Globally, it is estimated that as many as 300 million people suffer from and cope with asthma every day. While in the U.S. asthma affects about 8% of the population, asthma is a larger issue that recognizes no boundaries. (You can at least give credit to asthma for being and equal opportunity offender... thanks asthma.)
While the exact cause of asthma is still unknown and a cure seems to be some time away, asthma is a condition that can be successfully managed. Severity ranges from mild forms with occasional flare ups and specific circumstance asthma (like exercise or cold induced asthma) to more severe forms that pose potentially life threatening problems for those affected.
Management can also vary with severity, but one of the most effective treatment for long term asthma are inhaled corticosteroids. This type of medication suppresses inflammation by desensitizing the airways and suppressing the immune system's overreaction to often times harmless substances.
Beyond medication, avoiding triggers (tobacco smoke, pollen, mold, etc.), keeping track of unseen dangers like ground level ozone, learning to recognize the symptoms of an asthma attack or properly use a spacers or nebulizers, and having a plan in place for coping with them are all pieces to this puzzle. Air quality is of key concern, as both poor indoor or outdoor air quality are often prime causes of asthma attacks.
Particularly for children but even for adults, the inability to breathe from an asthma attack can be a terrifying experience. Education and planning are key to avoiding and effectively dealing with asthma. So, whether it's and asthma run/walk, reading new literature, attending a conference/symposium, training for educators, or even the opening of a new asthma clinic, there are a variety of events scheduled to help raise awareness of asthma this month. From here in the U.S. to Peru, France to India, and Croatia to Egypt, around the globe events are scheduled to better connect people with the resources they need to better reduce the impact of asthma and breathe a little easier.
As a side note, while reading up on this, I found some disparity between May 5th and May 6th. Here in the U.S. the National Institute of Health is calling May 6th Asthma Awareness day, while globally, it is more commonly recognized as May 5th. Regardless, many clinics, organizations, and advocacy groups have events planned all month long, and organizations like the CDC, NIH, and others have information available online, whenever you need it.
Author: K. Gilmore
World Asthma Day is an annual awareness-raising event organized and sponsored by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). For more information please visit http://www.ginasthma.org/World-Asthma-Day
BPA has been used in plastics for over half a century. Used to harden plastics and to make resins, most commonly used in lining of canned food containers, BPA has a long history of use, and nearly as long of a history of study. While BPA does have the ability to disrupt endocrine function and mimic the effects of natural estrogen, it is fairly easily metabolized in the body. At this point, the EPA has set safe standards for BPA, but many manufacturers have opted to remove it from their products all together. In seeking an alternative, BPS (Bisphenol-S) has been used as the alternative substance in some "BPA free" products.
BPS is structurally similar to BPA, and on a most basic level, there are likely to be several characteristics that both share. Research on exposure to BPS is really in its infancy at this point, but a recent study has shown that BPS is linked to irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) in female lab rats. Disrupting of the heart cells ability to store calcium, BPS is beginning to lose some luster as a suitable replacement.
What does this mean? Right now, not too terribly much. The research was somewhat limited, and effects on animals and effects on humans aren't always the same. What is clear is that as industry pushes ahead with alternatives to BPA, science has to keep pace with researching and vetting new compounds and substances.
Author: K. Gilmore
To read the abstract of this research or a summary of other research on BPA.
The team introduced Viaskin® Peanut, an epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT/ allergy patch), to encourage peanut tolerance via patches containing micro doses of peanut proteins. The epidermis is potentially ideal for allergen administration, as it is a safer route of allergen absorption in lieu of direct exposure to the vascularized circulatory system. Another factor that makes it prime location are the presence of Langerhans cells that specialize in antigen presentation. These act as "mediators of tolerance" for the immune system in the skin, and can be used in the favor of building peanut protein tolerances.
The year long therapy trial consisted of 221 peanut-allergic individuals who were treated with patches consisting of a various doses of peanut protein. All patients were tested at the beginning of the study to measure their initial peanut protein tolerance. After administering doses of the protein, ranging from 50 micrograms to 250 micrograms, their baseline test results were then compared to their tolerance levels at the end of the study.
Results showed that greater than 95% of the patients complied to the study (1% dropping out due to adverse affects) , and children treated with 250 microgram patches experienced a 19-fold increase in tolerance to peanut allergies! This means that at the end of the study they were able to tolerate 1 gram of peanut protein, the equivalent of 4 peanuts.
Viaskin® Peanut is the first of it's kind for combating food allergies, but initial results hint that it could be the first food allergy patch for other food allergies as well (seafood, tree nuts, soy, etc.). Beyond the patch itself, this study can also help us better understand how the body builds a defense for allergens. Understanding the mechanism is critical, particularly since food allergies are complex and usually require food avoidance, low dose immunotherapy or special diets. They cannot treated like environmental allergies such as pet dander allergies or pollen allergies, which can be treated with allergy shots, pills or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).
This EPIT therapy is promising for parents, patients, and practitioners. Food allergies are particularly challenging for parents who must constantly watch their younger children's diets, which can be strained in social or school related situations. Food allergies also affect nutrient intake, which can lead to potential growth hindrance and nutrient deficiency, as reported by the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Practitioners may soon be able to give more options to patients, providing relief in fighting potentially lethal peanut allergies. We hope to see more advancement in this study, and see it become an accessible form of immunotherapy on the pharmacy shelves.
Author: R. Power
Wining and Dining
Restaurants can be risky business if you or your better half have food allergies. Cross contamination is often a problem with dining as even foods you may not be allergic to can be exposed to a variety of allergens (wheat, peanut, eggs, dairy, seafood, etc.) during preparation. Plus, finding a restaurant that is completely allergy free can be very difficult in less urban/metropolitan areas. Instead of worrying about food allergies on this special night, show of your amazing cooking skills and make a meal that best suits his or her diet. It will be a much more relaxing, far less crowded, and a much more enjoyable meal knowing that it’s allergy free and made from the heart. If you do insist of going out, you better have already made that reservation, and don't forget to bring along a few extra food allergy cards for the staff.
Boxed chocolates forewarn that they were made on equipment or in facilities that either process or have been exposed to common food allergens like nuts, eggs and dairy. There are chocolates out there that are allergen free and can be found on the web or at your local chocolatier (if you're not sure what a chocolatier is, see if you have a local one - a visit can be well worth it). There is even dairy-free chocolate available, made with substitutes like almond or rice milk. Another alternative is carob, a chocolate substitute made the seed pod of Cerotonia silique, a plant from the pea family. This substitute is caffeine free, naturally sweet and low in fat.
Gifts (Flower, Perfume, Stuffed Animals, etc.)
If you're well past your high school or even college years, these old standards are likely pretty cliché. A trip to your local grocery store on Valentine's Day will most certainly offer a veritable parade of procrastinating men, hurriedly picking up flowers, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and stuffed teddy bears. The humor of that scene aside, all of these things can be potential triggers for allergies, asthma or chemical sensitivities. It's probably best to ignore the commercials. Don't listen to that Vermont Teddy Bear commercial telling you that on the top of a woman's wish list is an oversized stuff bear or a teddy in a biker outfit (I mean really?). Flowers can hold pollen and perfumes can be inappropriate for those with environmental allergies or chemical sensitivities. Save your money and check out my Romantic Alternatives this Valentine’s Day.
I can't think of many ladies (and even some gentlemen) who wouldn't want to be spoiled with some pampering. Nothing is as simple and classy as a nice set of manicured nails. With many local boutiques carrying "Five-Free" nail polishes, you can relax knowing that you aren't decorating your hands with formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor or formaldehyde resin. Before you make your reservation though, call ahead to ask if they use any type of air cleaner or salon air purifier to keep down the odor/fragrance.
I don’t know anyone who's allergic to music. Buy some tickets and enjoy a night of entertainment and some dancing together. How much more romantic can you get?
Let's change gears a bit and highlight a couple ideas for the man in your life.
Take Him Out to a Ball Game
Any kinda game - soccer, football, rugby, baseball, basketball, hockey, wear his team's colors, steal his jersey and get hyped! And don't worry about giving back the jersey because you look better in it anyways. Around Valentine's Day, basketball and hockey are your best bets, and there are pro and college games of each.
Action packed fun that will test your shooting skills and pain tolerance (maybe a bit oversold, feels like a quick sting then it's gone). Partner up or compete against each other. Nothing says, "I love you" like zinging your better half with bunch of paintballs!
Unless he has celiac disease, brewery tours are a fun way to enjoy his favorite microbrew, and take home a new draft glass to your cupboard or mini bar! And if you don't like beer, it's ok because you're going to need a designated driver anyways.
Your activity or gift doesn't have to be extravagant, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring. Ultimately, these are just a few options to break away from some of the more run-of-the-mill Valentine's Day gifts. And by keeping in mind some of the pitfalls of allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities, you can not only share an enjoyable day/evening with your loved one but a safe one as well.
Author: R. Power
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