In January, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study by researchers in Tokyo that tried to pin down just that. Do colder temperatures cause a cold? No. However, this latest study does seem to suggest that colder temperatures do make us more susceptible to certain viruses.
In the past we've discussed how colder temperatures can affect your nose, mainly with regard to changes in mucus production and motility when the temperature dips. This latest research also focuses on the nose, or rather cells from the noses... of rats. Ratatouille these rats are not. No, these cells were exposed to a modified rhinovirus to see how they reacted in changing temperatures.
Normally, the cells exposed to the virus would send out warning signals to uninfected cells around them. In response to this, uninfected cells essentially heed the warning and prepare the defenses, and by employing antiviral proteins they are better able to destroy the rhinovirus. As the temperature goes down the observed defenses employed by the uninfected cells weren't as robust. This resulted in more of the cells being infected and an overall less effective defense against the virus.
While this research does begin to explain why we catch colds more often when the temperature is actually lower, it's important to remember that this wasn't tested on live creatures in real world conditions, and under those circumstances, things may be different. Still, temperatures in the nasal cavity can often lower than our core body temperature. This research demonstrates a fairly clear link between lower temperatures and suppressed antiviral response from cells, thus making them more susceptible to viruses replicating and causing an illness.
While this is all very interesting, it doesn't provide much by way or ways to help prevent catching a cold. For those who already wear a cold weather mask (to reduce the chances of a cold weather-induced asthma attack), you may also be helping to prevent a cold - by keeping the temperature in and around your nose and nasal passages warm!
To read the full abstract.
Author: K. Gilmore
This seems like a simple and pretty straight forward concept, but if you've been spending most of your time eating out of a bag or at a restaurant, it's going to be a significant change. One upside to cleanses is that they don't have to last that long. It's easy to find a cleanse for just the weekend, but it's also just as easy to find a 10 day or even 30 day cleanse. With kits available at places like natural food stores, GNC, and online, a detox is pretty easy to do. If you want to be even more hands on, do a simple internet search, find a plan online and shop for the ingredients yourself. Regardless of which route you take, the goal is the same. Simplify what you're putting into your body help cleanse out some of the nastier elements that can accumulate with eating a diet high in processed foods.
A couple years ago I did a three day detox cleanse with some friends and I loved it! I felt more grounded, had a little spring in my step, and felt a lot lighter (as you might expect from three days of large nutrient-dense smoothies!). We did the cleanse to remove any toxins that had accumulated from poor living and eating habits. At the time, I was working at a family style restaurant where we had the BEST mashed potatoes and fried chicken in town... needless to say, that was the heaviest point of my post college life. It was a good kick start to a new year of healthier eating and living habits, which have improved since then!
It's worth noting that there is a bit of a difference between a detox cleanse and a detox diet. The point of the cleanse is what I've mentioned above - a way to cleanse the body and to act as the start to healthier eating and living habits. It's a start, a beginning, and not necessarily the only means to the goal of eating better and living healthier. On the other hand, a detox diet is, well, a diet. The goal of any diet is to lose weight or shed inches, and while a detox diet can help you lose weight, you almost always gain every ounce of it back. When eating habits return, so do the pounds.
Fried food and fast food aren't the only processed foods to avoid: canned food, diary (all but raw milk), juices, cereals and breads, deli meat, frozen/pre-made meals, and any food with additives and preservatives, all fall under the "processed food umbrella". That seems to be about every other thing in the grocery store! But you can find whole foods if you look hard enough and/or refer to the maps of the grocery, often hung next to the shopping carts.
So this month my friend and I are going to start a cleanse together and kick off the new year with a new energy! As of now, we are still looking for the right cleanse, one that suits our lifestyles, work schedules, and overall taste (hopefully avoiding another tough-to-swallow detox smoothie made with celery stalks, green apples and lemon juice).
I will be keeping you updated on our cleanse, what we are drinking and eating, and if it works out. Who knows, maybe it'll be a monthly occurrence! Only time will tell how consistent we can make this resolution, and turn it into a lifestyle change.
Author: R. Power
Dress Appropriately - Few things will cause you more problems than not dressing appropriately. In addition to simply being uncomfortable, extreme cold temperatures can lead things like frostbite and hypothermia. Granted, these are extremes, but when a stiff breeze drives the wind chill well below zero, these become real concerns.
Wear a Mask - Whether going for a stroll or trying to exercise outdoors, breathing in cold, dry air is an almost instant trigger for asthma. The cold air coupled with the extreme dryness of cold air can be mitigated with a quality cold weather mask. Masks trap heat and moisture as you exhale, which means as you inhale, some of this trapped heat and moisture warms and humidifies the air you breathe in. Simple but effective, a cold weather mask can make all the difference when outdoors during the winter.
Remember Your Medication - Many people with asthma take a daily preventative, and during cold weather, it becomes even more paramount to maintain this regimen. Additionally, rescue inhalers should always be on hand, particularly if you are exercising. Being cooped up indoors is often not much better, but by maintaining your medication and cleaning the home regularly to remove allergens, you can reduce reactions.
Maintain Proper Indoor Humidity - If you've spent time outdoors in freezing temperatures, few things refresh you and help you clear out your airways better than a hot shower. Why? The warmth and the humidity soothe dried airways and help loosen mucus that has cooled and settled in your airways. Beyond a warm shower, maintaining proper indoor humidity levels can keep your home comfortable and eliminate dry air that aggravates asthma, and the easiest way to accomplish this is with a room humidifier. They come in a variety of styles and sizes and offer warm or cool mist to restore moisture and soothe airways.
An enterovirus is a single-stranded RNA virus that is part of a genus containing twelve different species of viruses. Within each species, though, there can be a wide variety of serotypes (variations), but all have high mutation rates. In this case, the name "enterovirus D68" represents the variant of this particular genus of viruses, the 68th. Overall, this genus of virus actually contains some of the worst offenders when it comes to humans, both in severity (polio to hepatitis A) and in breadth of contagion (common cold - the Rhinovirus).
The CDC estimates that 10 to 15 million people each year are infected with the enterovirus, but with majority of these being the rhinovirus (common cold), this statistic is generally one that does not raise concern. What is raising concern is the spread of enterovirus D68, and this is for two reasons.
First, while we first discovered this particular serotype decades ago, it has not been commonly occurring. More importantly, it appears to disproportionately affect those with asthma. Those with asthma or other respiratory conditions are generally more prone to suffer more severe effects from external factors, not only viruses but also pollen and smoke. Smoke makes me cough, but if you have asthma, smoke can cause wheezing or an asthma attack.
A similar situation is what parents are seeing with this virus. While many likely shrug it off as the common cold or flu, with the child exhibiting symptoms that are most akin to a cold or allergies, children with asthma may experience trouble breathing or wheezing. This is when parents are suggested to act. And recently, they have been.
Overall the scope of the virus is likely underestimated since many will see less severe symptoms, not enough to seek medical treatment. Hospitals and labs aren't likely reporting the full scope since the virus isn't one that is required to be tested for by the CDC. However, the image to the right shows the states reporting infections as of Monday with the lower image showing states reporting as of today. Yes, it is spreading, much like the common cold and flu does each year, and currently health officials are expecting this trend to increase before it finally tapers off with the onset of winter.
What do you do? The main concern right now seems to be with children with asthma. Touch base with your primary care provider and keep in mind what to do if your child is experiencing labored or troubled breathing or wheezing. Milder symptoms are going to be most common amongst children in general and like the cold, with plenty of fluids and rest, they will run their course with little worry. For more severe cases, supportive care is really the most that can be done. Medications to relax airways and supplemental oxygen are most common with the most critical needing ventilators.
In general, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, enterovirus D68 is making a lot of headlines, but it is generally a mild virus that acts much like the common cold. While all parents will want to be watchful of their children and symptoms, asthmatics are most at risk. Lastly, like the common cold, there is no vaccine or treatment beyond supportive care, so prevention techniques, like frequent hand washing and sanitizing surfaces are important things to keep in mind.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Every year a question most people struggle with at some point is, "Do I have a cold or is it allergies?". For most people, it's not a terribly difficult question to answer. People who cope with allergies are familiar with the symptoms and can usually tell the difference between the two. But what if you've never been diagnosed with allergies before? I'm fall into this category, and recently had the same allergies vs. cold debate in my head.
Personally, I don't often get sick. Generally once a year or less I'll have the flu, but I've not had the joy of a head cold in quite some time... until last week. I woke up with a sore throat, and while I know for a fact that I was NOT sleeping on a sand dune that night, my throat was telling me otherwise. Congestion was hot on the heels of the sore throat, and later in the day I was a walking sneeze factory. These are three common symptoms for both allergies and the common cold, so how do you tell the difference between the two?
Let's start with the sore throat first. We've all had a sore throat, and the really the only way to describe this is, it hurts! Not slam-your-hand-in-the-car-door hurt, but you know what I mean. With allergies, your throat won't hurt so much as it may itch.
One really wonderful thing I got to look forward to was a night of log roll sleeping. This is where I go to sleep on my right side and shortly after not being able to breathe through that side of my nose, I roll over to the left side and the same thing happens. You know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. This was, as it always is, due to congestion. Tissues, toilet paper, even paper towels weren't safe from being filled with nose-goo. It was a never ending faucet of congestion. Congestion and runny nose are common symptoms of both allergies and colds, so how does this help? Ask yourself this. Did whatever symptoms you are experiencing show up together or was their arrival staggered? Symptoms almost all showing up at once is more likely to be allergies while staggered symptoms is often indicative of a cold.
Nearly every morning I go through a small fit of sneezing. I'm guessing dust mites, but I do not know for sure. As someone who is classically trained in the art of "do as I say, not as I do," I feel completely right in recommending that if you experience this, make an appointment with your local board certified allergist. Over the first few days of my symptoms, my morning sneezing went on as usual, but randomly throughout the day, I would sneeze, 7, 8, 9, up to 10 times in a row. Sneezing isn't exclusive to colds or allergies. People with either will exhibit this symptom.
So that solves it! Cold it was. (Hooray?) It started with one symptom, and like an evil cake recipe kept adding more layers of moist misery - congestion then sneezing. While my situation was solved, there are a few other things to keep in mind. Colds start, then get worse, and ultimately clear up, even with no intervention. Allergies are much more likely to remain consistent as long as exposure remains. So if the ragweed pollen count is high for weeks on end, you're likely to see no improvement in your condition without treatment. An allergy symptom won't just "run its course". Lastly, the symptoms I had aren't the only ones you'll see. Itchy or watery eyes - allergies. Sinus Pressure - Allergies or a cold. Fever - cold (more often the flu). Coughing - a cold and more rarely, allergies.
So if it's a cold, how do you get over it? The age old methods of chicken noodle soup, a mega-carton of tissues, and a Costco-sized tub of decongestant helps. Much like a fair barker, do nothing and eventually it will go away.
With allergies, the story is different. Unless you're willing to wait weeks or months, they won't just go away. From avoidance to treating the symptoms, there are a variety of things you can do to speed symptoms away and some that can prevent them from occurring (or at least lessen them). Medication is the easiest. Antihistamines, decongestants and other over-the-counter remedies will help, but many carry side effects. More long term solutions are allergy shots and treatments. Over the course of months or years these can help desensitize your system, causing it to react less to harmless allergens.
Avoidance is another way to help yourself, but avoidance requires a little more effort. Avoidance means making your home more hospitable for you and less so for allergens. Cleaning, using a HEPA air purifier, and things a simple as taking your shoes off at the door and regularly replacing your HVAC filter are all good places to start when it comes to avoidance and environmental control. Remedies to help symptoms can be as simple as rinsing your sinuses.
Ever since I was introduced to sinus rinsing, I've been a big fan. I do not have allergies, but I do get the occasional stuffy nose, and as a runner, I will feel "gunky" afterwards from time to time. Rinsing takes about as long as it does to brush your teeth and generally keeps your nasal passages feeling better and you breathing easier for hours.
Generally, maintaining an indoor environment that's more hospitable to you is something that can help year round, particularly since most people will deal with allergies multiple times throughout the year. For more tips on controlling your indoor environment, visit... just about any page on our site!
Author: K. Gilmore
Miele vacuum cleaners have long been the standard of excellence when it comes to cleaning your floors while keeping the air in your home free of allergens and irritating particles that traditional vacuums spew out as they "clean". Conforming to strict H13 HEPA standards, the new Miele HEPA filter traps 99.95% of particles as small as 0.1 microns. This includes all of the common allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mold spores. Most Miele vacuums feature a sealed system in addition to the 9-ply filterbag, and it all three of these components that make a Miele the best allergy vacuum available.
For this limited time each Miele vacuum you purchase will include a free HEPA filter. If the Miele you choose already has one, then the addition of this free filter means you have all the HEPA filters you need for the next two years of use. And, if the model you select doesn't come with a HEPA filter standard, then you've received a free HEPA filter upgrade! Either way, you get a free filter, valued at $49.95. So whether you're looking for a top-of-the-line, premium Miele canister vacuum, a powerful Miele upright or something in between, shop now and save.
We also have good news for those of you looking for a steam cleaner. Reliable has extended their $100 savings on their premium home steam cleaners. In addition to free shipping, you can now take $100 off the top three Reliable steam cleaners. This includes the dual use Tandem EV1, a canister-style steam cleaner and HEPA vacuum cleaner, all-in-one, as well as the versatile E40 VIVA, and the durable E20 GO. Deep clean and sanitize throughout your home with any of these three models. Each offers a wide variety of accessories and attachments specifically suited to kills germs, remove stuck-on grime, and give you a healthier home, all without the harsh chemicals and fragrances that accompany other home cleaning products. Italian-made, these steam cleaners have a lifetime warranty on the boiler and durable ABS shell for years of consistent cleaning inside and outside your home.
For either of these great deals, there's no need for a coupon code. Simply drop them in your cart and your free filter or $100 discount will automatically be included. Take advantage of either or both of these deals before they expire, and if you have any questions or need some expert advice on which Miele or steam cleaner would best meet your needs, call, email, chat or submit an FAQ to us anytime.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Using a seven step purification process called the Pure Process, PURE Rooms are cleaned, sanitized and freed from the common pollutants that may irritate individuals. This process includes:
- Deep Clean Air-Handling Unit - This heat and a/c unit includes air filters and an enzyme based drip pan tablet to eliminate allergens.
- PURE Tea Tree Oil Cartridge - Installed in the air handling unit to maintain sanitized conditions with its antimicrobial properties.
- Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning - Patented PURE clean solution is used to remove debris and allergens from carpets and upholstery.
- One Time Shock Treatment - This consists of a four hour ozone shock treatment which destroys nearly all of the mold and bacteria, as well as odors, in every nook and cranny of the room, leaving the room fresh.
- PURE Shield - A bacteriostatic barrier is applied to all room surfaces to deter bacterial growth and pathogens from inhabiting the room.
- Air Purification System - a 24-hour defense against allergens. Proven by the FDA to kill 98%-100% of bacteria and viruses.
- Allergy Friendly Bedding- PURE uses only micro-fiber, monofilament mattress and pillow encasements for allergy barrier bedding.
As a couple final notes, if those hotels are in your budget, then chances are a PURE Room will be too. After checking a few, I found the nightly rate wasn't that much higher than a standard room. The ozone shock treatment is going to be particularly off-putting for many people. Ozone is a powerful lung irritant, particularly for those dealing with asthma, chronic bronchitis or COPD. While it is recommended by no one (except those who sell or produce ozone generators) to use ozone generating devices in occupied rooms, there is considerable debate over their use in unoccupied rooms, as in the instance with PURE Rooms.
Ozone is billed as a way to remove odors, mold and pathogens, but the efficacy of this type of treatment for mold and pathogens is still a source of contention. Ozone shock treatments are used in everything from remediation jobs of homes that have been damaged by flood or fire and even in vehicles. As a space is properly aired out, the level of ozone dissipates over a number of hours. I would venture to say that risk of ozone exposure is going to be low in PURE Rooms, but it never hurts to ask before you book. It is also worth noting that the ozone shock treatment isn't mentioned directly on the list of the seven steps of the PURE Room website, but is listed on a couple of the hotel's sites in their descriptions of the process. Lastly, if a PURE Room is perhaps a bit of overkill for you, bringing along a couple pillow covers and keeping an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your pocket never hurts.
For more information on PURE Rooms or the PURE Room process, visit pureroom.com.
Author: R. Power
Around 2007, e-cigarettes hit the US market as a smoking trend that was quickly billed as an alternative method for traditional cigarette smokers to wean themselves off of cigarettes, in an effort to quit altogether. With this stated purpose, they were even favored by former American Lung Association CEO Charles D. Connor as a smoking-cessation tool, as well as pathologist and Editor at Large of Medscape Medical News, who stated, "But many tightly hooked addicts need replacement drugs. E-cigarettes provide that replacement nicotine on the way to tobacco abstinence, or at least to far fewer inhalations of burned tobacco. That is undeniably a good thing."
Fairly quickly though, non-smokers began taking to this new, safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, but with no federal or state regulations, minors also had easy access to them through gas stations and e-cig salons that beganpopping up all over major cities in the US.
Research on electronic cigarettes is giving us more clarity on potential risks and will help answer some of the questions regarding their health effects of benefits, relative to regular cigarettes. As of now, there are a few factors that highlight potential risks. We know these products are predominantly shipped from China, where regulation and quality can be uncertain. We also know there are potential risks with inhaling nicotine, battery and propylene glycol vapors in liquid nicotine, aka "e-juice". There have been numerous instances of tobacco poisoning that have occurred from absorbing or ingesting e juice. The American Association of Poison Control has reported a 219% increase in nicotine poisoning cases, from e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine, between 2012 and 2013. Sadly, more than half of these incidents have involved children under six years old, theoretically because of the sweet flavors and vibrant colors of e-juice. Kids either, open the bottle and eat it, or the cap comes off and leaks, or the holding chamber leaks the liquid nicotine. When absorbed through the skin it can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Since June of 2014, the FDA has been hustling to create regulations for "electronic cigarettes and other non-combustible tobacco products, pathways to market for proposed deemed tobacco products and compliance dates for certain provisions". They are encouraging public participation and allowing the public to submit comments and regulating suggestions on http://www.regulations.gov (Federal Register Number 2014-14562/ RIN: 0910-AG38) , until August 8th 2014.
While FDA regulations are underway, U.S. tobacco companies are positioning themselves to take advantage of this predicted $1.7 billion annual market. In the same month the FDA began framing out e-cig regulations, R.J. Reynolds started its campaign as the first U.S. made e-cigarette manufacturer. Although stability and quality control are benefits to having the products made here in the U.S., there is still concern over the marketing of these products. From what we already know about traditional tobacco marketing strategies, they tend to focus on the youth (candy cigarettes, now banned flavored cigarettes, cartoonish characters, sweet/candy-like flavors of smokeless tobacco etc.), the plethora of liquid nicotine flavors now available would seem to make it much easier to attract younger customers. It's worth noting that smoking trends in the U.S. have been consistently falling for years, and the primary driver of growth for tobacco companies has been through market consolidation and overseas markets.
While research and regulation continue to evolve, this new market expands. Where do we go from here? Regulation is almost certainly coming down the pipe, but solid research on the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking may be years away, as are long term studies on health effects. Dubious marketing practices, a relatively unknown product and uncertain long term health consequences complicate an already thorny issue.
Author: R. Power
Nickel allergies are not entirely uncommon, and for those who deal with them, jewelry, belts, and even piercings can cause allergic reactions. This latest case means you can now add electronic devices to that list. Electronics, like the iPad contain some amount of nickel in the metal case the encloses the back of the device, and exposure, as was the case with the boy in San Diego, can cause problems that are easily misidentified.
For nearly six months, the child struggled with a persistent, generalized rash (contact dermatitis). Despite using the same allergy creams he had in the past, there was no positive results. After being admitted to UC San Diego's Rady Children's Hospital, a skin patch test showed a nickel allergy, and further sleuth work by the attending physicians discovered the link to a 2010 model iPad the child was using at home.
What does this all mean? Well, if you don't have a nickel allergy, not much. If you do have a nickel allergy, you shouldn't toss your favorite electronics. There is one really easy way avoid exposure while still using nickel containing electronics - cover them. With the iPad, a protective cover that encloses the back of the device not only shields you from the nickel in the metal housing, but it also protects the device from drops and spills. The same is true for smart phones that may contain nickel. There are a variety of protective covers that can not only prevent you from having to deal with problems related to nickel exposure but also protect what is often no small investment. So much like any item containing nickel, avoidance is key, but that doesn't mean you have to give them up.
For more information of nickel allergies.
Author: K. Gilmore
These plants are all in the genus Toxicodendron (Greek for "poison tree") and contain a resin called urushiol. Urushiol is found in the resin canals of leaves, stems, vines, berries and roots of the plants. When parts of these plants are damaged (stepped on, torn, bruised, etc.) the resin is released. It is this resin that causes varying degrees of contact dermatitis for many of us.
Although the resin in these plants is consistent all year round, the probability of coming into contact with your skin is higher in the summer. Why? Summer weather is when we tend to spend more time outdoors in shorts and t-shirts. Plus, it's more difficult to damage a plant when it's buried under a foot of snow.
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
"Leaves of three, let it be."
- Groups of three green leaves that change to yellow and red in the fall.
- As a deciduous woody perennial (can have woody stems and grow back annually) it can grow in the form of low lying plants, shrubs or as a vine. So no tree hugging!
- They can grow anywhere, and are found in woodlands, wetlands, on road sides, and seemingly just about anywhere.
- Basically the same as poison ivy, but with a set of three leaves that look like the round, white oak leaves.
- The urushiol causes a delayed allergic reaction with the body's immune system, so the worst symptoms won't appear until days or weeks later. Unfortunately this gives more time for the skin to absorb the resin.
- Can grow as a shrub to a small tree (small being approximately 30 feet high).
- Leaves have 7-13 leaflets, and are two to four inches long, with a similar shape as the poison ivy.
- Tend to grow in very wet soils, such as swamps and peat bogs along the east coast and into Canada.
- Although not as widely distributed as poison ivy and poison oak, it's much more potent than the other two.
If you already find yourself itching or blistering, take comfort in calamine lotions or hydrocortisone creams. Take a few minutes to clean your nail beds in case you've gotten any of the resin underneath your nails. Some people will develop large, sensitive blisters. While the fluid in the blisters cannot spread the itch, popping them can lead to more severe problems, like infection or even blood poisoning. Blisters are the body’s natural way of healing certain types of wounds, so let your body's natural healing mechanism do its job. If you experience severe reactions or massively large rashes, you should take a trip to a doctor.
Just remember, "leaves of three, let it be", wear the right clothing when outdoors, and wash exposed areas when you can. If you want to completely avoid any of these pesky plants just stay by the pool side, on the golf/tennis courts, or at Six Flags. Enjoy your summer eveyone!
Author: R. Power