.

Free Furniture May Hold a Hidden PestBed bugs are excellent hitchhikers, and while the most common method for them getting into your home is by hitching a ride in your luggage when you travel, bed bugs can live for quite a long time in old furniture and bedding. For those that live in a dorm or apartment complex, once you have bed bugs, it doesn't take a great deal for time before all of your neighbors have them too.

In addition to being fairly mobile, bed bugs have a VERY high reproductive rate, and in a matter of days or weeks you could be faced with an infestation. This parasite (and they are parasitic with the whole "feeding on your blood while you sleep" thing) is about the size of an apple seed, and can be either flat and brown, or reddish after feeding. They greatly enjoy bedding, particularly mattresses, but any furniture or dark place where they can hide during the day but not be too far from their dinner (you) at night.

Here are a few clues that can let you know if you are housing bed bugs.
  • Though bed bug bites can be found anywhere on the body, you will typically find bites on your arms, face, legs and hands.
  • Bites appear to be red and swollen with a dark red center.
  • Often grouped together, bites can appear as bites in a line.
  • However, since there is about 30% of the population does not react to bed bug bites, check your mattress and box spring for tiny black dots, which are their droppings, or look for tiny, red smears (blood) which come from biting you.
Bed bugs are difficult to spot. Though you can see them with the unaided eye, they are nocturnal, which makes spotting one during the day something of a rarity. So what do they do all day? Sleep? Hibernate? Play Yahtzee? It doesn't really matter WHAT they do all day but it is a good idea to find WHERE they are all day. Some of the most common hiding spots for bed bugs are... nearly everything in your bedroom. This can include the bed frame and headboard, mattress, box spring, pillows, in the crevices or seams of furniture, under furniture, under the carpet at baseboards, curtain, and even behind electrical receptacles.

Why is it important to know where they hide? To get rid of them. Once you get bed bugs you need to call a professional pest control company to take care of the matter. Trying to take care of the problem your self can lead to a larger infestation and is often simply ineffective.

There are some methods for getting rid of bed bugs on your own. If you had encased your mattress and pillows, provided you're using a good quality bedding cover, you can prevent bed bugs from getting into certain articles of bedding. If not, a common technique is to wash bedding in hot water and dry on high heat. This is fine for pillows and linens but mattresses and furniture are another matter. Steam cleaning can help with some of these. Hot vapor steam generated from a high quality steam cleaner can not only deep clean but kills bed bug. On the professional side of things, pesticides are the most common treatment. Some pest control professionals will use high heat in a room to drive the temperature high enough to kill bed bugs. However, even with professionals, most people often end up getting rid of a lot of bedding and even their furniture.

The next time you see that cozy looking secondhand couch hanging around the dumpster, leave it! It could end up being much more trouble than it's worth. Even when you go to a thrift store, make sure you aren't purchasing upholstered furniture that was in a bed bug infested home. It never hurts to ask.

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, August 14, 2014
For the last week we at AchooAllergy have been reworking our SEBO vacuum cleaner section. Now seems like as good a time as any to reintroduce you to the incredibly versatile SEBO Felix uprights.

The Versatile, Stylish SEBO Felix Upright Vacuum Cleaner

There are three different types of SEBO Felix uprights, but all share a core set of features. Of interest to most people visiting our site, one key feature they all share is high quality filtration. Each uses a 3-ply dust bag that seals up for hygienic disposal. This dust bag traps all of your visible particles and some of the microparticles found in indoor air. A motor filter then traps more of the fine particles that the bag cannot, and before the air leaves the vacuum back into your room, it passes through an electrostatic S-Class filter.Each SEBO Felix Has a Large Electrostatic S-Class Filter for Allergens & Dust

This last filter has a slight static charge, similar to what you see sometimes with socks in the dryer, and this is what enhances the microfilter, helping it to filter out 99.9% of all particles 0.3 microns and larger. Unlike traditional HEPA filters in vacuums, the S-Class found in the Felix is a full 250 square inches filter media. That's almost two square feet of filter media in one vacuum cleaner filter. This type of filtration is important for anyone dealing with allergies, asthma or worse, as it removes the fine particles that can trigger reactions, including things like the dust mite allergen, pet dander, and pollen.

The next feature all Felix vacuums share is the 1300 watt motor. This powerful motor provides more than enough suction to clean all types of carpet as well as smooth flooring. Even more, the motor is built to give you a good twelve to fifteen years or consistent, reliable service. In addition to a powerful motor, each Felix has a durable ABS shell, made to withstand the rigors of years of daily use.

SEBO Felix 1 and 2 Premium Uprights are Great for Pet HairThe last primary feature they all share is versatility. Their design will remind you somewhat of a canister, and it is this configuration that allows the Felix upright to double as a handheld vacuum cleaner. Remove the floor tool and lower the height-adjustable handle, and you can hold the Felix from the side while using the hose and wand to clean drapes, high overhead areas or dust. Unlike most handhelds, you never worry about a battery dying after 10-15 minutes of use.

SEBO Kombi Floor ToolWhere the SEBO models begin to separate themselves is in what types of flooring they are designed to clean. The SEBO Felix 4 Kombi vacuum is the most cost efficient in the line, and is designed specifically for homes with mostly smooth floors with small areas of low pile carpet. The included Kombi floor tool has retractable bristles that when out dislodge debris. When the bristles are retracted, the Kombi uses two felt strips and power suction to clean low pile carpet.

SEBO ET-1 Power HeadThe next step up from this is the SEBO Felix 1 Premium vacuum. Instead of the Kombi combination floor tool, you get two floor tools. The premium parquet brush is specifically designed for smooth floors, with low-cut bristles and a slim design that glides across tile, hardwoods and other hard flooring surfaces. The Felix 1 also comes with the ET-1 power head. This 12" wide carpet cleaning tool has an independently driven brush roll and gives you the option to turn the brush roll off and use straight suction to quickly clean small areas of smooth flooring. The ET-1 also makes it easy to remove entangled pet hair or carpet fiber by giving you quick access to the brush roll for simple cleaning or replacement if the bristles are worn.

SEBO ET-2 Power HeadIf you need a little more power or want a larger cleaning path, the SEBO Felix 2 Premium vacuum might be your choice. Like the Felix 1, it comes with the premium parquet tool, but instead of the ET-1, the Felix 2 features the larger, more powerful ET-2 power head. With a 15" wide cleaning path and more powerful motor, the ET-2 is the best SEBO has to offer for cleaning large areas of carpet. Like the ET-1 this carpet brush also has easy access to the brush roll as well as brush roll control and four height adjustments.

As a final note, one of the very first things most people will notice about the Felix vacuum cleaners is the style. Uniquely shaped and designed, Felix vacs come in your choice of colors/patterns. So when you get tired of replacing your boring, uninspired upright every two to three years and are looking for something more durable, effective and fun, a SEBO Felix upright is a good place to start.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by A. Howard on Wednesday, August 13, 2014
With the fall festival season right around the corner, it's time to hustle on getting your costumes and outdoor necessities together!

For years AchooAllergy's marked the start of this time of year with an annual sale for your outdoor necessities, like masks, sunscreen, blankets, and more. From large outdoor concerts to state and county fairs or just hanging out with 50,000 of your closest friends in the Nevada desert, fall events occur throughout the U.S., and in different locales, there are a variety of things to plan for. From sunscreen and blankets to masks that can filter out wood smoke, dust and sand, you can now save on some things to make your outdoor event more comfortable.

Top 3 Fall Festival Masks
  • Best Mask for Smoke, Dust & Sand - Respro TechnoRespro Techno - Made in the UK, the Respro has been a traditional favorite. It was originally created to filter out city air pollution and for those with active lifestyles. With Dynamic ACC (Activated Charcoal Cloth) and HEPA-style filtration, this mask does a very good job of not only filtering out particulate (like sand and dust) but also odors and wood smoke. Since the filters are replaceable, the Techno mask provides most people with years of use. A flexible neoprene shell, velcro adjustment, and two exhale valves make for a snug, comfortable fit and help to reduce heat around your face.
  • RZ Outdoor MaskRZ Mask - Also great for outdoor adventures, like a week out in the desert, and to protect you from dust storms and smoke, the RZ Mask is very similar to the Respro Techno. The RZ also comes with carbon/particle filter and dual exhale valves and neoprene construction. Though cheaper than Respro (it's made in China and doesn't carry the official filtration certifications that Respro does) the RZ has been independently tested and is effective for microparticles as well as odor removal.
  • VogmasksVogmask - There are a few different varieties of Vogmasks. From organic cotton dust masks to the CV99, each offers varying degrees of protection. The best is the CV99 mask. Not only does it have a layer of carbon to adsorb smoke from campfires but the particle filtration is officially certified. A respiration valve, lightweight design and wide selection of stylish prints and unique patterns makes these masks a big hit.

Take 10% Off Select ItemsFree Sample Size Vanicream Suncreen w/ Each Mask Purchase

Other Essential Items

Vanicream Sunscreen is great for sensitive skin, eczema and for those who don't want to slather on chemicals and fragrances that are found in most sunscreens. Nontoxic and free from PABA and preservatives, this lightweight, non-greasy formula won't clog pores, and stays water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Available in SPF 30, SPF Sport and SPF 50.

Allergy Armor Organic Blankets are soft and great for chilly nights around a camp fire. Made from USDA certified organic cotton and sewn right in Atlanta, GA, these organic cotton blankets are sustainably produced and free of the chemical, dye, fertilizer, and pesticide residues that are so prevalent in modern cotton production.

Just because the summer is winding down, doesn't mean the fun stops. There will always be communities having a great time, experiencing lights, nature and art. So make sure you have everything you need to get out there and enjoy what remains of summer and coming fall festival season!

Author: April Howard

Posted by R. Power on Tuesday, August 05, 2014
PURE RoomAs the travel and hospitality industries grow to meet the needs of a more and more diverse clientele, you might notice how they are becoming more accommodating to travelers with allergies and chemical sensitivities. Earlier I wrote a blog about Swiss Airlines creating a plane just for individuals with allergies and MCS. Now allergy relief can be found at a variety of hotels, most recently Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, who have teamed up with PURE to create allergy friendly hotel rooms, in the hopes of making travel easier for everyone.

Using a seven step purification process called the Pure Process, PURE Rooms are cleaned, sanitized and freed from the common pollutants that may irritate individuals. This process includes:
  • Deep Clean Air-Handling Unit - This heat and a/c unit includes air filters and an enzyme based drip pan tablet to eliminate allergens.
  • PURE Tea Tree Oil Cartridge - Installed in the air handling unit to maintain sanitized conditions with its antimicrobial properties.
  • Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning - Patented PURE clean solution is used to remove debris and allergens from carpets and upholstery.
  • One Time Shock Treatment - This consists of a four hour ozone shock treatment which destroys nearly all of the mold and bacteria, as well as odors, in every nook and cranny of the room, leaving the room fresh.
  • PURE Shield - A bacteriostatic barrier is applied to all room surfaces to deter bacterial growth and pathogens from inhabiting the room.
  • Air Purification System - a 24-hour defense against allergens. Proven by the FDA to kill 98%-100% of bacteria and viruses.
  • Allergy Friendly Bedding- PURE uses only micro-fiber, monofilament mattress and pillow encasements for allergy barrier bedding.
PURE Rooms Can Be Found at Many of the Hilton Worldwide HotelsPURE Rooms Can Also Be Found at Many of the Hyatt Hotels There are over 250 Pure Rooms in U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, so to many places you travel, you can enjoy a vacation without worrying about sleeping with allergens, chemicals, mold, or who knows what else the last occupant brought along with them! PURE Rooms can be found in Doubletrees, Hiltons, Hyatts, and Mariotts across the U.S. I easily found four hotels with PURE Rooms in Buckhead, Midtown and even at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport here in Atlanta. Even if you don't have allergies or chemical sensitivities to cater to, you can relax and enjoy a room that is clean and irritant free.

As a couple final notes, if those hotels are in your budget, then chances are a PURE Room will be too. After checking a few, I found the nightly rate wasn't that much higher than a standard room. The ozone shock treatment is going to be particularly off-putting for many people. Ozone is a powerful lung irritant, particularly for those dealing with asthma, chronic bronchitis or COPD. While it is recommended by no one (except those who sell or produce ozone generators) to use ozone generating devices in occupied rooms, there is considerable debate over their use in unoccupied rooms, as in the instance with PURE Rooms.

Ozone is billed as a way to remove odors, mold and pathogens, but the efficacy of this type of treatment for mold and pathogens is still a source of contention. Ozone shock treatments are used in everything from remediation jobs of homes that Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizer - Never a Bad Ideahave been damaged by flood or fire and even in vehicles. As a space is properly aired out, the level of ozone dissipates over a number of hours. I would venture to say that risk of ozone exposure is going to be low in PURE Rooms, but it never hurts to ask before you book. It is also worth noting that the ozone shock treatment isn't mentioned directly on the list of the seven steps of the PURE Room website, but is listed on a couple of the hotel's sites in their descriptions of the process. Lastly, if a PURE Room is perhaps a bit of overkill for you, bringing along a couple pillow covers and keeping an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your pocket never hurts.

For more information on PURE Rooms or the PURE Room process, visit pureroom.com.

Author: R. Power

Tags: MCS, Allergies
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