Now that that's been covered, time to move on to more pressing matters. From dogwoods and oaks to all manner of tree and bush, plants are shaking off their winter slumber and springing back to life - dumping pollen into the air. Now it also the time when those articles start popping up all over the place, "Worst Allergy Season - EVER!". I do sometimes wonder, has someone with allergies ever went through a spring and thought, "Hhhmmmm.... not bad!" The reality is, this is how spring allergies are going to go.
While this winter was harsh enough to push the start of allergy season further into the year, the very wet nature of this winter is likely to mean high pollen counts. So while the spring allergy season is likely to be a little shorter than recent years, don't expect the trend of increased pollen counts and intensity to take a break.
With all this being said, what can you do in terms of relief?
There are several places to start, but we almost always recommend the bedroom. You'll spend more time here (typically 6-8 hours sleeping) than any other room in the home. Here are some quick hitter solutions to getting a better night's sleep while the pollen flies.
Air - With warmer temperatures, many of us are likely to want to open the window. I know for myself, as soon as the temperature creeps above 60° or so, my windows are open. With allergies, you can either keep the windows closed or try something like a window filter. While these don't offer HEPA filtration (to do so would completely block airflow), they do a great deal of the pollen in the air. The other item that can help clear up your indoor air is a HEPA air purifier. Something like an Austin air purifier is a simple way to remove the allergens. The HEPA/carbon filter lasts years before needing to be replaced, and the controls are simple.
Floors - Your floors are often the final resting place of allergens, including dust, dander, mold spores, and pollen. While you can trap a great deal of this particulate with an air purifier, you're still likely to track allergens in. Regardless of flooring type, you can not only keep them looking good but free of allergens with a high quality HEPA vacuum cleaner. When considering a HEPA vac, keep in mind quality. You often get what you pay for, and lower quality vacuums can leak and simply redistribute allergens instead of actually removing and trapping them.
Clothes - When the pollen counts are high, it's literally sticking to your clothes and then being brought into your home. Many find themselves washing their laundry more frequently. While regular washing can greatly reduce allergens trapped in your clothes, an anti-allergy laundry detergent can denature protein allergens that escape the normal wash cycle. Ecology works produces a plant-based detergent that is gentle of clothes, free of dyes and added fragrance, ultimately making it easier on your skin.
Outdoors - Avoid going out on days when the pollen count is going to be exceptionally high. This is easier said than done for many, but an allergy mask can make a big difference in blocking pollen and other allergens while you're outdoors. Though it can be a little dreary, right after a light rain, pollen levels in the air can dip, so this might not be a bad time to get some of your outdoor activities knocked out.
Medication - Antihistamines are the soup du jour when it comes to combating allergies. While most people take these AFTER they begin to experience symptoms, most allergists actually recommend you being taking them just prior to the onset of the allergy season. These help by tamping down the immune response to pollen - inflammation. There are over the counter as well as more powerful prescription antihistamines available, and a quick stop by your local board certified allergist can give you a better idea of which route to go. Or, you can always try OTC methods first, and if relief is still elusive, consult your doctor for more options.
Do you have any tips or hints you'd like to share? Leave a comment or send us an email at email@example.com. Otherwise stay tuned for another potential Easter Bunny sighting.
Author: K. Gilmore
What are some hidden sources of allergens that I may be overlooking in my home?- submitted by Stephanie C.
Potted Plants can be a nice touch to the home. Unfortunately, they have the potential to become a breeding ground for mold. Standing water and decaying leaves are the primary sources. Frequent pruning as well as plastic pot liners (kept dry and clean) will help decrease the likelihood of mold growth. Finally, an artificial plant may be a wise alternative.
Rugs and Drapes can be a haven for animal dander and dust mites. The dust mite thrives in dark, warm and humid areas and feast on the shed scales of human skin. The optimum solution is for the removal of the carpet and replacing drapes with mini-blinds. This allows for fewer hidden allergens and an easier surfaces to clean. In situations where this is not feasible, frequent vacuuming (2-3x/wk) with a HEPA filtered vacuum and controlling humidity (35-40%) will decrease both dust mite and indoor mold.
Bedding and stuffed animals are also significant reservoirs for dust mites and animal dander. Encasing the mattress and pillow has proven to be one of the most important maneuvers in reducing indoor allergen exposure.
Washing your bedding in hot water and minimizing the number of stuffed animals is also a must. Washing stuffed animals in hot water or freezing them has proven effective as well.
Air conditioner/central air ducts are also a source of hidden allergens. Having your ducts cleaned every 3-4 years is the current recommendation. Placing air vent filters has shown to be very effective in minimizing the circulation of indoor allergens throughout the home.
What are some tips about how to clean properly/more thoroughly?- submitted by Stephanie C.
Cleaning without providing proper allergen barriers for yourself is a common mistake. Often allergy symptoms can be delayed to the cleaner and you do not realize the impact until its too late.
Wearing a dust mask, gloves, and goggles particularly with the heavier cleaning, is a good idea. Showering immediately after cleaning is also helpful.
The old-time feather duster should not be used in cleaning as this simply relocates and stirs up dust. Obviously this can be provoking to the allergy sufferer.
Cleaning/dusting should be done with a damp cloth or rag or microfiber/electrostatic cloth to better capture allergens.
Use of an older "low efficiency" vacuum can be a provoker of indoor allergies and asthma attacks. While these vacuums are adequate in picking up dust bunnies and visible debris, it does little to remove the common allergenic particles which are too small for this vacuum to capture. What happens? The vacuum essentially shoots allergens into the air.
Fortunately, most newer vacuums have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters which capture allergens such as dust mite, mold, and pet dander.
At this point, I think it's important to bring up a broader issue when it comes to cleaning inside your home. Most of us have traditionally taken the approach that if it looks clean then it is clean. For many people that approach is fine, but anyone dealing with allergies, asthma, COPD, or a compromised immune system, appearances can be deceiving. Instead, it is far better to clean for your health not for appearances. This means keeping in mind some of the tips Dr. Mardiney outlined above as well as taking note of what you are actually use to clean (types of cleaners, cleaning devices, etc.). It also means adjusting your mindset to consider that even though a floor or kitchen countertop may look clean, it could be chalked full of microscopic allergens or bacteria/viruses.
Author: K. Gilmore
We've discussed cedar allergies in the past, and like in years past there are a couple simple things you can do to help reduce exposure. A high quality allergy mask is a simple but effective way to reduce allergens while outdoors. Indoors, replacing your HVAC filter or air purifier filter are also an excellent ideas. For those with masks, now might be a good time to pick up a couple replacement filters, and if you have any specific questions about masks, feel free to drop us a line via the Customer Question section of any product page on our site.
Beyond cedar, many of us are recovering from New Year's Eve. From enjoying yourself a little too much or simply staying up too late, New Year's offers a variety of ways to leave us feeling a little less than prepared to tackle all those New Year's resolutions. Speaking of resolutions, did you make any this year?
There are millions of resolutions made each year. Lose weight, quit smoking, eat better, spend less time working and more with family, floss more than once a week, and fix that loose tile that you keep stubbing your toe on are all one someone's list. Personally, I've never been real big on resolutions. To date, I've made one, and I kept it. It was three years ago, and my resolution was to eat more chocolate. I'm an adult and since we only get one go round on the ferris wheel of life, I personally see little point in not enjoying it. Besides, resolutions seem too much like self-punishment or some form of masochism. When I see or hear about these types of resolutions, I think, "nope, nope, nope."
So in that year, I purchased nearly four dozen bags of Dove chocolates, you know, the little individually wrapped pieces with personalized messages. In total, it was roughly 42 POUNDS of chocolate, and I enjoyed every one of those bite sized treats. That same year, I lost around 45 pounds. Granted, chocolate wasn't necessarily my key to dropping weight, but my point is this. At the time in every year when people resolve to better themselves, their health, and their lives, it's important to remember we're not robots. Change isn't particularly easy for many of us, and kicking bad habits is often a long difficult process. None of these things though should feel as if we're punishing ourselves. Goals should be made with end result in mind, but it's almost as important to reward yourself along the way. Habits don't become habit overnight, and that's true for both the good and bad ones.
On behalf of everyone here at AchooAllergy.com, I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year and the best of luck in of your resolutions!
This question can be a very difficult one to answer. Alcohol, though consumed like juice, food, or soda (though your liver hopes not with the same frequency!), isn't governed by the same regulations or even the same agency as these others. While foods and most beverages fall under the domain of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alcohol falls under the guidance and regulations of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a subdivision of the Department of Treasury. This INCLUDES labeling rules and regulations. So while your mega-jumbo-can-o-caffeinated-monkey-juice will most certainly have a label listing the nutritional value and all the ingredients, alcohol is almost always devoid of the former (and often the latter as well). Though it is often easier to determine how many calories are in your alcoholic beverage of choice, finding the actual ingredients that make up that drink is another story entirely.
Many producers do list ingredients on their website or have at least become savvy enough to list some of the common allergens that are NOT in their products, particularly nuts or nut derivatives. Beyond visiting websites and doing your own investigative research, many people are left with only anecdotal evidence as to whether a type of drink can cause a reaction or not.
Distilled spirits (think whiskey, rum, etc.) have a list of standard requirements when it comes to labeling. These include
- Alcohol Content
- Address of Distiller Country of Origin
- Net Contents (a metric measurement of volume)
- Coloring Agents (colored with caramel, annatto, etc.)
- Wood Treatment ("beechwood aged" ring a bell?)
- Other Ingredients like Dyes, (Yellow #5), Saccharin, or Sulfites
- Specific Type of Commodity (redistilled, blended, compounded, etc.)
- Statement of Age
- Distillation/Production Location
- A Health Warning
As of right now, major food allergens can voluntarily be listed for wines, distilled spirits, and malt beverages, but again, this is only voluntary. There has been a proposal to make this mandatory, and since 2006, nothing has been finalized... eight years later.
And, even if you do find a list of ingredients, this still may not cover a statement regarding the processing. Though some can tell you that there are no nuts in their products, many can't ensure their products were produced in a facility that is also nut-free. This touches on another problem, cross-contamination.
Bartenders and those mixing drinks work in fast paced environments and worrying about cross contaminating a drink is likely not high on the priority list when there are half a dozen orders rolling in at a time. A good general tip is to skip the garnish. One garnish in particular that can be troublesome for those with nut allergies is maraschino cherries. These are often processed or flavored with almond extract. If you know a favorite mix or type of drink that is safe for you and you order it with no garnish, you can dramatically reduce any risk. At that point ingredients should be coming straight from the bottle to your glass.
For reference purposes, here's a quick list of some common alcoholic beverages that contain nuts or nut extracts. Keep in mind, things can and do change, so contacting the producer is still your best bet.
- Creme de noyaux
- Creme de noix
- Kahana Royale
- Bombay Sapphire
- Harp Lager
- Phillips Dirty Squirrel
- Southern Comfort
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are MANY varieties of wines, beers, champagnes and other types of alcohol I excluded because they to be rather obvious choices to avoid (many had things like "Nut", "Cashew", or "Almond" in the actual name).
In general, I advise people to stick with what they know. For people with severe nut allergies being adventurous around the holidays can likely lead to some not-so-festive memories. Check producers websites whenever possible, and if you don't see the information you need listed, call or email them. Most producers would much prefer you contact them and err on the side of safety when consuming their products. Lastly, make sure you keep your auto injector (and a backup!) handy at all times.
Unfortunately, all we've covered today is nuts. If you are one of the rare people who has a wheat or gluten allergy, that's a whole other ball of wax. Be safe and enjoy the holidays responsibly!
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
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
Corticosteroids are commonly prescribed for persistent, moderate to severe asthma. Often inhaled, this type of drug is used to prevent asthma attacks. While the previous study focused on one particular corticosteroid, these latest studies expanded that to include six and five, respectively, different types of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) drugs.
In the first study, six ICS and 25 trials involving nearly 8500 children were reviewed. Over the course of a year, there was about a .5 cm difference in growth between children who used ICS and those who used placebos or non-steroidal drugs. This review suggests much the same as the one mentioned in 2012, that though small, there is some reduction in growth velocity and overall height associated with the use of ICS. And again now, as then, the lead author of this most recent review suggests that the benefits of using ICS to control moderate to severe asthma outweighs this minimal, but significant, reduction in growth velocity.
In the second study, 22 trials were reviewed, with the main focus being the effect of low to medium doses on ICS on growth velocity. While the information collected was incomplete in the majority of the trails examined, a correlation between growth velocity and the amount of ICS administered was observed. Simply put, those with low dose ICS treatments experienced a smaller reduction in growth velocity than those who were treated with larger doses of ICS.
Overall, both studies highlight two points and further refine previous research. First, inhaled corticosteroids do have an impact on height/growth velocity. This is not limited to a particular type of corticosteroid and appears with many of the most common ones. Second, higher doses of ICS correlate with less growth. The smaller the dose, the less the effect on a child's height. Again though, it's worth repeating that they're not talking a major reduction in height, fractions of a centimeter annually. Most professionals who have either conducted these studies or have read them still agree that the benefits of ICS in controlling moderate to severe asthma outweigh this small reduction in height.
Studies like these are important for a few reasons. They highlight a potential side effect that has been previously not known or often discussed. It is also good to remember that these studies show results that effect more than just those who are coping with asthma. Some of the drugs used in the studies were beclomethasone dipropionate, budesonide, ciclesonide, flunisolide, fluticasone propionate and mometasone fumarate. These are the active ingredients used in common asthma AND allergy medications like
To read more about the larger study of ICS on growth rates or the study of ICS doses and growth rates.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
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
Switzerland has a history of being a very innovative and efficient country, so it doesn’t surprise me that they would make such an impression with the airline industry as they have done with chocolate, banks and pharmaceuticals.
Here’s what their allergy-minded airline includes to minimize the presence of allergens within the cabin and lounge areas:
- High efficiency air conditioning to filter out pollen, pet hair and dander and any airborne particulates on board.
- Removal of air fresheners for flyers with chemical sensitivities.
- Selection and use of hypoallergenic fabric for upholstered items.
- In the lavatories they provide soap friendly for those with sensitive skin.
- Your meal, snack and drink selections are free of glucose, lactose and a variety of other common allergens. Swiss Airline cabin crew members are trained to respond, and are equipped with the histamine tablets in the case of allergic reactions and emergencies.
Author: R. Power
Just a reminder for those local to the Atlanta area, if you have peanut allergies but want to catch a game at Turner field Saturday as part of your Memorial Day Weekend, they do have a Peanut Free Section. Check out the Braves site for more details, and Have a Happy Memorial Day!
First I thought, uh-oh, I don’t want to catch that! But then I realized, it could be allergies. But wouldn’t the rain settle the pollen that’s making my friends congested? Not necessarily, quite the contraire mademoiselle (I’m learning French. Je suis Françoise d’apprentissage) . Heavy rain can spread pollen particles by fracturing them, making them more numerous and lighter in weight. When the rain is gone, these now slimmer and trimmer pollen particles become airborne once again, impacting your allergies worse than before the rain.
How are you going to enjoy the weather and control your pollen/seasonal allergies? It’s the time of the year to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and dresses! Here are few ways to have the best of both worlds.
- Safe Guard Window Filters - These wonderful window filters keep out dust, pollen, and other allergens, so you can breathe fresher, purer air all year long. These filters eliminate 92% of ragweed pollen and capture a variety of allergens and irritants that can wreak havoc on seasonal allergy sufferers. These window filters are available in 2 sizes with extensions to fit almost any width of window. If you already have some, you can now replace your window filter cartridges in them with little more than a phillips screwdriver and about five minutes of your time!
- Check the Allergy Forecast - Check the pollen count in your area. Just like a weather forecast you can check the pollen index levels, as well as what trees are causing the most pollen. This can help you do a little planning ahead of time for outdoor activities.
- Take Off Your Shoes - I think leaving your shoes at the door is generally a better way to keep the carpet cleaner, but during allergy season you can tracks massive amounts of pollen throughout your home. Ever notice yellow shoe prints? If nothing else, you can always slip on a pair of sandals.
- Don't Forget Your Pets! - Our furry friends can also track in pollen and other allergens, but unlike us, they likely don't have shoes to take off. With pets one of the easiest ways to keep them clean between baths and remove pollen, dirt and other debris with with pet wipes. These thick, handy wipes remove allergens and other debris, and if you want to take things a step further, try AllerPet. This safe, non-toxic cleanser is simply applied with a damp cloth between baths. The formula denatures allergens like pollen and dander, and is even perfectly safe for puppies and kittens.
- Change Your Clothes - When you come home, changing your clothes will help keep your allergic reactions down by preventing pollen from spreading throughout the house.
- Showers - Taking a shower at night will help rinse off any pollen that you’ve collected during the day. This will also keep pollen out of your sheets so you won’t be waking up to congestion and water eyes.
Author: R. Power