Now that that's been covered, time to move on to more pressing matters. From dogwoods and oaks to all manner of tree and bush, plants are shaking off their winter slumber and springing back to life - dumping pollen into the air. Now it also the time when those articles start popping up all over the place, "Worst Allergy Season - EVER!". I do sometimes wonder, has someone with allergies ever went through a spring and thought, "Hhhmmmm.... not bad!" The reality is, this is how spring allergies are going to go.
While this winter was harsh enough to push the start of allergy season further into the year, the very wet nature of this winter is likely to mean high pollen counts. So while the spring allergy season is likely to be a little shorter than recent years, don't expect the trend of increased pollen counts and intensity to take a break.
With all this being said, what can you do in terms of relief?
There are several places to start, but we almost always recommend the bedroom. You'll spend more time here (typically 6-8 hours sleeping) than any other room in the home. Here are some quick hitter solutions to getting a better night's sleep while the pollen flies.
Air - With warmer temperatures, many of us are likely to want to open the window. I know for myself, as soon as the temperature creeps above 60° or so, my windows are open. With allergies, you can either keep the windows closed or try something like a window filter. While these don't offer HEPA filtration (to do so would completely block airflow), they do a great deal of the pollen in the air. The other item that can help clear up your indoor air is a HEPA air purifier. Something like an Austin air purifier is a simple way to remove the allergens. The HEPA/carbon filter lasts years before needing to be replaced, and the controls are simple.
Floors - Your floors are often the final resting place of allergens, including dust, dander, mold spores, and pollen. While you can trap a great deal of this particulate with an air purifier, you're still likely to track allergens in. Regardless of flooring type, you can not only keep them looking good but free of allergens with a high quality HEPA vacuum cleaner. When considering a HEPA vac, keep in mind quality. You often get what you pay for, and lower quality vacuums can leak and simply redistribute allergens instead of actually removing and trapping them.
Clothes - When the pollen counts are high, it's literally sticking to your clothes and then being brought into your home. Many find themselves washing their laundry more frequently. While regular washing can greatly reduce allergens trapped in your clothes, an anti-allergy laundry detergent can denature protein allergens that escape the normal wash cycle. Ecology works produces a plant-based detergent that is gentle of clothes, free of dyes and added fragrance, ultimately making it easier on your skin.
Outdoors - Avoid going out on days when the pollen count is going to be exceptionally high. This is easier said than done for many, but an allergy mask can make a big difference in blocking pollen and other allergens while you're outdoors. Though it can be a little dreary, right after a light rain, pollen levels in the air can dip, so this might not be a bad time to get some of your outdoor activities knocked out.
Medication - Antihistamines are the soup du jour when it comes to combating allergies. While most people take these AFTER they begin to experience symptoms, most allergists actually recommend you being taking them just prior to the onset of the allergy season. These help by tamping down the immune response to pollen - inflammation. There are over the counter as well as more powerful prescription antihistamines available, and a quick stop by your local board certified allergist can give you a better idea of which route to go. Or, you can always try OTC methods first, and if relief is still elusive, consult your doctor for more options.
Do you have any tips or hints you'd like to share? Leave a comment or send us an email at email@example.com. Otherwise stay tuned for another potential Easter Bunny sighting.
Author: K. Gilmore
What are some hidden sources of allergens that I may be overlooking in my home?- submitted by Stephanie C.
Potted Plants can be a nice touch to the home. Unfortunately, they have the potential to become a breeding ground for mold. Standing water and decaying leaves are the primary sources. Frequent pruning as well as plastic pot liners (kept dry and clean) will help decrease the likelihood of mold growth. Finally, an artificial plant may be a wise alternative.
Rugs and Drapes can be a haven for animal dander and dust mites. The dust mite thrives in dark, warm and humid areas and feast on the shed scales of human skin. The optimum solution is for the removal of the carpet and replacing drapes with mini-blinds. This allows for fewer hidden allergens and an easier surfaces to clean. In situations where this is not feasible, frequent vacuuming (2-3x/wk) with a HEPA filtered vacuum and controlling humidity (35-40%) will decrease both dust mite and indoor mold.
Bedding and stuffed animals are also significant reservoirs for dust mites and animal dander. Encasing the mattress and pillow has proven to be one of the most important maneuvers in reducing indoor allergen exposure.
Washing your bedding in hot water and minimizing the number of stuffed animals is also a must. Washing stuffed animals in hot water or freezing them has proven effective as well.
Air conditioner/central air ducts are also a source of hidden allergens. Having your ducts cleaned every 3-4 years is the current recommendation. Placing air vent filters has shown to be very effective in minimizing the circulation of indoor allergens throughout the home.
What are some tips about how to clean properly/more thoroughly?- submitted by Stephanie C.
Cleaning without providing proper allergen barriers for yourself is a common mistake. Often allergy symptoms can be delayed to the cleaner and you do not realize the impact until its too late.
Wearing a dust mask, gloves, and goggles particularly with the heavier cleaning, is a good idea. Showering immediately after cleaning is also helpful.
The old-time feather duster should not be used in cleaning as this simply relocates and stirs up dust. Obviously this can be provoking to the allergy sufferer.
Cleaning/dusting should be done with a damp cloth or rag or microfiber/electrostatic cloth to better capture allergens.
Use of an older "low efficiency" vacuum can be a provoker of indoor allergies and asthma attacks. While these vacuums are adequate in picking up dust bunnies and visible debris, it does little to remove the common allergenic particles which are too small for this vacuum to capture. What happens? The vacuum essentially shoots allergens into the air.
Fortunately, most newer vacuums have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters which capture allergens such as dust mite, mold, and pet dander.
At this point, I think it's important to bring up a broader issue when it comes to cleaning inside your home. Most of us have traditionally taken the approach that if it looks clean then it is clean. For many people that approach is fine, but anyone dealing with allergies, asthma, COPD, or a compromised immune system, appearances can be deceiving. Instead, it is far better to clean for your health not for appearances. This means keeping in mind some of the tips Dr. Mardiney outlined above as well as taking note of what you are actually use to clean (types of cleaners, cleaning devices, etc.). It also means adjusting your mindset to consider that even though a floor or kitchen countertop may look clean, it could be chalked full of microscopic allergens or bacteria/viruses.
Author: K. Gilmore
Ragweed! What did you think I was talking about? Zombies? Nope, it's ragweed season. You can breathe a collectively sigh of relief that the zombie apocalypse is truly NOT upon us. Well, you could breathe a sigh of relief if your nose wasn't so stuffed up from all of this ragweed pollen.
All kidding aside, ragweed allergy season is here and is likely to stay here for several weeks. While sources like the Weather Channel do seem to particularly enjoy writing a "Worst Allergy Season Ever" article every single year, chances are this year is likely to be about what you'd expect, in other words, pretty average.
Average is pretty good, right? Well, it's certainly better than terrible, but for those who struggle with fall allergies and ragweed season, it will likely feel pretty terrible. Take heart though, each year millions of people are admitted into this club! Aside from taking some solace in the concept of "misery loves company" there are a variety of things you can do to help alleviate symptoms and avoid some of the worst that ragweed allergy season is serving up.
The first major piece of advice is avoidance. This doesn't mean you have to be a shut-in for the next two months. There are a lot of great outdoor events each fall, and now's the time to find some of the best produce at your local outdoor markets. , but what it does mean is you should take note of days when the pollen count is going to be particularly high and adjust your schedule accordingly. Avoidance isn't just for outdoors. Avoidance indoors can mean a variety of things, from removing pollen that is making it into your home to preventing it from getting there in the first place.
In addition to avoidance proper treatment can make a dramatic difference in how you feel during this time of year. From allergy shots to over the counter medication or simply rinsing your sinuses, there are a variety of treatments available that can lessen symptoms or even lower your sensitivity to ragweed pollen.
Over the years we've written quite a bit about ragweed and how to cope with ragweed allergies. So for more information on Ragweed allergies or more importantly, how to limit ragweed allergies, visit our informative Ragweed FAQs page. Here you can find some of the best and easiest way to combat fall allergies. Have a great weekend!
When out on a friend's boat the other day, I noticed that the bottoms of a few seats were starting to freckle with mold. Right away I thought "they need some Vital Oxide spray". This mold remover and disinfectant spray will not only kill the mold with plant-based ingredients, but it will keep the sprayed surface mold free for several months. In this case it should at least get through the summer, but beyond seat cushions, Vital Oxide disinfectant has a wide variety of uses in and around the house. For those backpackers and hikers, this stuff is also safe for hiking boots, sleeping bags, packs, hammocks and tents.
While Vital Oxide takes care of mold once it's already there, a better idea is to try to prevent it before it happens. Your best option for this is a heavy duty dehumidifier. Depending on the local climate, a more permanent installation, like a dehumidifier that ties into the HVAC or a large crawlspace/basement dehumidifier may be your best option, but if you find yourself mainly dealing with excess humidity during the summer months, a room dehumidifier might be a better option.
I have three good options for you. All are effective, but each has something that makes it stand out.
A winner for the 2013 Red Dot Design Award, the Stadler Form Albert dehumidifier places a great deal of emphasis on not looking like your average dehumidifier. From a sleek look and modern design, to a variety of little features and added touches, the Albert is extremely quiet. Noise is often a big problem with many dehumidifiers, but part of fitting in well in any room, the Albert doesn't look or sound like your typical dehumidifier. An LED screen gives you accurate humidity readings in the room, allows you to set a timer, adjust the desired humidity, set your fan speed, and even dim the display at night, while fold-flat, oscillating louvers keep air circulating around the room more efficiently. Expect the Albert to remove about 40-45 pints of moisture per day, depending on conditions. If I had to give star ratings for style and substance on the Albert,
If the performance of the Albert is a little less than what you were looking for, take a look at the Soleus 95 dehumidifier. With the most powerful fan of any residential dehumidifier we carry, it's suitable for drying spaces as large as 1500 sq. ft., and can remove up to 95 pints a day. With a coverage area this large, you could use it in a large, open floor plan cabin or basement. Complete with digital controls to adjust to your unique HomeComfort settings and an automatic shut off with a "Bucket Full" indicator, the Soleus is a lot of power and convenience in one appliance.
So we've covered quiet & stylish as well as large & powerful, and what we have left fits right in between the other two. Danby Premiere dehumidifiers are some of the most dependable and popular home dehumidifiers available. They're basically the dehumidifier equivalent of Baby Bear - just right. The Danby 70 pint has been a huge help in my parent's home, where it is prone to mold in the summers. It's a very low maintenance machine, easy to move around the house, and has auto restart and auto de-icing features. It is also Energy Star rated, and offers coverage good enough for even very large rooms.
These products will give you complete coverage of your home, boat or camping gear, making sure you enjoy your summer, inside or out. Now you can focus more on tan lines and your grilling skills and less on worrying about mold.
Author: R. Power
Many dehumidifiers like the top rated Danby 70 pint come with a humidity gauge built right in, yet many do not, and if you're like me, there may be some level of skepticism as to how reliable those gauges really are. There may also be instances where you are using a crawlspace or basement dehumidifier, and since they often lack digital humidity displays, you're left in the dark as to what is really going on in those spaces. What humidity was it down there before you started using the dehumidifier? What is the humidity now?
One option is to wire a humidity gauge into your home. Some whole-home dehumidifiers like some of the Aprilaire models give you this option, but this can be more expense, time and hassle than you want. You could also pick up an inexpensive humidity gauge like a mini humidity gauge that can be left in the space. That way, each time you check on the dehumidifier you can get a better idea of what the humidity is and if any adjustments are necessary. Another alternative would be the new AcuRite wireless humidity gauge. Similar to the original AcuRite, the newer version offers a wider array of features a larger, more visible display and most significantly, it's wireless. This gauge provides temperature and humidity readings (both indoor and outdoor), as well as time, date, and daily high/low temps and humidity. There are a few other features, that can be considered more "take 'em or leave 'em" like the current moon phase and a freeze warning, but the wireless sensor provides a lot of flexibility that other gauges and weather centers do not. You don't have to drill any tiny holes, just place the sensor where you want your secondary readings, and you're set! For those using a basement or crawlspace dehumidifier that lacks a humidity gauge, this sensor could be placed in those spaces and give you accurate readings without having to actually go down to the basement or spend a super fun time hunkered down in your crawlspace.
If you're using a humidifier during the winter months, the wireless AcuRite again provides you with an accurate humidity reading. This is significant in that than most inexpensive humidifiers lack any type of humidity gauge and use a dial control with settings like "kinda damp" and "super soaker". So maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you get the point.
If you want to read more about this nifty little device, you check it out here. And lastly, it's Friday, so do what I did, and go have ice cream for lunch! (I'd post a better picture, but honestly, the ice cream never stood a chance.)
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Can someone develop and allergy to something they're close to? Specifically, MY pet. Can allergies be that specific?- submitted by Tim B. in St. Louis
Allergy is a genetic disorder that involves reactivity to specific allergens such as dust mite, pollens, and animals to name a few. Unfortunately, allergies can turn on at any time for unknown reasons. It is very common to see a pet owner develop allergy to their pet over time. Relocation of their animal or treatment with medication and possible allergy shots is often necessary.
Is it possible to be allergic to dust but not dust mites? I am on immunotherapy for several different allergens, one was dust. Recently, the FDA has taken away the dust serum and is saying that dust mite serum is the same thing? I was retested for dust mites and didn't have an immediate reaction, but did within 24 hours, a red itchy bump the size of a dime that lasted for several days. The allergy nurse said it was irrelevant because I didn't react right away within 20 minutes. My problem is being symptomatic to dust again since it has been eliminated from my weekly shots. I've been on shots going on two years. Would appreciate any insight or suggestions!- submitted by J. Sullivan
Yes!!! You can be allergic to house dust and not dust mite. House dust is a mixture of many substances including shed human skin, mold, animal hair and dander, fibers, and dust mite and its excrement. The amount of each can vary from home to home. The significance of Late Phase skin test responses to an airborne allergen such as dust mite has long been controversial. Despite the lack of conclusive data, many allergists consider a delayed response to be significant. This is based on the known fact that the allergic response is made up of an early phase [immediate up to 30 minutes] followed by a more prolonged late phase reaction. The late phase typically occurs 4-8 hours after exposure but can occur even later in some circumstances. Based on this data it can be extrapolated that a delayed response up to 24 hours could be relevant.
Every allergist has their own style and protocol as to what they may remove from serum after a retest. Typically I do not remove an allergen that has shown significant reactivity on previous testing.
Finally, If you seem to be more clinically sensitive to dust.... it may be necessary for your allergist to review your allergy serum makeup and increase the individual components (such as dust mite, mold etc.) that you may have lost with the removal of house dust from your serum.
To see all of our Dr. Mardiney's Answered FAQ's or to view allergy questions answered by Dr. Frank.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Pet Allergy Solutions
Dust Mite Solutions
First I thought, uh-oh, I don’t want to catch that! But then I realized, it could be allergies. But wouldn’t the rain settle the pollen that’s making my friends congested? Not necessarily, quite the contraire mademoiselle (I’m learning French. Je suis Françoise d’apprentissage) . Heavy rain can spread pollen particles by fracturing them, making them more numerous and lighter in weight. When the rain is gone, these now slimmer and trimmer pollen particles become airborne once again, impacting your allergies worse than before the rain.
How are you going to enjoy the weather and control your pollen/seasonal allergies? It’s the time of the year to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and dresses! Here are few ways to have the best of both worlds.
- Safe Guard Window Filters - These wonderful window filters keep out dust, pollen, and other allergens, so you can breathe fresher, purer air all year long. These filters eliminate 92% of ragweed pollen and capture a variety of allergens and irritants that can wreak havoc on seasonal allergy sufferers. These window filters are available in 2 sizes with extensions to fit almost any width of window. If you already have some, you can now replace your window filter cartridges in them with little more than a phillips screwdriver and about five minutes of your time!
- Check the Allergy Forecast - Check the pollen count in your area. Just like a weather forecast you can check the pollen index levels, as well as what trees are causing the most pollen. This can help you do a little planning ahead of time for outdoor activities.
- Take Off Your Shoes - I think leaving your shoes at the door is generally a better way to keep the carpet cleaner, but during allergy season you can tracks massive amounts of pollen throughout your home. Ever notice yellow shoe prints? If nothing else, you can always slip on a pair of sandals.
- Don't Forget Your Pets! - Our furry friends can also track in pollen and other allergens, but unlike us, they likely don't have shoes to take off. With pets one of the easiest ways to keep them clean between baths and remove pollen, dirt and other debris with with pet wipes. These thick, handy wipes remove allergens and other debris, and if you want to take things a step further, try AllerPet. This safe, non-toxic cleanser is simply applied with a damp cloth between baths. The formula denatures allergens like pollen and dander, and is even perfectly safe for puppies and kittens.
- Change Your Clothes - When you come home, changing your clothes will help keep your allergic reactions down by preventing pollen from spreading throughout the house.
- Showers - Taking a shower at night will help rinse off any pollen that you’ve collected during the day. This will also keep pollen out of your sheets so you won’t be waking up to congestion and water eyes.
Author: R. Power
First and foremost, you should try to limit your exposure. For many outdoor tasks this can mean squeezing them into different parts of the day when pollen levels and air quality is better. Typically, mornings are good since dew can help to keep pollen from becoming airborne, winds are generally lighter, and overall air quality is at its best. However, if you're outdoors, remember a few things. A quality allergy mask can be handy to have. Most are lightweight; many are washable; and all can help to prevent you from breathing in pollen while you're outdoors. When outdoors, wear something that you plan on taking off or changing when you go indoors. This means that when you're done, remove your shoes, jacket, hat, etc. at the door and set them aside. Just because there is pollen outside doesn't mean you should have to deal with it indoors as well. Once inside, wash up! If you're doing a more strenuous outdoor activity, you may not want to wear a mask, but if this is the case, flush your sinuses when you’re finished. This can rinse away any allergens trapped in your nose or nasal passages and remove the source of the irritation.
Moving indoors, remember to vacuum! Just one walk to the mailbox outside is enough for me to leave greenish-yellow tracks on the rug at my front door. Vacuuming and dusting with sealed system, HEPA vacuum cleaner can keep spring pollen from started at your front door and being dispersed throughout your home. If you were considering a Miele HEPA vacuum, now might be a good time to choose one. In addition to Free Express Delivery (all but one model delivers in 1 or 2 business days), when you buy now you can get a year's worth of vacuum bags for free! The Miele filterbag trap all visible particles and features 9-ply filtration to remove large allergens while the certified HEPA filter removes all of the rest from not only your floors but also the air in your home.
Lastly, using a HEPA air purifier in your bedroom and can make all the difference in how well you sleep. We have long been proponents of creating a space in your home that is allergy friendly, and since most people spend more time in the bedroom than any other room, it is the best place to start! A high quality air purifier can filter out and trap common allergens like dust mites, dander, dust, and yes, pollen. Generally, it is best to set the air purifier on a low or medium setting and let it quietly do its work through the day and night.
While these things cannot cure your allergies, combined, they can go a very long ways toward reducing your exposure and limiting symptoms during this trying part of the year. To help you feel better and breathe easier, not only are we offering the free filterbags with each Miele vacuum, but we're also going to give away a Vornado HEPA Air Purifier! Sleek and powerful, the AC500 uses two HEPA filters and two activated carbon prefilters to remove large visible particles as well as pollen, dust and common household allergens. With four fan speeds, digital controls, replacement indicators and a five year warranty, this HEPA air purifier is effective, simply to operate and bound to provide years of allergy relief.
Using Rafflecopter, we're offering you several ways to enter, retweet, share on Facebook, etc. It's up to you how many chances you'd like to win, but sharing is caring! (And it's also a good way to increase your chances of winning!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway Author: KevvyG
I am headed off to enjoy the sunshine, beach and rainforests of Costa Rica! We will be traveling to the Guanacaste region where it will be dry with little rain during this time of year. This is also means I will be packing and planning for this five day trip abroad. If you deal with allergies, asthma, sensitive skin or any health condition really, you should always make sure to pack what you will need. You cannot always rely on certain things being available at your destination. Aside from givens like medication, specialized items you use or things you just can't travel without (favorite pillow), here are a few things I will be bringing:
This will help me snooze through the four hour flight down to Costa Rica. It’ll keep me warmer than the blankets they supply on airplanes. Plus, it will be nice to use my own organic blanket rather than a blanket that’s been kept in a plastic bag for who knows how long. Call me a germaphobe, but just how many people use an airline blanket before it is replaced?
Sometimes the air in airplanes dries out my nose and throat, making for an uncomfortable flight. I’m going to bring along a Silk comfort mask to make breathing a little easier and have a barrier between me and the air conditioning on the plane.
This is ideal for all of the water activities we have planned for our trip, and can be used on both face and body. This sunscreen is water resistant, so I don't have to reapply it every time I get in the ocean. With non-toxic ingredients ideal for those with fair or sensitive skin, I will feel relieved to know that I’m not contaminating water and marine life with PABA (once a common ingredient in sunscreen, now known for its "carcinogenic potential" as Environmental Working Group defines it), preservatives, benzophenones, dyes, fragrance or formaldehyde releasers.
These are perfect travel components for my dust mite allergies and a range of other allergies (pollen, mold, or pet dander). They fold up neatly, take up almost no space, are easy to pack and can be used on any pillow, available in all common sizes. I have two of these with me for this trip, so no matter how old the pillows I'll be sleeping on are, with these I've one less thing to worry about!
Hopefully I’ll have some stories and a tan when I get back!
Author: R. Power
Though, I suppose if you want to get technical about it, Atlanta Allergy & Asthma posts daily pollen counts, and we've already seen a few days over 900. For nearly two weeks straight in April of 2013, pollen counts stayed 1600. Yellow tree pollen was everywhere, on vehicles, clothing, even my dog! So, 900 is pretty bad for those allergic to tree pollens, but not quite as severe as April of last year, yet....
If I buy into the hype, I would say, this spring pollen season will be the worst pollen season ever! While some entities (*cough! the Weather Channel *cough!) seem certain we're in for the worst allergy season on record, this same entity also warns us pretty regularly during the winter that any inch of snow is probably the worst inch of snow ever! Then again.... they were kinda right about that whole ice storm thing in February. Yes, that one, the one that had me sacking out on the couch at work because stranded motorists had the streets so clogged that even after six hours of trying tens of roads and one trip to the Scottish Rite Children's Hospital (a stranded family needed a lift), I simply could not get past all of the stuck vehicles. Then there was a 2011 study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that confirmed what anecdotal evidence has been pointing to for some time now - for parts of North America, ragweed season is lasting longer and ending up to a month later. Frankly, I'm not sure which is more troubling, a longer allergy season or the Weather Channel being right!
All kidding aside, Spring 2014 is shaping up to pretty miserable for a lot of people coping with allergies. High precipitation during the winter has primed much of the country for pollen to literally "pop" in the next couple weeks. Much like a party popper, many people are likely high pollen counts. In my case, the city will begin to look like a giant pollen-filled piñata just exploded above the city of Atlanta and is raining down yellow-green sneezy-treats.
In preparation for this, we've seen a fairly steady stream of visitors to the store, and most of them are looking for the same three items - Allergy Masks, window filters, and HEPA air purifiers. These three items can make a big difference in how spring allergies affect you, and all three have one thing in common - they filter the air you breathe. Masks are popular, especially if you have a yard or garden to tend to. Even something as simple as walking your dog this time of year can bring misery if you have allergies, but a minimum of an N95 rated or equivalent mask can block pollen, dust and other spring allergens.
Window filters are also very popular. After being cooped up for a winter like the one most of us have just struggled through, it is hard to resist the temptation to open the windows and let a warm spring breeze in. Unfortunately that spring breeze can also carry a great deal of tree, grass and weed pollen. Window filters block the majority of this pollen, and while they do cut down on some airflow, they allow many to open the windows with less worry. When you've tried your best to keep the pollen out, but like a persistent door-to-door encyclopedia salesman it keeps finding its way into your home, a HEPA air purifier can keep parts of your home free of pollen and allergens. Generally, it is best to place it in the bedroom and keep the door closed. Most people spend the majority of all the time they are in their homes, in the bedroom sleeping, so it is ideal to make at least this space clean and free of allergens.
Short of moving to the Arctic circle, spring pollen season can affect you in any region of the country. So now is the time to start preparing for what probably be better than the last few months of the snow and ice, but... not by a lot.
What can I say? I've got a lot of spring cheer!
Author: Kevin Gilmore