AchooAllergy.com Blog

Misc


Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, November 18, 2014
If you spend any amount of time outdoors, particularly during the winter when the temperatures and dip to around or below freezing, you may notice your nose changes. Normally our noses range in function (or dysfunction!) from an odd looking feature that sits squarely When It's Cold, My Nose Doesn't Get Red?!? in the middle of our face, doing little beyond taking up space or generally getting in the way to smelling all manners of things, acting as the doorway to our respiratory system, filtering air, and holding up our glasses. During the winter, you may notice two changes that your nose undergoes. Let's take a closer look at why your nose get red in cold weather, and why your nose turns into a faucet of clear mucus.

First, let's take a look at why your nose is so festive when it's cold out. We all can't be body doubles for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, but if you're standing at the bus stop on a cold day, it may appear that we're all headed to the same audition. As the temperature dips, the body's natural response is to warm things back up. The initial response from your body is to send extra blood to the extremities that are cold. This extra blood fills the tiny blood vessels in your nose and gives it that red hue. The same is true for your hands, at least initially.

If the internal temperature in your hands and feet dips too much, the body literally goes into survival mode and begins to cut its losses. Retaining its core temperature becomes priority number one and the process of vasoconstriction begins. ...And You Think Water is Pouring Out of YOUR Nose! Vasoconstriction is when the body begins to decrease blood flow to the extremities in an effort to reduce heat loss at the extremities and retain heat in the core. Before we get too far off track, lets circle back again to the nose.

The other common change your nose undergoes in cold weather is that it may begin to mimic a leaky faucet. Like the steady drip of poor plumbing, your nose will start dripping clear fluid. Yes Virginia, it's mucus. Normally, mucus serves two purposes. First, it humidifies the air you breathe, adding much needed moisture to air before it reaches the lungs. Second, it filters the air. In moderate temperatures mucus is constantly being produced and constantly moving, but when the mercury falls, it thickens and moves very slowly or ceases movement at all. While your river of mucus may have stopped moving, the body keeps producing it, and with nowhere to go, it begins to drip out of your nose.

You can take some solace with both of these things. First, you hardly notice a red nose. If you're outside in the cold with others, you'll all be freezing your noses off, and there's nothing like sharing when it comes to misery! As far as your runny nose goes, many times you don't notice this either, as the cold numbs the nose, deadening out the ability for you to even feel that inevitable drip, drip, drip.

So, you've decided a red nose or dripping nose isn't for you, eh? Cold Weather Mask - Warms and Conveniently Hides Cold, Red, and Drippy Noses Last time I checked, I'm not a polar bear, and while some of us may have issues with excessive body hair, we simply can't compete with cold weather. There are a couple things you can do to help with this, and the easiest is to get out of the cold. If you have to be outside, get a mask. A cold weather mask can be a great way to trap moisture and warmth around your face and nose, not only reducing the potential of cold weather induced asthma but making the frigid air you're breathing much more manageable. Frequent breaks and warm liquids are also good ideas.

This.... Is Probably NOT My Best IdeaAt this point, I would suggest a ski mask, but there might be at least one drawback to this. Unless you're on the slopes, you may give your neighbors the wrong impression. With daylight savings time pushing sunset back earlier and earlier, nothing says "Hello, neighbor!" like jogging around the neighborhood, at night in a nice, warm ski mask! (To Mr. Phelps and his Yorkie - I'm sorry!!) For people who regularly work out in cold temperatures, there is an upside. After repeated exposure to colder temperatures, the body will acclimate through the process of habituation (though don't think that drippy and red nose is going anywhere).

In conclusion, it is likely time we accept that we're not penguins with hands or woolly mammoths sans trunks and tusks. No, we're humans, who get cold, red, runny noses. Go inside, have some hot coco and read another one of my blog posts! Or look at cat pictures... because at this point, I'm too cold to care.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, November 06, 2014

A comedian I greatly enjoy once described fall like this,

...the weather is completely nonsense. You don’t even have a proper Fall coat. Nothing you wear is right. You wake up, it’s sunny out, you put a coat on, you go out, you’re sweating like a pig, you take it off, then it’s cold. [...] The sun’s out, you’re sweating, but there’s a breeze, so you’re freezing - it’s not weather it’s malaria!"*

Fall Can Bring Some Beautiful Scenery But Make You Feel Like You're on a Rollercoaster... Or Like You're About To Fall Off This CliffIt can certainly feel that way at times! One morning you get up, and it is freezing cold, but that afternoon the temperature can stretch into the mid 70s. The next day you can be greeted by a cool breeze and 22% relative humidity, while two days later can start a week of rain and mild temperatures. It's enough to make you throw up your hands and just go back to bed.

There are two things that make this time of year so frustrating for some. Temperature swings are what we most often feel. Cold in the morning but afternoons can still be very warm. You can find yourself turning the heat off in your home before you leave for work but running the air conditioner in your car on the drive home.

Fall:  All Seasons Wrapped Into One!In addition to temperature being completely neurotic, humidity levels can vary widely. On one hand, it is quickly becoming drier, inside and out. Fall is often punctuated with dry conditions and cooler temperatures that many will first notice from the dry patches of skin appearing on your elbows or chapped lips. On the other hand, days upon days of rain and milder temperatures can make you feel as if you're living inside a refrigerator where it rains every day.

So what do you do? Carry a coat and a jacket? Use your humidifier and dehumidifier? Until we can dial up on-demand weather, it appears this is just the way it's going to be until temperatures finally fall to their usual winter levels. Unlike years past, we're seeing this same dynamic play out later and later in the year.

Interest in products like crawlspace dehumidifiers has remained high, even now, less than two months away from Christmas. With so much rain throughout the Midwest, it's not difficult to understand why people are concerned with mold and insects (which as the temperature drops, begin to make their annual pilgrimage into your home). Dry Air? A Humidifier Can Help!By the same token, home humidifiers have also seen their usual level of interest as people look for ways to combat dry skin, eczema, and sore throats, as well as the flu and other seasonal illness that increase as the humidity and temperature drops.

Regardless of the seasons have in store for us, it's important to remember that we have a great deal of control how we feel during this time of year. Simple things like washing your hands more frequently and getting a good night's sleep can help prevent you from catching the cold or flu while using moisturizers and drinking plenty of water can help keep your skin healthy and resilient. More intensive solutions like using a humidifier can restore comfort to dry indoor air, while a crawlspace or basement dehumidifier can help to make these spaces unfriendly to ants, cockroaches, and other insects. With humidifiers or dehumidifiers, there's a wide variety that ranges in price, size, and even color. Stay healthy, stay warm, and take control!

Want to learn more about how humidity affects the human body?

Author: K. Gilmore

*Thank you Lewis Black!

Posted by R. Power on Friday, October 17, 2014
After watching the second episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, Halloween Is the Perfect Time to Discuss How Clowns Creep Many of Us Out!I found a study in this month's Allergy Journal about using "medical clowns" to help entertain and distract children while receiving skin prick tests (SPT) and allergy shots. With Halloween nearly upon us, this blog could not have provided a more opportune time to discuss the fear that clowns instill into both children and adults. Before I get to this though, let's take a look at the study.

Medical Clowns for Allergies - He Seems Like a Happy-Go-Lucky Chap!The Sackler School of Medicine of Tel-Aviv University and the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit, Meir Hospital, Kfar-Saba used medical clowns to accompany children during various tests and medical procedures. Researchers concluded in the abstract of their research that "Medical Clowns significantly decrease the level of anxiety perceived by both children undergoing SPT and their parents, as well as pain perceived by young children (Goldberg et al., 2014)".

I'm not sure what kind of clowns they have in Israel, but when I think about clowns, I don't visualize clowns to have a calming presence in any medical situation! Have you been watching American Horror Story?? If you haven't, the scariest character on the show is Twisty the Clown who debuted as a serial killer. Probably NOT the Clown You Want to See for Your Child's Doctor VisitEven prior to Twisty, who wasn't creeped-out by Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King's IT or Captain Spaulding from the Rob Zombie movies? That's just to name a few.

Even Ronald McDonald and birthday party clowns have been making children and adults uncomfortable for quite some time now. Clowns have enjoyed a long history in this country, but the perception of clowns has dramatically changed for significant portion of the American public. In fact, 20-30% of the US population are fairly uncomfortable with clowns, and ≈2% of the adult population have coulrophobia (fear of clowns).

Yup, Seems Like Nightmare Material to Me!Veteran psychologist, Dr. Brenda Wiederhold who runs a phobia anxiety treatment center in San Diego, CA, explains that coulrophobia starts in early childhood as a pediatric phobia of costumed characters (clowns, the Easter Bunny, etc.) but most people grow out of this fear as they begin to develop the ability to separate fantasy from reality. But even as adults, many are often unsettled by the presence of clowns, particularly from the inability to read genuine emotion and facial expressions that are concealed by face-paint. Of course, Hollywood and media also bear some responsibility for shaping the perception of clowns today, which tend to be manic, a tad bit demonic and unpredictable. That's putting it kindly in many cases.

Not the Clown President, But He Gives Clowns a Good NameCurrently the President of Clowns of America International (Oh dear Lord, they're organized!), Glenn Kohlberg, has expressed his disapproval for American Horror Story's Twisty the Clown character. He does not have a high opinion of Hollywood profiting from the "sensationalism of evil clowns," as stated in The Hollywood Reporter.

Hopefully medical clowns can help rehabilitate the image of clowns, bringing back their original roles as "ambassadors of joy", and weaning the public eye away from their reputation as a character that keeps some of us awake at night. How about you? Are clowns creepy or fun? Would you welcome a clown as a distraction while your child was being administered a skin prick test or allergy shots? Or are you just as disturbed as I am that clowns have an international organization?

For an overview of the medical clown study.

Author: R. Power

Posted by R. Power on Friday, October 10, 2014
Silk Swan Beauty Products for Sensitive SkinI interviewed Lanna Potter, creator and owner of SilkSwan.com. She has developed natural beauty products made with silk proteins and essential oils (EOs) for individuals with sensitive skin, chemical sensitivities, and those who simply want beauty products with more natural ingredients. She brought along a variety of her products for me to sample while we discussed the benefits of natural beauty products, silk proteins, and how/why she created SilkSwan.com.

What inspired you to create these beauty products?

Well, I originally came from China, and I grew up in Asia. I've always been into traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine and Asian beauty products. Silk has been around for a long time and is very popular in Asian cosmetics, but it's not very popular in the West, not in the US or even Europe. My understanding is that, silk is a rare material; It's never going to be mass produced and the environment here is not suitable for growing mulberry trees (silk worms only food source) in large quantities. It's one of those rarities in the world, and it gets expensive so not a lot of companies can afford to put silk in their products. But, the beauty benefit of silk has been known for centuries in Asia and Asian women are very into natural skin care. Silk protein is used a lot in skin care and hair care for their beauty benefits. Number one, its a natural protein, a lot like the natural protein that's in our hair and skin so it's very easily absorbed. Because the molecules are tiny, they penetrate your skin and go under the surface creating a barrier to help prevent water loss. Silk protein has excellent moisturizing abilities that draw in 10,000 times its own weight in moisture from the air to keep your skin nice and soft.

How long did it take for you to create your products?

Silk Swan Skin Care Products for Sensitive SkinI started research specifically for this line about two years ago. So, it took me about two years to formulate the products, the texture and the natural scent. I don’t use any artificial perfumes or color. Everything is scented with essential oils or simply unscented. I officially launched the product line in June of 2014 but I did a lot work prior to that, including sourcing the material and finding a company that can make it in the United States - everything is made here in the US.

You mentioned before in Eastern culture women tend to like more natural products, versus the West where we are more comfortable with natural and synthetic perfumes and chemicals. Do you see any other differences between these two groups?

Oh yes, many differences! From an aesthetic point of view, Asian women prefer skin that's more youthful: flawless skin without freckles, darkness, wrinkles. They tend to go the route to have a more translucent look, something that is more on the lighter side. Dark spots indicate sun damage, aging, accumulative effects by the sun. So when they consider youthful skin, they consider translucent, pearly looking skin with no spots. In the West however, a lot of people like to tan. They like a slightly darker look with a glow. So they go after that, meaning they may try to achieve that through natural light or artificial light which are damaging to the skin. So over a period of time they age faster and it's not until well into their 40s and 50s that you can see a lot of the damage on the surface of their skin. But that can be prevented; it just depends on the individual.
Silk Swan Essential OilsAnother thing is that in the East, people like to focus more on internal medicine for skin conditions. So from a very early age women start taking all kinds of tonics and maybe collagen, even in their early twenties, they start doing that very early on to prevent premature aging of the skin because of the view that your skin reflects your overall health. So they put a lot of energy into what they eat to be able to achieve the results that they want. But in the west, people tend to put more creams and medicated creams on their face when they have a problem. It's not so much about prevention, but a solution to a problem. When they do have a problem maybe acne, dark spots, or things that could be turning into cancer, they go immediately to the doctor and put creams on their face. This is a good idea when you have a problem, but those medicated creams also have side effects. They make you break out, they dry you out- they aren't really a beauty solution. Its just treating the symptom not the problem.

In an earlier conversation you told me that mineral oil isn't good for your skin because the molecules are too large and clog pores. Is silk protein a non comedogenic (non pore clogging) ingredient because it's a small molecule, compared to mineral oil?

It's small and purely natural. Mineral oil is not really natural. It comes from a petro-base chemical and because they are large they can clog your pores as adults and even kids. They are highly processed. The silk protein is 100% pure protein. It's often a powder when it comes in but it's water soluble. It's not going to clog the pores, or cause rashes like some chemicals, which your body doesn’t know how to process. For people who have very sensitive skin, even the slightest amount of fragrance, color, artificial synthetic fragrance can cause problems, but not with silk proteins.

Like many women, my mother uses cold creams, but that has mineral oil in it. Do you recommend an alternative to cold creams and mineral oils?

The Size of the Molecule MattersMy mom actually used to use that also, and it feels good but it does have a lot of artificial synthetic colors, which can really irritate skin. But then again, just like food, everybody has different levels of tolerance. Some people are very sensitive and some people have higher tolerances and have no problem that they can see right away. The more you can cut out the synthetic stuff, the better, because 80% of the chemicals or ingredients in skin care are absorbed into your blood stream. On a daily basis the average women in America has over 500 chemicals on her body. Starting from the shampoo and conditioner products and then go to personal care products - face wash, moisturizer, sunscreen; every single one of them probably has over 20 ingredients. Then you talk about makeup- foundation, bb cream, powder, so yes, over 500 chemicals on your body each day, all day long.

What is your favorite essential oil from your product line?

Oh there's so many! Lavender oil is my favorite, I've been using that every day, I just put it on my pulse point and smell it all day long, that's the easiest way to use it. That's my favorite for two major reasons. It is one of those oils you can use neat, meaning you don't have to dilute it to use it. Because a lot of these oils are highly concentrated, you have to dilute them before you use them otherwise you get a burn or skin damage. The second reason is that it's very good for the skin. It's called oil but it's very light and thin, and the consistency is like water. Spanish Lavender is one of my favorites because it's one of those oils that soothes and calms and make me feel good. Sometimes I use it before I go to bed, when I do yoga or do meditation, or whenever I want to relax. I have it in my silk lotions too. It helps with inflammation of the skin. So when you have rashes, breakouts, or little zits you can actually use it with witch hazel. You can use it on your face or where ever you have those problems. I use it for my homemade toner.

Do you think major brands carried in major department stores are somewhat complicated because they have both natural and synthetic ingredients in them?

I used to use some major brands myself, but I'm sensitive to synthetic perfume and it makes me breakout and rashes. Most major brands have synthetic perfumes and artificial colors, so I can't use them. It makes no sense to me to have them in cosmetics because all I want is something with no color, that's soothing to my skin. The price tag really means how much they spent on their marketing, not in the quality. Quality has nothing to do with how much they cost. If you flip over the bottle you'll often see "perfume" (or fragrance) in the ingredients. Perfume means synthetic, and by FDA rules, companies do not have to disclose the chemical composition of the perfume because its considered proprietary (meaning the company owns the exclusive rights to the ingredients and does not need to disclose details or chemical breakdown). But often, synthetic perfumes have over 300 different chemicals, and companies do not need to disclose that. Some of those chemicals in the perfumes and skin care are so harsh, its mind blowing! That's why people are breaking out into rashes, or experiencing premature aging and irritation on their skin and don't know why. In synthetic perfumes they create all of these different scents and inject stabilizers to keep the smell stable over time, and that's the major difference between natural scents and unnatural scents. Many of the EOs will evaporate quickly. As a perfume they won’t last very long. So that's why stabilizers are used in perfumes. But because they are so harsh, problems occur, like allergies, headaches, and more.

********************************************************************************

Founder of SilkSwan - Lanna PotterWe discussed more of her personal experience creating these lotions, creams and essential oils, and I was able to try a few of her favorites along with some new products that she just added this season. Her lotions are silky and very soft, and the essential oils she adds to the lotions and creams give a subtle and pleasant scent to her products. She graciously gave me some products to take home and try, and I too am in love with her lavender EO, as well as the Eucalyptus EO. I put a little bit of the Eucalyptus essential oil in a small glass in my shower making my morning showers more like a spa treatment.

I'm excited to try more Silk Swan products like their face lotions and shampoos and order some for Christmas this year (Shh, don't tell my mother). It was great to interview a business woman who makes her own natural beauty products, and to learn more about the importance of going more natural when it comes to skin health.

NOTE: Silk Swan products are formulated without the use of phthalates, parabens, sulfates, benzene, mineral oil, petroleum, peanut oil, triclosan or FD&C color.

For more information about preservatives in cosmetics

Author: R. Power

Posted by R. Power on Monday, September 29, 2014
National Coffee Day!Of course National Coffee Day should fall on a Monday! It's exactly what we need to start off October, fall, and to get ready for the cold days to follow. The origins of coffee can be found in the Ethiopian highlands, where legend tells of how a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats were more lively and peppy after eating berries from a certain tree which is now known as the coffee shrub. After this observation, Kaldi took the berries to a local monastery where an abbot made a drink with the berries and became alert and awake for many hours. Soon this discovery was shared with other monks, and now the coffee berry (not a bean as you may have thought) is an important part of our international trade and culture.

Although the only processes that we experience with coffee is the grinding and brewing of this commodity (sometimes roasting), the process of obtaining coffee is quite laborious. Planting, harvesting, processing, drying, milling, exporting, tasting, roasting, grinding and then brewing are all of the steps that it takes to get that liquid gold into our mugs, thermoses and ultimately in our tummies. So cheers to those who are putting in the work behind our "fuel", and cheers to those goats who reached up and nibbled on those small, red berries of the coffee brush. There are a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations and other places giving away a free cup of java in honor of National Coffee Day, so look around, and go get your free cup of joe today!

Author: R. Power

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 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 Friday, July 11, 2014
Sadly, My Vision of WineMaking and Reality Are NOT the SameAt the end of a stressful day, I like to go out on my porch with a glass of wine and enjoy the relative peace. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day pace of things and fail to set aside a little time to simply unwind or decompress. Recently, I came across an article that discussed the use "fining agents" that caused me to rethink my evening glass of wine.

Eggs are used in wine production? All along I thought my glass of wine was made from grapes in a barrel sprinkled with some yeast. After doing some research, I discovered that not just eggs, but other fining agents are used to remove suspended proteins and solids from wine. These substances clarify the wine before being bottled. So while looking at my Riesling, I wonder if people with egg allergies are able to enjoy a little wine without fear of reactions.

So what are some of the fining agents used in the winemaking process? Here are a few of the most common things you might have never expected to be used in wine production.
  • Egg Whites - The albumen found in egg whites is used to clarify red wines during barrel aging. This is the oldest fining method in winemaking.
  • A Nice Port WineChitosan - Composed of exoskeletons of crustaceans (shrimp, crab, shellfish), is a very common agent for finishing white wines.
  • Gelatine (gelatin) - Derived from animal protein, it is recommended for red wines to help reduce excessive tannins and astringency.
  • Isinglass - Made from collagen, a protein extracted from the swim bladders of fish. It's a very gentle fining agent, as it does not strip the flavor of the whites and blushes.
  • Casein - Not necessarily used for fining, but used to clarify white wines.
Technically, after racking (separating the fining agents and collected solids from the wine), there should be no fining agents in the wine. This means that by the time the wine reaches the bottling stage, any additional substances should be removed. However, due to the potential risk of allergic reactions from fined wines, the European Union requires all foods with potential allergens to be labeled accordingly. As of now, labeling potential allergens in the United States is voluntary but there has been current debate on whether it will be obligatory in the future.

For those who are highly allergic to lactose/dairy, eggs, or shellfish or for vegetarians and vegans, the best way to enjoy a bottle of wine without compromising your health is to check the labels, and try to stick with Old World wines (European). Cheers!

Author: R. Power

Posted by R. Power on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Graffiti/Tag SW Atlanta Before getting into our actual topic today, I want to define some terms that may be misunderstood or ambiguous to the general public.

Street Art - a form of visual art in public locations that the artist has been given legal consent to produce/perform.

Graffiti - Drawings, markings or slogans spray painted or sketched on a public wall or sidewalk.

Tag - A graffiti artist's personal signature.

N95 Respirator or Mask - Face mask or respirator that has been NIOSH rated to filter 95% of particles (0.3 microns or larger) that are NOT oil-based.

EN149FFP1(S) - A European standard for solid aerosol particles and is usable in all outdoor sports, the US equivalent of N95 filtration.

I’ve always enjoyed the street art that has decorated cities. My favorite kinds have full-blown color and culture or have been cleverly placed to bring some humor to the streets (Banksy).

Graffiti/Tag SW AtlantaAcross the street from AchooAllergy.com are train tracks where freight cars pass by throughout day. Sometimes after work, I get to watch the trains go by carrying along tagged boxcars, some belonging to longtime artists, and some belonging to beginners who have not set their style yet. Watching the boxcars pass by yesterday, I started to wonder if they use masks while they paint.

I searched online for a while, looking for forums or sites that got specific on masks for this purpose. After finding few resources on this topic, I decided to write this blog for friends and artists who were looking for the right mask.

It is easy to think that since you are outdoors, a mask might not be necessary. While it's true that working outside, fumes from paint dissipate more quickly, it's easy to forget that you arms are not quite as long as you think. Street Art - Masks to Block Paint Fumes But, if you consider that paint is literally being applied just a couple feet from your face, it becomes a little easier to recognize a mask, even outdoors, can only help. Wearing a mask can help keep the neurotoxins and paint fumes from being inhaled while working on a piece. Here are a few that may be suitable for your painting adventures!

Respro Techno Mask
A neoprene mask from the UK conforming to the EN149FFP1(S) filtration standard, the Techno has layers of particle filter media as well as Dynamic Activated Charcoal Cloth (ACC). This filters out dust, odors, benzene, pyrene, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, lead oxide, and black smoke. Filters will last about 60 hours (so about a month), and replacements sell as a pack of two.

Respro Bandit Mask
Made of cotton with Dynamic ACC laminated in between, it makes for a great mask to fend off urban pollution while covering your face and neck. This mask is hand washable and effective for around six months. You can leave it loose or use the secondary strap to pull in the lower portion of the mask to tighten up against the jaw. It comes in red or blue… This might be a good time to remind folks to pay attention to your environment and your choice in mask colors.

Vogmasks
Coming out of southern San Francisco, these masks are unique in their design and color. A soft cotton shell, extra soft hems, and ear loops makes extended time wearing them comfortable, while the colors make the masked artist look more approachable than with other mask options that I have seen.
These protect you from non-oil based particles, pathogens, dust, pollen and other contaminants. Our Classic microfiber Vogmasks are 3-ply with a middle filter later. For the best protection of any Vogmask, the new N99 CV Vogmask meets the NIOSH N99 standards. With active carbon and an N99 layer, the CV also has an exhale valve and comes in even more vibrant colors than the Classic Vogmask.

3M 6291 & 6391 HEPA Masks
Although a bit bulky, this P100 rated respirator is ideal for working with oil-based aerosols. The pink round filters capture 99.97% (HEPA standard)of liquid and aerosol particles, pathogens (influenza strains such as Avian Flu, SARS, etc.), dust, pollen and mold. It is the warmest to wear, but it also provides the best filtration of the masks listed.
Other NIOSH approved filter options that you can purchase separately for the 6291/6391 mask are the 3M 6006 Multi Gas Vapor Cartridge (for chlorine, hydrogen chloride, chlorine dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide escape only, ammonia/methylamine, formaldehyde and hydrogen fluoride) and the 3M 6001 Organic Vapor Cartridge (for Xylene, Benzene, paint fumes, pesticides and myriad of other industrial solvents). All of these filters will last about 60 hours, and you can always switch filter types as needed.

I hope that street artists in the Southeast will find this blog and use our masks to create some more street art in Atlanta this summer!

Street Art - San Francisco InstagramWear a Mask - The Mustache is a Clever Touch

Author: R. Power

Tags: Masks
Posted by kevvyg on Monday, April 14, 2014
It’s been a beautiful transition this year from a cold winter to a blooming spring. For some, it’s exciting and relieving to ditch the scarves and coats and make room for sunglasses and sandals. For others it’s a forecast of congestion, runny noses and sneezing.

AllergyCapitals.com lists the worst cities in the US for allergies based on the pollen counts, number of OTC/prescription medications per patient, and number of board-certified allergists per patient. The most current list below:
  1. Louisville, KY
  2. Flowering Dogwoods - NOT On The List, But Hey, They're Easy On The Eyes!Memphis, TN
  3. Baton Rouge, LA
  4. Oklahoma City, OK
  5. Jackson, MS
  6. Chattanooga, TN
  7. Dallas, TX
  8. Richmond, VA
  9. Birmingham, AL
  10. McAllen, TX
Don't see your city on this list? Don't worry, the culprits behind early spring allergies are often trees. Here's the list of the "usual suspects" for this time of year.
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Box elder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Pecan
  • Willow
While you can’t stay indoors all season long, taking preventative steps such as avoiding outdoor activities on high pollen days and purchasing OTC medicines can subdue allergic reactions. If yard work must be done, invest in a mask that filters particles such as tree and weed pollen, dust, grass pollen and pet dander. Similar to what a neti pot does, taking showers can help decongest your sinuses while washing away pollen and other allergens that have cling on. If you don’t have time to shower, then a change of clothes will do.
Try to protect yourself, but enjoy this spring’s blooms while you can!

Author: R. Power

100,000 Tulips - Now in Bloom at Cheekwood Botanical Garden - Nashville, TN



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