Since I'm not allergic to pollen, I personally don't wear a mask for this reason, though during the dry summers, I do wear one to eliminate dust. Masks remain one of the most effective ways to block tree, weed and grass pollen without having to change your regular lawncare routine. N95 masks are the most common type available. Inexpensive paper masks like this are an easy way to block reaction causing allergens. Most N95 masks are disposable, so after a use or two, you simple replace it.
The N95 rating is a NIOSH classification that means any mask with this rating traps 95% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. While this certainly isn't HEPA, it works well in many situations. With this type of filtration, it will block most of your pollens as well as dust and other particulate in the air. If you try one of these masks but find that the filtration isn't quite doing the job, you can step up to a P100 or N100 rated mask/respirator instead.
NIOSH 100 rated masks meet HEPA standards, trapping 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. This type of filter represents the gold standard when it comes to particle filtration in masks. Some of these masks are disposable while others have replaceable filters, but both types will provide the extra protection against allergens for those who need it.
Aside from keeping up with your lawn, masks also work well for simple gardening. We all like the look of a well put together flower bed or the taste of a fresh tomato from a plant in the backyard (I know I do!) but planting this time of year presents the same problems as cutting the grass for the first time. With gardening, you often don't stir up pollen like you do when mowing, but this can often involve digging around in decaying or moldy vegetation or leaves. Again, an N95 mask can often be your best bet, but if allergies aren't as severe you may be able to go with something like a Silk or Vogmask. The filtration level on these is a bit lower than N95 but both can help to reduce exposure to particles that can cause allergies or asthma to flare. Plus, these types of masks are a little easier on the eyes, fold up to fit neatly in your pocket, and are generally a bit more comfortable.
Regardless of whether your mowing, gardening or simply cleaning up after your dog, masks an easy and convenient way to block particles while helping to keep you enjoying the outdoors longer.
Author: Kevin G.
In the February issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a research piece explores the idea of asthma sufferers wearing a mask while sleeping. While allergen avoidance is a commonly recommended course of action for people with allergies or asthma, one type of intervention alone is rarely sufficient. This has long been the reason why we have traditionally recommended an overarching approach that includes allergy bedding covers, air filtration, and regular cleaning to removal of carpet and the use of an allergy mask. It is this last part that these researchers focused on.
This randomized, four week study focused on children with asthma and rhinitis and tested to see how sleeping with a mask (even when they continued on their normal medication) would affect them. What they found was that those who slept with a mask at night to help filter allergens or irritants reported more asthma control days (days where their asthma was under control) and a higher peak expiratory flow than their non-mask wearing counterparts.
While no single measure, wearing a mask, encasing bedding, or regular cleaning, can effectively control allergies and asthma alone, what the study shows is that when added to a regimen, wearing a mask at night may be beneficial to some children in their efforts to control asthma. If wearing an allergy mask at night is something you want to consider for your child, keep in mind a few things - size/fit, effectiveness, and airflow. While even something as simple as a N95 rated mask will help, comfort, correct sizing and adequate airflow can all impact how likely the child is actually to keep the mask on while s/he sleeps. And if it comes off during the night, don't worry! In the study, almost half of the children who did wear masks, woke up with them no longer on but still benefitted.
To read the full published research article.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
The Allergy Mask by Respro takes a lightweight polyester shell, then inserts two exhale valves and a layer of particle filter media to trap 95% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. This means the Allergy Mask is ideal for allergy and asthma sufferers alike.
With the a washable shell and replaceable filters, this mask is built to provide you years of reliable service. And if chemicals, smoke or odors are a concern, there are Chemical/Particle filters available. These still filter particles at the same N95 rate but have activated charcoal/carbon through the filter media to adsorb smoke and odors. Though conditions and pollution levels will vary, under most conditions the Allergy Mask filters last about 60 hours before needing to be replaced.
In recognizing the Respro Allergy Mask, the British Allergy Foundation and Allergy UK are highlighting that for allergy sufferers this Respro mask may benefit allergy, asthma, and MCS sufferers as well as those who want to reduce their chemical/allergen load. All product bearing the “Allergy Friendly” label have been evaluated by a panel of advisors and corresponding allergy experts as well as used and tested by allergy and asthma sufferers.
Other products that have received this seal include 3M air purifiers, Honeywell HEPA air purifiers, Dyson vacuums, and SEBO Automatic X, Felix and Airbelt K vacuum cleaners.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Allergic reactions to acorns, though not common, are possible. While the most common reactions to acorns appear in places where they are frequently eaten, experiences with acorns can vary widely, even amongst people with tree nut allergies. Some can have no trouble with them at all, while other are fine handling unbroken acorns, and other still have issues but only if they are ingested. Because data regarding allergic reactions to touching or handling acorns is so sparse, many allergists see little threat to those who suffer from tree nut allergies. Other allergists, choosing to err on the side of safety, will recommend to simply avoid all tree nuts.
I wondered though, what about crushed acorns? While I was blowing off the driveway I was creating small mounds of crushed acorns and acorn dust. After weeks of running over them and no rain to wash them away, clearing the driveway meant kicking up clouds of acorn dust and debris from literally thousands of these crushed nuts. For someone who is allergic to acorns, this could potentially pose a serious problem.
As with any fall allergen, like ragweed or mold spores from rotting leaves and pine needles, a quality allergy mask is the simplest way to avoid inhaling the allergen. With a proper seal and N95 or better filtration rating, a mask can filter out those particle allergens that could potentially cause an allergic or asthmatic reaction.
So whether you're raking leaving or just blowing off the driveway, an easy way around potential hazards is with a mask. If contact dermatitis is a concern, be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves, and as always, if you are a tree nut allergy sufferer, play it safe and keep an epi-pen/auto injector handy. Lastly, keep in mind that you can always ask someone else rake those leaves or blow off the driveway!
For my part, I'm still looking for something better to do with all these acorns!
Fall is also a time when you may find acorns around the house, particularly as decoration or even as part of a medley of tree nuts for people to snack on. In instances like this, even if you are not allergic to acorns, cross contamination with other nuts, like Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, etc. can be a concern. For a very concise and well written article about acorns and pine nuts with regard to tree nut allergy sufferers, visit here.Author: KevvyG
The RZ mask comes in a variety of styles and a few sizes, and to start we've chosen three colors that break up the monotony of most facemask designs. The sizes range from XL (for large adults), to Regular (fits most adults) and Youth. Each mask comes with two sets of filters and a small nylon pouch for storage.
Now, we wouldn't be introducing a new mask unless it could help allergy and asthma sufferers, and the RZ mask is no exception. Tested for Particle Filter Efficiency (PFE) by an independent lab, the RZ's filters trap 99.9% of particle 0.1 microns or larger. With a proper fit, that is ideal for capturing particles like pollen, mold spores, dust and other particles found in the outdoor air. A thin layer of carbon/charcoal cloth also works to adsorb nuisance level odors and chemicals. Though the PFE is the only independently certified testing done on the filters to this point, a DOP test, the precurser to obtaining an official NIOSH rating, is in the works.
Like the Respro mask, the RZ has a neoprene shell with a velcro strap along the back. A rigid, yet adjustable nosepiece and removable (to clean away an debris) valves are also features of this face mask.
Though the colors and styles may not be for everyone, for those who off-road with bicycles, ATV's, dirt bikes, hunt, farm, fish or for any outdoor enthusiast, the RZ mask is a great way to remove particle allergens and block dust.
Keep an eye out in the coming days. Since the Respro and RZ masks are very similar in design and function, we will be doing a video comparing the two.
Ragweed is a generic term that actually covers over three dozen different species of plants. Here in the U.S., the most prevalent form of ragweed is A. artemisiifolia. Ragweed is fairly potent when compared to other types of pollen, and can be a problem for allergy sufferers even in areas where ragweed plants are not prolific. The pollen of ragweed is so light that in some instances, it can travel hundreds of miles before finally settling out of the air. Because there is a severe drought gripping nearly 3/4 of the country (and ragweed is well suited for warm, arid conditions), this year's ragweed season is likely to be a rough one!
There are several things you can do to reduce the impact of ragweed pollen during this time of year, but there are two general paths you can take - avoidance or treatment of symptoms. In terms of treating symptoms, there are a variety of allergy medications available. When taken prior to actually seeing symptoms, many can actually prevent the sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and other conditions that typify an allergic reaction. For some there can be issues with side effects or adverse reactions with other medications that person may be taking, and for other people, the expense of constantly taking allergy medication for several continuous weeks through ragweed season can just be too much expense.
On the hand, there is avoidance. Avoidance can and is more difficult than simply taking a pill. However, the benefits of it can mean less cost to your bottom line, no worry of adverse reactions, and less dependence on pills or potentially addictive nasal sprays. In terms of avoidance there are a few basic tips to keep in mind.
- Keep Your Windows Closed - Whether at home or in your car, keeping your windows closed is a basic step to keep pollen out. If you want to keep your the windows open, try using a home window filter. These trap much of the pollen, ragweed and otherwise, but still allow some air to pass through and circulate throughout your home.
- Watch the Pollen Count - This information is readily available through your local news outlet or a variety of online sources. Knowing when pollen counts are particularly high can help you schedule certain outdoor tasks to reduce exposure.
- Rinse Your Sinuses - Many people who suffer from allergies already employ this method to flush allergens and soothe sore or inflamed sinuses. When used properly a simple, inexpensive device like a neti pot can make a big difference in how you feel and how well you can breathe through your nose.
Whether you go with avoidance, medications or a combination of the two, both can bring relief and help to minimize the misery that ragweed season can bring.
For more information on ragweed pollen. Happy Breathing!
Author: Kevin Gilmore aka KevvyG
- Pollen - While the pollen types and volumes are generally less than during the springs months, plants like sumac and thistle produce pollen throughout the summer. For many allergy and asthma sufferers, fresh cut grass can be a continuing source of irritation during this time. And because people typically spend more of the summer outdoors than any other season, exposure to pollen can be greater than during peak pollen months.
- Emissions Pollution - Traffic in many areas of the country can increase or decrease seasonally, but no matter where you are the warmer temperatures mean that any pollution in the air more readily forms ground level ozone. So whether it is vehicle exhaust or emissions from factories, the formation of the lung irritant ozone is much more common during the summer than in any other season. Ground level ozone is the primary reason why you see so many air quality warnings throughout the summer. Additionally, though these conditions usually affect urban centers, some of the highest levels of ground level ozone are recorded in rural areas. As the air and air pollution moves, geography like mountains and valley create natural collection points where pollution from urban areas can settle and build. Much like water, air has a natural flow that allows for it to pool and form pockets far from the original source.
- Wildfires - Every year wildfires plague sections of the western U.S. The soot, ash, and chemicals carried in wildfire smoke can be particularly troubling for those with asthma and other respiratory conditions like COPD. Drought conditions exacerbate this and can make areas where wildfires are usually not a concern, a serious problem. Even those who aren't directly affected by the fire can be affected by the smoke.
- Special Summer Events - Though the vast majority of people will not be attending Burning Man, many people will be attending summer music festivals and concerts across the country. Though Burning Man requires a mask prior to being admitted, most do not. If you do plan on spending time in areas where campfires are going to be abundant, it's never a bad idea to bring a mask along.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
With the spring allergy season in full swing, we've been talking quite a bit about face/allergy masks. Though masks are a simple and easy solution to blocking allergens and dust, many people still refuse to wear them, so with the introduction of the new Vogmask we hope to remove aesthetics and "look" out of the equation.
Pronounced "v-o-g," these masks come in two styles of fabric/filtration and six patterns. For mild allergy sufferers or those wanting a natural cotton fabric, the organic cotton masks filter particle allergens and fit snugly on the face. For those with those with more moderate to mild allergies, the microfiber Vogmask traps 99% of particles 3 microns and larger.
This means most of the spring pollens and dust are effectively blocked. Despite record pollen levels across the South, you can still enjoy the outdoors without the sneezing, itching and watery eyes.
To see our full line of allergy masks.
Masks come in a variety of styles and sizes, and being such a personal item, it can be difficult to find the one that balances all your needs: filtration, breathability, aethestics, and price. Here at Achoo, we focus on filtration and breathability first, then comfort and price.
One big complaint about allergy masks is the look of them, but would you be willing to sacrifice some filtration for style? You may be familiar with some of the masks below, but browse our Andy Warhol-esque selection below and see which you would prefer.
- a. Vogmask (Microfiber) - Non-woven microfiber, 3-ply, that offers basic particle filtration, roughly equivalent to the Silk Mask.
- b. Vogmask (Organic Cotton) - Organic cotton, 2-ply, that offers slightly less filtration and the Vogmask microfiber.
- c. ICanBreathe Organic Cotton - This organic cotton face mask uses no latex, dyes, perfumes or plastics. The filtration is similar to the Silk Mask.
- d.Respro Techno - With the European equivalent of N95 filtration and activated carbon, the Techno filters chemicals, smoke and particles.
- e.Respro Aero/Allergy - Like the Techno, the Aero offers N95 equivalent filtration of particles with optional smoke/chemical filtration.
- f. ICanBreathe Silk - Very popular, the Silk is lightweight, easily stored and blocks medium to larger particles, like dust and many pollens, less than N95 filtration.