AchooAllergy.com Blog

Allergy tips


Posted by kevvyg on Friday, April 11, 2014
Not Dust. Not Bird Doo-Doo.  Pollen!Spring allergy season is fully upon us in many parts of the country. Locally, Atlanta has seen an average pollen count of 2,624 for each of the last nine days! As usual tree pollen is the primary culprit early in the season. If the iPhone was just a little better, I could have shared an image of a literal cloud of pollen blowing off the pines this weekend! So with all this going on what can you do? Sitting indoors during this beautiful part of the year, though not attractive, is an option. Medication is readily available, but many people don't like dealing with the side effects. Here are three simple products and tasks to help keep allergies under better control during this difficult time of the year.

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.

Two Free Boxes of Filterbags with Each Miele Marin VacuumMoving 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.

Vornado AC500 HEPA Air PurifierWhile 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

Posted by R. Power on Friday, April 04, 2014

When Traveling Keep in Mind Your NeedsI 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:

Organic Cotton Twin Blanket

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?

Silk Comfort Mask

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.

Vanicream Sunscreen SPF 35 Sport

This is ideal for all of the water activities we have planned for our trip, and can be used on both face and body. Don't Forget the Sunscreen!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.

Allergy Armor Pillow Covers

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



Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Despite the wind and snow that has continually harassed much of the country this winter, for many areas of the country, spring is here! Personally, every year I definitively mark the start of spring here in Atlanta, and that day was yesterday. How can I predict this better than any meteorologist on the planet you ask? It's easy! I own a black truck, so the first time I see tiny specks of yellow/green dust on it, I know spring has arrived.

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! Don't Be Caught Unprepared, Otherwise You End Up Using A Spatula As An Ice Scraper And Relying On A Gift of Rock Salt to Pull You ThroughWhile 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 Respro Allergy Mask - Whitepiñata 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. No Soliciting.... or Pollen!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

Posted by R. Power on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Easter Lillies?  Daffodils?  Either way, I like the way they look and smell!Now is the time to start planning your gardens, whether they are in your backyard, in pots on your porch or planters on your window sill! It’s also time for plants to start budding and flowering, which leads to pollen dispersal, and ultimately spring allergy season. But don’t fret if you cope with allergies or asthma and want to garden and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor.

While allergies will vary from person to person, I’ve found a variety of plants that are considered "allergy safe" by Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This list of possible plants gives you a horticultural balance in creating a more allergy friendly garden.

Flowering Dogwood TreeTrees: Apple, Cherry, Chinese Fan Palms, Fern Pine, Dogwood, English Holly, Hardy Rubber Tree, Magnolia, Pear*, Plums and Red Maples.

Shrubs: Azalea, Boxwood*, English Yew, Hibiscus, Hydrangea and Viburnum.

Grasses: St. Augustine

Flowering plants: Begonia, Cactus, Chenille, Clematis, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil*, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Geranium, Hosta, Impatiens, Iris, Lily, Pansy, Periwinkle, Petunia, Phlox, Rose, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Thrift, Tulip, Verbena, and Zinnia

*These are plants that I know tend to have strong or distinct scents. This may be problematic for those with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or who don’t care for overly fragrant flowers.

Here are some combinations for any kind of garden.

Iris in BloomLawn:
  • Dogwoods + azaleas + crocus + St. Augustine grass
  • Cherry Tree + boxwoods + tulips
  • Dogwood + St. Augustine grass + periwinkles
  • Dogwood + hostas + phlox
Pots:
  • Cacti garden (hard to combine succulents, which hardly need water, with plants that may need it daily)
  • Chenille + zinnias (butterflies love these)
  • Geraniums (hummingbirds love these)
As a couple final reminders for gardening with allergies, try to get out early. Pollen counts soar as the day wears on. Make sure to where an N95 allergy mask while outside and to wash up and change clothes after you’re done gardening. Have a beautiful spring with these plants, and your gardening, and send us pictures on our Facebook page or twitter if you feel inspired!

Author: R. Power

Posted by Rachel on Friday, January 24, 2014
In the first month of 2014, a lot has already happened. Amongst the news about the "polar vortex" and political drama, my family and I will be welcoming a new family member! My older brother in Mexico City and his amor will be welcoming their first daughter this spring. This gives us some time to prepare for just about everything, from her name to what kind of baby shoes we get to dress her in! Being born in the spring and in the year of the horse, means that she will have strong leadership skills, passion, kindness, and great intelligence. She will also have gorgeous luscious hair, thanks to my mother.

So, what will we spoil her with? With Mexico City being located in the Valley of Mexico, the 3 mountain ranges that surround the valley trap all of the air pollution produced by the heavily populated city. With all of the ozone and nitrogen oxide pollutants, it seems like an air purifier would be the perfectly practical gift.

I like the Austin Air Baby's Breath, and here are three good reasons why.
  • Austin Air Baby's Breath HEPA Air PurifiersLow Maintenance Filters - Austin Air Purifiers have a great reputation for their low maintenance filters. The all-in-one filter only need to be changed every 3-5 years, which is a great feature because with a new born, this will be one less thing to worry about and one less credit card charge to have.
  • Excellent Pollution Filtration - The Baby’s Breath filters are great for particle and chemical absorption thanks to its medical grade HEPA filter and HEGA (High efficiency gas absorption) cloth carbon filter. This filter system will remove air borne particulates such as bacteria and viruses while absorbing VOCs and pollutants.
  • Quiet, But Not Silent - It’s hard to find peace and quiet in the hustle and bustle of a city. Though the Baby’s Breathe’s motor fan is insulated by the four layers of filter media, it does create a small amount of white noise which helps block out any city noise you may hear at night or during nap time. Do mother’s get a nap time too?
Next on the baby list, I want to make sure that my future niece is in an environment that is not dependent on harsh cleaning chemicals. Luckily, we have a variety of cleaning products that are plant based and will not cause allergic reactions or skin irritations.

EcoDiscoveries Natural Cleaners EcoDiscoveries Are Safe, Plant Based Green Cleanersare plant based cleaners that use enzymes to clean just about anything in your house. The surfactants, citric acid and soil emulsifiers are all plant derived ingredients used to keep your nursery safe and clean. With babies exploring and putting their mouths on just about everything and anything, you can have some peace of mind knowing that your baby isn’t licking up harsh chemicals.

A lot of thought went into the design of these mattresses. Cornered edges and welded (not sewn) seams provide comfort and an aesthetically pleasing design all while preventing dust mites and bacterial growth. Starlight support baby mattresses are waterproof, fire resistant, and hypoallergenic and are sized for bassinets, changing tables, cradles or cribs. For my new niece to get the best sleep, I’d opt for the Starlight Support Crib Mattress.

When my future niece is going out in the sun to play in any of Mexico City’s beautiful parks or on a beach vacation, she’s going to be using Vanicream Sunscreen. It’s a safe sunscreen for all ages, and has titanium oxide and since oxide as active ingredients. There are no harsh chemicals or allergy triggers like nickel or nut derivatives, and it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Vanicream is great for young children and others with sensitive skin and those with eczema or any allergies to perfumes and preservatives. Vanicream specializes in a variety of products for people with sensitive skin, from shampoo and conditioner, soaps, bath oil and moisturizers.

So far I think this is a great starting point for a healthy newborn. I’ve taken care of the her nursery with clean air and plant based cleaners, and will also be able to keep her safe from too much sun with without worrying about preservatives, fragrances or other harsh chemicals common in sunscreen. Now I’m just counting down the days until my little niece gets here!

Author: Rachel P.

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, January 23, 2014
Tax Deductible Home Renovations Are Nothing to Sneeze At!As if we all needed a reminder, tax time is just around the corner! Time to dig up all those receipts and schedule an appointment with your local CPA or tax preparer. Even through the interwebs, I can tell you're just as excited about this as I am!

On a serious note, this time of year is perfect for looking at how making a change around your house just might something that can help you with your taxes. If you have allergies, asthma or more severe respiratory disease, a doctor's prescription might be just what you needed to lower your bill with Uncle Sam. How you ask? Check out this article that I put together after speaking with a CPA in the local Atlanta area and see how your home renovation for allergies or asthma might be tax deductible.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, December 20, 2013
One Saturday morning, Marsha and I decided to make a breakfast of champions - French Toast, fresh-squeezed orange juice and bacon. We had our grocery list ready with bread, bacon, eggs, cinnamon, oranges, and almond milk. "Why almond milk?" I asked, and she replied, "It's what I use because I'm lactose intolerant."

Almond milk is a great milk substitute (1 cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 1 g of fiber and 30-40 calories!), with omega-3 fatty acids (important for mental health) and no lactose. Not only is it a great dairy milk alternative, but it also is helpful for those trying to reduce heart disease risks and watch their cholesterol intake.

So what is lactose intolerance? The Mayo Clinic explains lactose intolerance is due to the lack of lactase in the small intestine. This enzyme bonds to lactose molecules and breaks them down into glucose and galactose (simple sugars), to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Without lactase, foods with lactose move along unprocessed, thus leading to tummy aches and problems.

So Marsha can't enjoy pizza, quesadillas, crème brûlée or French toast, unless she puts a non-lactose spin on it. Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day, so I decided to share Marsha's favorite breakfast recipe. Bon Appétit!

French Toast (6 Pcs.)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/4 C. Almond Milk or 1 C. Almond Milk & 1/4 C. Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Sprinkle of Cinnamon
  • 6 Slices of Bread
  • Coconut Oil or Vegetable Oil (Anything other than butter)
Whisk the first four ingredients into a medium mixing bowl until well blended. Warm the pan to medium to low heat. Take your bread of choice and dip into the mix, until the bread is almost completely saturated with the mix.

Next, place a knife’s tip of coconut oil on the pan and let it melt, which it quickly will, and spread over the pan. Place one slice in the pan, and let it cook on each side for about a minute and a half or brown to taste. Keeping the heat low can help to avoid burning your toast and scorching the oil.

Enjoy this delicious French Toast with fruit, powdered sugar (my mom uses blueberry sauce and powdered sugar) or maple syrup.

Come back and check out how we make crème brûlée sans heavy cream!

[Editor's Note: We would have a wonderful picture of this delicious French Toast, but our author ate it all. Poor show, Ms. Power, poor show.]

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Well yesterday I had written a very nice, long post about winter time allergies, but alas, technology was not kind to me at all yesterday. So here is take two.

Over the last couple of weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that the calendar has clearly forgot to tell the weather that winter doesn't officially start for a couple more weeks. Snow Sends People Inside... Unless You're TenWith all but six states in the U.S. having snow on the ground, it is a safe bet that there are a lot more people spending time indoors. During this time of year, it is actually common for people to experience worse allergy and asthma symptoms. Though most offending plants are dead or nearly dead, mold spore counts can be high from decaying fall foliage, cold weather induced asthma ramps up, and lower humidity inside your home can mean more dust. Because most modern homes are very tightly sealed, indoor pollutants and allergens build, so for some, the more time you spend indoors, the worse your allergies seem to get. Keeping all of this in mind, here are some top-to-bottom tips to get your home allergy ready for winter.
  • Furnace Filters - Starting in most people's basement, the furnace or HVAC filter is often the first line of defense against dust and other indoor allergens. Ductwork can be a hotbed for dust, pollen and microbes, and firing up the furnace for the first time can flush all of this out into the air you breathe. Traditional furnace filters should be changed at least every three months. Generally by this point, they've filtered all they can really hold and are likely seriously impeding air flow. If you have a permanent or semi-permanent filter, like a Permatron, now is a good time to rinse/wash it. Either way, cleaning or replacing your furnace filter is a good first step in reducing indoor allergens.

  • Laundry - Do you use any sort of anti-allergen detergents or laundry additives? It is a good idea to stock up. Things like wearing layers, having family visit/stay with you, and unpacking winter clothes or winter bedding can all contribute to a lot more laundry. And for those things that may have been in storage, like your winter comforter or favorite "ugly sweater," Washing them before you first use is always a good way to get rid of any dust or odor they may have picked up.

  • Fireplace or Burning Wood - Though I'm not sure how many people still grow up like I did, primarily heating your home with wood, wood burners and fireplaces can quickly foul up the air in a house. From not properly managing the draft and flue to simply needing to have the chimney cleaned, there can be a variety of causes of this. A mask with carbon and air purifiers can help with some of this, particularly when you're starting or stoking a fire.

  • Replacing Air Purifier Filters - The times when you need to replace your air purifier filters will vary. Some filters last years, like an Austin Air filter, while other may only last you a couple months, like 3M Filtrete filter. For air purifiers to keep your indoor air clean, overlooking filter replacement can present a serious roadblock. Check your user's manual, or if it's a model you've purchased from us, check out site to see when you need to replace the filter. Keeping your HEPA filter current can really help in reducing allergens in your bedroom and throughout your home.

  • Pets - As you spend more time indoors, so to do your pets. This can mean more hair, more dander, and more sneezing! Regular baths help, but bathing too frequently can cause more problems than what you solve. Humidity levels are generally lower during the winter, so more frequent baths can strip away the oils that your pet produces to keep its skin and fur healthy as well as lead to things like doggie-dandruff and lot of itching and scratching. In between baths, things like pet wipes and AllerPet can really make a difference. AllerPet denatures the proteins found in dander to neutralize these allergens without bathing. Pet wipes are a quick and handy way to cleanse away loose pet hair and dander from your pet's winter coat. And don't forget to brush! Winter coats are often thicker, and this can mean more pet hair floating around your home.

  • Extra Mattress or Duvet Covers are Handy for PetsBedding - Many of us put our winter clothing and bedding away when spring rolls around, and when you dig it out for winter, it can sometimes be dusty, have an odor, or best of all, have critters! For bedding and clothing that's been stored away, washing it before you use it can be very helpful. Comforters and blankets, in particular, can be hotbeds for dust mites, so once through the washer and dryer (with hot water and at high heat, respectively) can go a long way in keeping allergens out of your bed. Additionally, if you're like me and enjoy having a foot warmer during winter, (also known as my dog) an extra dust mite mattress or duvet cover simply thrown over your bedding can block the dander and the pet hair that your furry friends often carries.

  • Vacuum - If you have a replaceable HEPA filter, when was the last time you checked it? Generally about one year is all the use you get from a vacuum HEPA filter, and often if you are noticing odor when you are vacuuming it can be because you need to replace the filter or the dust bag. Replacing these components at regular intervals can not only keep the surfaces and the air in your home cleaner (provided you have a sealed system, certified HEPA vacuum), but also reduce strain on the motor and keep this handy home appliance performing at its best.

Now, there are more things you can do to reduce winter time allergens, like using a home humidifier to keep the relative humidity comfortable (also helps to keep airborne dust levels down), but these are a good place to start. If you want to sum this up, winter time is basically a really good time to check up on and maintain the things in your home that reduce indoor allergens. By keeping them in good working order, they can each do their job effectively and help to make your time indoors easier.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Part of my Thanksgiving holiday was spent tackling a chore that I really don't like this time of year - raking leaves. I love trees as much as the next tree hugger but after having mulched up and filled over two dozen bags worth of leaves, I dread stiff breezes. The yard will be clean then along comes the wind to spoil it. Aside from the hassle that fall leaves present, they can and do lead to bigger problems when left to lay where they fall. What's the problem you ask?

After I Raked Away the Leaves, I Got A Surprise.  No, It's Not SnowSunday I was raking up an area on the side of the house. I often neglect it simply because it's a smaller space, but it does tend to fill with maple and oak leaves as well as pine needles. When I was done, it was nearly dark, but I noticed white splotches on the ground. No, it's not snow. It was entirely too warm for that... Mold!

Mold spores are all around us, and given the right conditions, mold can quickly turn from spores to actively growing colonies. Fall leaves often present the perfect opportunity for mold growth. The dead leaves provide the perfect cellulose based food source, and when enough of them fall in any area, they form an insulating barrier over the soil. This barrier helps to trap warmth but more importantly moisture, which is critical for mold growth. In this situation, all of the conditions for mold growth are set, oxygen, food, and moisture.

This type of scenario is fairly common during this time of year, regardless of where you live in the U.S. Actively growing mold colonies can create problems for anyone but particularly those who deal with allergies and asthma. The substances produced by mold colonies can range from the benign to the toxic and cause symptoms that can include dermatitis, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, red eyes and wheezing. So what can you do?

Well, the easy approach is stay holed up for the winter and "much like the bear do," sleep your way through winter. For most of us though, that notion is nothing more than a pleasant fiction. Besides, by the time spring rolls around, you'll still be dealing with mold. Removing it can be simple enough, provided you have the time and the right tools. Raking up and bagging leaves is the tried and true way to remove much of this problem, but while you're doing so, there are a couple of things you should do to reduce your exposure to mold.

I always wear gloves. It's not because I have delicate hands, but there can be a variety of decaying leaves, pine needles and other debris that can range from being bone dry to gelatinous mush. Second, I always wear a mask. Something as basic as an N95 respirator can effectively block mold spores.

Even when the weather is dry, there can be, and still often is, mold lurking under the leaves or pine needles. Dust is also a concern under these conditions. I often mulch the leaves into a bagger before dumping them into a refuse bag, and I'm Certain I Could Shake the Rest of the Leaves Out With This! this can create a LOT of dust. Any time I do not wear a mask, my throat and nose will feel "funny" for a while afterwards. It's some odd mix of dry but congested and feeling like I inhaled sand. I also change my clothes before and after to also help keep from bringing the dust and mold spores inside and spreading them all over the house.

Generally, if you can manage to keep the leaves and pine needles picked up, you will go a long way towards reducing the mold or fungus that can pop up in your yard or garden. Now, if I could only figure out a way to shake the hell out of those trees to get the last of the leaves off.....

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by Rachel P. on Sunday, November 17, 2013
This week's blog will not be as cute or cuddly as my previous blog. Today I'm going to discuss the difference between dust mites and bed bugs. I've had many calls and questions about dust mites and bed bugs and how to treat them. However, people often use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different pests! So here of some of the major differences between the two.

Dust Mites
House dust mites are tiny arachnids (kin to spiders and scabies), commonly found in carpets, mattresses and upholstered furniture. At about 0.25-.3 mm in length, dust mites are not really visible to the naked eye. If you can see dust mites, you've Normal, Non-Godzilla Sized Dust Miteeither got bionic eyeballs or godzilla-like dust mites. The Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, of the University of Virginia explains their diet consisting of human skin scales and the moisture of "human shavings", which we naturally shed, all day, every day. Sometimes they diversify their diets with fungi, cereals, crumbs and fish food.

"Well, Rachel this is pretty gross. How is this relevant to my asthma and allergies?"

Well, digestive enzymes found in dust mite excretions trigger allergic reactions such as wheezing, airway hyper responsiveness (AHR), nasal congestion, cough, hay fever, etc. Most of us breathe in this allergen to no effect, but for people with allergies, asthma, COPD or other respiratory problems they can trigger reactions. Where, specifically is the allergen found? Considering the ubiquitous nature of dust mites, it is found everywhere! If there are people, there are dust mites, but specifically, the allergen is found in their their dead, decaying body parts as well as their feces. You read that correctly, dust mite poo.

Young children and senior citizens are the most vulnerable to these allergens, but as the most common household allergen, dust mite allergies affect a wide variety of people. However, there are a few limiting factors to these cosmopolites' survival, and controlling these is something we'll discuss below.

Bed Bugs
These parasitic six-legged creatures are flat rusty colored insects that are about the size of an apple seed, which means they are visible to the naked eye if you are unfortunate enough to spot these elusive creatures of the night. Cimex lectularius comes from the the insect genus Cimex, which are known to be hematophagous (bloodsucking insects). So to recap, they're tiny vampires.

Bed Bug in Later Stages of Life CycleA bed bug infestation can happen anywhere, but usually happen in love messy households or apartments and hotel/motel rooms. Mess affords them better opportunity to hide, and areas where there are frequently visitors provides greater opportunity to travel and spread. They can and do travel anywhere, usually by hitching a ride in suitcases, pillows, or any travel items really. So, they're also hitchhikers (except these ones simple hide in your trunk without thumbing for a ride!).

Bed bugs are most active at night, and tend to hide in crevices, mattresses, behind headboards, base boards, nightstands etc. Their activity mainly consists of coming out from their hiding spots and doing their best Count Dracula impression, feeding directly off of us, and leaving small itchy bites all over your skin. The one small upside is they do not create allergic reactions (they lack the enzymes that we react to). The bites can be itchy and physically painful, and knowing you have a hidden infestation of tiny, hitchhiking, blood sucking vampires can be psychologically disturbing.

During World War II bedbugs were a huge problem in the U.S. military, and in response, they used cyanide-based pesticide, Zyklon B to exterminate them. As a "safer alternative" DDT was later used to fumigate these pests. Both of these toxic treatments are not longer in use. Oh the good ole days.

Limiting or Eliminating These Pests
Bed bugs are repulsive but more importantly, very difficult to get rid of without professional help. If you rent, call your landlord or property manager. If you own, this is something you'll be paying for out of your own pocket, but despite some websites and people offering cheap advice on how to rid yourself of bedbugs, most are simply looking to make a quick buck at your expense or worse, offer dangerous or banned substances. When you travel, check your luggage and personal belongings. Bag luggage and clothing and store it outside or in the garage until you can wash and inspect it. When staying at a hotel or motel, report any bites to management ASAP, and keep your bags elevated. Avoiding them is your best bet, and in that vein, you can use bed bug proof mattress covers to seal up your mattress and box spring. In the event you do find bed bugs, you often have to discard a lot of things, and covering your mattress like this can avoid the pain and cost of potentially having to purchase a new one.

Dust mites are easier to rid of with the help of dust mite bedding covers, cleaning products that denature the dust mite allergen or kill dust mites, and general cleaning methods to reduce house dust (the primary component of which is dust mites). Hot can be very useful when it comes to dust mites. Wash your bedding in hot water of at least 113° F but ideally warmer (140°). It will work wonders for killing not only dust mites but also bed bugs. For dust mite allergen that might linger, the use of an anti-allergen detergent or a dust mite laundry additive to denature the actual protein allergen in the bedding.

When it comes to bedding, bedding that is simply labeled "hypoallergenic" is probably a complete waste of money. What actually helps though, are bedding covers. Quality mattress, pillow and box spring covers actually create a physical barrier between you and the dust mites that are most certainly in your mattress and pillows. These specially woven covers block the allergen and keep it out of the air you breathe. This, as part of an overall environment control regimen (washing regular bedding in hot water, dusting and vacuuming more frequently) can help to reduce allergic reactions without the use of medication.

All of these things can help you not only determine what type of pest you're dealing with but how to best to rid yourself of it or reduce its impact. Remember, if you can see the critter, it's not a dust mite, and there are other bugs and pests that can move in besides dust mites and bed bugs.

Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite!

Author: Rachel P.

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