AchooAllergy.com Blog

Allergy Mask


Posted by A. Howard on Wednesday, August 13, 2014
With the fall festival season right around the corner, it's time to hustle on getting your costumes and outdoor necessities together!

For years AchooAllergy's marked the start of this time of year with an annual sale for your outdoor necessities, like masks, sunscreen, blankets, and more. From large outdoor concerts to state and county fairs or just hanging out with 50,000 of your closest friends in the Nevada desert, fall events occur throughout the U.S., and in different locales, there are a variety of things to plan for. From sunscreen and blankets to masks that can filter out wood smoke, dust and sand, you can now save on some things to make your outdoor event more comfortable.

Top 3 Fall Festival Masks
  • Best Mask for Smoke, Dust & Sand - Respro TechnoRespro Techno - Made in the UK, the Respro has been a traditional favorite. It was originally created to filter out city air pollution and for those with active lifestyles. With Dynamic ACC (Activated Charcoal Cloth) and HEPA-style filtration, this mask does a very good job of not only filtering out particulate (like sand and dust) but also odors and wood smoke. Since the filters are replaceable, the Techno mask provides most people with years of use. A flexible neoprene shell, velcro adjustment, and two exhale valves make for a snug, comfortable fit and help to reduce heat around your face.
  • RZ Outdoor MaskRZ Mask - Also great for outdoor adventures, like a week out in the desert, and to protect you from dust storms and smoke, the RZ Mask is very similar to the Respro Techno. The RZ also comes with carbon/particle filter and dual exhale valves and neoprene construction. Though cheaper than Respro (it's made in China and doesn't carry the official filtration certifications that Respro does) the RZ has been independently tested and is effective for microparticles as well as odor removal.
  • VogmasksVogmask - There are a few different varieties of Vogmasks. From organic cotton dust masks to the CV99, each offers varying degrees of protection. The best is the CV99 mask. Not only does it have a layer of carbon to adsorb smoke from campfires but the particle filtration is officially certified. A respiration valve, lightweight design and wide selection of stylish prints and unique patterns makes these masks a big hit.

Take 10% Off Select ItemsFree Sample Size Vanicream Suncreen w/ Each Mask Purchase

Other Essential Items

Vanicream Sunscreen is great for sensitive skin, eczema and for those who don't want to slather on chemicals and fragrances that are found in most sunscreens. Nontoxic and free from PABA and preservatives, this lightweight, non-greasy formula won't clog pores, and stays water resistant for up to 80 minutes. Available in SPF 30, SPF Sport and SPF 50.

Allergy Armor Organic Blankets are soft and great for chilly nights around a camp fire. Made from USDA certified organic cotton and sewn right in Atlanta, GA, these organic cotton blankets are sustainably produced and free of the chemical, dye, fertilizer, and pesticide residues that are so prevalent in modern cotton production.

Just because the summer is winding down, doesn't mean the fun stops. There will always be communities having a great time, experiencing lights, nature and art. So make sure you have everything you need to get out there and enjoy what remains of summer and coming fall festival season!

Author: April Howard

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, May 22, 2014
I cannot deny, that the older I get, the more I become a bit of a germaphobe. It is not something I’ve consciously done, but it is something I am fully aware of, and with a trip to visit friends and a couple flights on this holiday weekend’s agenda, for the first time ever I am going to be wearing a mask.

MERS Virus Under Electron MicrographYes, I am fully aware that I’ll likely not have to worry about catching tuberculosis, H1N1, or even the most recent virus to scare us back into our homes, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)… and just in time for summer! All kidding aside, MERS is a very nasty bug that first made its presence known nearly two years ago. New viruses do often make headlines. Typically, the mortality rate for novel strains, like this coronavirus, is initially high. Often, not all of those who are infected with new viruses report it. Information is often scant, and with so much unknown, the stories that tend to make headlines are those cases which are ultimately fatal. Initial mortality rates followed a curve that was also found with SARS and other new viruses. From 2012 into 2013, mortality rates for this virus were stated to be as high as 50%, an impressively terrible number. Since that time, the mortality rate has fallen, and latest Center for Disease Control (CDC) projections estimate it to be 30%, still a shockingly high number. Just earlier this month, the first case of MERS sprung up in the U.S. On May 2nd and then again on May 11th, there were two confirmed cases in the U.S., both travelers to Saudi Arabia. Then on May 16th of this month, the first confirmed case by an individual who had NOT traveled to the Middle East made headlines. This was in Illinois, and with me traveling to that area of the country this weekend, well….

MERS Infected Vero CellsHaving assessed the risk of infection very low for the average American, the CDC currently has few recommendations other than avoiding close contact with those who are ill, frequent hand washing, and to avoid touching your face, pretty standard fare for reducing the spread of any viruses. If you dig a little deeper into published information on the CDC website, there are additional guidelines for healthcare providers that stress testing, reporting and quarantining patients who are diagnosed. There is mention of the use of a mask, but with so little known about the virus, it is yet unclear how effective this would be in preventing the spread of MERS.

CDC recommendations for past viruses, such as H1N1, SARS, and the Avian flu have included the use of an N95 rated mask. N95 masks filter 95% of particles, including pathogens, that are 0.3 microns or larger. Though, it is not yet known how effective an N95 mask would be for MERS, previous experience would suggest that it can only help.

Like SARS, MERS is a coronavirus similar to those more commonly found in bats. As of now, the exact origin of this particular pathogen is not yet known, but there have been instances of the virus and/or antibodies to the virus show up in both camels and bats. There are a few things, however, that are known about MERS. First, it can be transmitted by close personal contact with someone who is infected. People who are caring for someone who is infected with MERS but exhibiting traditional flu-like symptoms are susceptible. This is partly why cases of MERS have cropped up in small clusters. Infection is punctuated by the development of "severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath." As of now, there is no vaccine for the virus.

With all that being said, my growing paranoia has firmly taken grip of me. So in addition to my pillow, pillow cover, camera, and toothbrush, I'll be toting a mask. For now, I'm leaning toward one of the Vogmasks (probably the Parallax). Polks Dots Are IN This Year!  And Yes, I DO Look Like I Have LEGO HairIt's small enough to put in my pocket, and doesn't make me look like I escaped from a containment lab.

I have to admit though, a small part of me wants to wear this simply to do a very small part in normalizing mask wearing. While it's fairly common in places where air quality is extremely poor (think Beijing), in the U.S. people wear masks for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, wearing a mask can also bring along questioning looks, but ultimately people wear masks for health reasons. Whether it's to reduce exposure to air pollution, heavy perfume, smoke or microbes, it all boils down to trying to add a small but not insignificant layer of protection. And that, shouldn't carry a stigma or unwanted looks.

In any event, I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Author: Kevin Gilmore

UPDATE: A coworker just passed this along to me.
http://www.ajc.com/news/business/auburn-university-researchers-study-airplane-cabin/nf4Nt/
Ah-ha! Justified!



Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Since 2012, Vogmasks have offered a more stylish, comfortable way to block allergens, dust and air pollution. The original mask, the Classic Microfiber Vogmask, is lightweight, offers three layer filtration and comes in a variety of colors. After just a few short years, these masks have not only gained a great deal of popularity and improved, but we are now happy to introduce you to some of the new members of the Vogmask lineup!

N99 VogmaskIn addition to the Classic Vogmasks, there are now CV N99 masks. Originally, each Vogmask offered roughly N95 filtration (95% filtration of particles), but the drawback was the "roughly" part. Since then, the design of the mask has been improved, so much so that this latest version of the Vogmask has been tested to offer N99 filtration (99% filtration of particles). This is as close to a HEPA mask as you can get, without actually having a HEPA mask. In addition to the N99 filtration, the new CV Vogmasks have 4-ply filtration, with one of those being a thin layer of active carbon. So in addition to better particle filtration, the N99 CV can also tackle nuisance levels odors, fragrance and smoke. To make breathing easier each also comes with an exhale valve built into the right side. This keeps exhaled air, moisture and warmth moving out of the mask and away from your face.

New Allergy Mask - Vogmask MondrianSimilar to the Classic Vogmask, you will also find a new Microfiber version. Nearly identical to the Classic in every way, the significant difference is that the new Microfiber, like the CV, offers N99 filtration. Lastly, there is the Organic Cotton Vogmask. With tightly woven, certified organic cotton, this mask offers the lowest level of particle filtration but is well suited for someone looking for a more natural face mask without plastics or other materials that can cause reactions for those with MCS.

Each mask is hand washable, lightweight, reusable and latex-free. Unlike other allergy masks, the range of styles and patterns gives you the ability to choose the mask that not only meets your filtration needs but provides the style and look you want. So if Spring allergy season is getting you down, an effective Vogmask might be just what you need!

To compare Vogmask features.

Author: K. Gilmore

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

Though, I suppose if you want to get technical about it, Atlanta Allergy & Asthma posts daily pollen counts, and we've already seen a few days over 900. For nearly two weeks straight in April of 2013, pollen counts stayed 1600. Yellow tree pollen was everywhere, on vehicles, clothing, even my dog! So, 900 is pretty bad for those allergic to tree pollens, but not quite as severe as April of last year, yet....

If I buy into the hype, I would say, this spring pollen season will be the worst pollen season ever! Don't Be Caught Unprepared, Otherwise You End Up Using A Spatula As An Ice Scraper And Relying On A Gift of Rock Salt to Pull You ThroughWhile some entities (*cough! the Weather Channel *cough!) seem certain we're in for the worst allergy season on record, this same entity also warns us pretty regularly during the winter that any inch of snow is probably the worst inch of snow ever! Then again.... they were kinda right about that whole ice storm thing in February. Yes, that one, the one that had me sacking out on the couch at work because stranded motorists had the streets so clogged that even after six hours of trying tens of roads and one trip to the Scottish Rite Children's Hospital (a stranded family needed a lift), I simply could not get past all of the stuck vehicles. Then there was a 2011 study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that confirmed what anecdotal evidence has been pointing to for some time now - for parts of North America, ragweed season is lasting longer and ending up to a month later. Frankly, I'm not sure which is more troubling, a longer allergy season or the Weather Channel being right!

All kidding aside, Spring 2014 is shaping up to pretty miserable for a lot of people coping with allergies. High precipitation during the winter has primed much of the country for pollen to literally "pop" in the next couple weeks. Much like a party popper, many people are likely high pollen counts. In my case, the city will begin to look like a giant pollen-filled Respro Allergy Mask - Whitepiñata just exploded above the city of Atlanta and is raining down yellow-green sneezy-treats.

In preparation for this, we've seen a fairly steady stream of visitors to the store, and most of them are looking for the same three items - Allergy Masks, window filters, and HEPA air purifiers. These three items can make a big difference in how spring allergies affect you, and all three have one thing in common - they filter the air you breathe. Masks are popular, especially if you have a yard or garden to tend to. Even something as simple as walking your dog this time of year can bring misery if you have allergies, but a minimum of an N95 rated or equivalent mask can block pollen, dust and other spring allergens.

Window filters are also very popular. After being cooped up for a winter like the one most of us have just struggled through, it is hard to resist the temptation to open the windows and let a warm spring breeze in. Unfortunately that spring breeze can also carry a great deal of tree, grass and weed pollen. Window filters block the majority of this pollen, and while they do cut down on some airflow, they allow many to open the windows with less worry. No Soliciting.... or Pollen!When you've tried your best to keep the pollen out, but like a persistent door-to-door encyclopedia salesman it keeps finding its way into your home, a HEPA air purifier can keep parts of your home free of pollen and allergens. Generally, it is best to place it in the bedroom and keep the door closed. Most people spend the majority of all the time they are in their homes, in the bedroom sleeping, so it is ideal to make at least this space clean and free of allergens.

Short of moving to the Arctic circle, spring pollen season can affect you in any region of the country. So now is the time to start preparing for what probably be better than the last few months of the snow and ice, but... not by a lot.

What can I say? I've got a lot of spring cheer!

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Saturday, October 12, 2013
Over seven years ago, I decided it was time for a change. So, after spending two weeks on a road trip through the South and up the Atlantic coast I came to the conclusion that Atlanta seemed like a good place to move.

Don't get me wrong, where I moved from in Ohio is beautiful, and life there moves at a somewhat slower pace. I have always said, if I was raising children, as my brothers are, that would be the place I would do it. As a younger adult though, the dirt roads, Amish neighbors and relative lack of people didn't make for the best of environments to meet people. I chose Atlanta, and a big reason was because of all the trees.

Proof Nature Has a Cruel Sense of HumorSince moving, I've never lived in an apartment, houses only for me. I've never cared for the lack of privacy or a yard that comes with living in an apartment. With a yard though, and a lot of trees, I spend a good amount of time picking up fallen limbs, mowing, and at this time of year, raking leaves. They can be enjoyable tasks, things to either take my mind off of whatever it is that is bothering me or simple things that when I'm finished I can take instant gratification in the results. There are three things that I use, though, that do make the task a little easier on me and my neighbors.

Pine Cone of Doom?!? Quite Possibly. If the leaves have been neglected, then I'll rake them then stuff them into refuse bags. However, if the trees around your home like to taunt you like mine do, then it's generally a slow trickle of leaves that fall, that typically last for about twelve months. Thanks nature! In this case, I prefer to simply mulch them up with a bagged mower.

Some kinds of bagged mowers have the hard shells attached to the back. Wrong Kind of TurtleMuch like the turtle do, these mowers crawl around your yard while the shell-like contraption keeps things tucked away inside. If you have a push mower, like me, there are some attachable baggers that are better than others. As an added bonus, bagged mowers also reduce the chances of turning a harmless little pine cone into a projectile of doom. The last bagged mower I had left my neighborhood looking like the dustbowl had come again! The mower I currently have though uses a tighter mesh material that allows less dust and debris to escape. While I've not been given an official award by the neighborhood for ending the Smryna Dustbowl, I'm sure they appreciate it, if for no other reason than they stopped leaving bags of sand on my front porch.

On the personal protection side of things, go with a mask. Because of the lay of my front yard, water settles there. This also means fine sediment like sand and allergens settle there as well. I'm Smiling Under My Dust MaskEven something as a simple as a dust mask can keep your lungs happy by blocking these fine particles. If you want something with better protection, there are semi-disposable HEPA masks that seal well and trap the vast majority of all particles you might be kicking up.

The last thing I like to use is a neti pot. This can be either the actual teapot shaped neti device or something as simple as a squeeze bottle. Either way, when I'm done, I dump one packet of into the neti, mix with lukewarm water, then rinse away. If you're using this to flush your sinuses, and you feel full afterwards because all of the mix made its way down your throat… you're doing it wrong. Sinus Rinse PacketNot to worry though because what you've drank is most basically water, salt and a little baking soda. In one nostril and out the other with half the solution, then, like a barn dance, halfway through, switch. (No barn dance images. Sorry, but I've had those sealed away in a vault.) It does take some getting used to, but this is one of the easiest ways to flush out allergens, dust, dirt and other things that would like to make your nose its new home.

So there you have it! Three things that can not only help reduce your exposure to fall allergens but likely improve your relationship with your neighbors.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Saturday, October 12, 2013
Over seven years ago, I decided it was time for a change. So, after spending two weeks on a road trip through the South and up the Atlantic coast I came to the conclusion that Atlanta seemed like a good place to move.

Don't get me wrong, where I moved from in Ohio is beautiful, and life there moves at a somewhat slower pace. I have always said, if I was raising children, as my brothers are, that would be the place I would do it. As a younger adult though, the dirt roads, Amish neighbors and relative lack of people didn't make for the best of environments to meet people. I chose Atlanta, and a big reason was because of all the trees.

Proof Nature Has a Cruel Sense of HumorSince moving, I've never lived in an apartment, houses only for me. I've never cared for the lack of privacy or a yard that comes with living in an apartment. With a yard though, and a lot of trees, I spend a good amount of time picking up fallen limbs, mowing, and at this time of year, raking leaves. They can be enjoyable tasks, things to either take my mind off of whatever it is that is bothering me or simple things that when I'm finished I can take instant gratification in the results. There are three things that I use, though, that do make the task a little easier on me and my neighbors.

Pine Cone of Doom?!? Quite Possibly. If the leaves have been neglected, then I'll rake them then stuff them into refuse bags. However, if the trees around your home like to taunt you like mine do, then it's generally a slow trickle of leaves that fall, that typically last for about twelve months. Thanks nature! In this case, I prefer to simply mulch them up with a bagged mower.

Some kinds of bagged mowers have the hard shells attached to the back. Wrong Kind of TurtleMuch like the turtle do, these mowers crawl around your yard while the shell-like contraption keeps things tucked away inside. If you have a push mower, like me, there are some attachable baggers that are better than others. As an added bonus, bagged mowers also reduce the chances of turning a harmless little pine cone into a projectile of doom. The last bagged mower I had left my neighborhood looking like the dustbowl had come again! The mower I currently have though uses a tighter mesh material that allows less dust and debris to escape. While I've not been given an official award by the neighborhood for ending the Smryna Dustbowl, I'm sure they appreciate it, if for no other reason than they stopped leaving bags of sand on my front porch.

On the personal protection side of things, go with a mask. Because of the lay of my front yard, water settles there. This also means fine sediment like sand and allergens settle there as well. I'm Smiling Under My Dust MaskEven something as a simple as a dust mask can keep your lungs happy by blocking these fine particles. If you want something with better protection, there are semi-disposable HEPA masks that seal well and trap the vast majority of all particles you might be kicking up.

The last thing I like to use is a neti pot. This can be either the actual teapot shaped neti device or something as simple as a squeeze bottle. Either way, when I'm done, I dump one packet of into the neti, mix with lukewarm water, then rinse away. If you're using this to flush your sinuses, and you feel full afterwards because all of the mix made its way down your throat… you're doing it wrong. Sinus Rinse PacketNot to worry though because what you've drank is most basically water, salt and a little baking soda. In one nostril and out the other with half the solution, then, like a barn dance, halfway through, switch. (No barn dance images. Sorry, but I've had those sealed away in a vault.) It does take some getting used to, but this is one of the easiest ways to flush out allergens, dust, dirt and other things that would like to make your nose its new home.

So there you have it! Three things that can not only help reduce your exposure to fall allergens but likely improve your relationship with your neighbors.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, September 23, 2013
With a noticeable chill in the air, fall is upon us, and soon many of us will be buried under that annual ritual called "falling leaves".  This time of year can be tricky for people with specific allergies, like ragweed and mold spores, as well as cold weather induced asthma.  Avoiding the sneezing, congestion, coughing and wheezing doesn't have to be difficult. Sometimes, something as simple as using a respirator or allergy mask can make all the difference.  So how can these help reduce symptoms while outside the home? By understanding your specific allergen you can more easily understand how something like an allergy mask can help.

Starting and late summer and continuing well into autumn, ragweed can be one of the most ubiquitous and far reaching allergens of any season.  Extremely small and lightweight, ragweed pollen can literally travel hundreds of miles.  So while ragweed may not be a common to your area, winds can literally carry it from state to state.  In addition to the ability to travel long distances without the aid of a Greyhound or proper bus fare, ragweed pollen delivers punches in bunches.  Pardon the old boxing cliche, but what I mean is that a ragweed plant can produce up to a billion grains of pollen during a season.  Ragweed is also a very hardy plant, difficult to get rid of in areas where it is not naturally occurring.  Lastly, ragweed is actually a generic terms that covers over 41 species of plants worldwide.  Coupled with the highly allergic nature of the pollen, these things can make this time of year miserable for a lot of people.

3M 6291 HEPA Respirator Respro Techno Mask Respro Allergy Mask

As the mercury drops, so do the leaves.  If they sit too long or you live near a wooded area, dead leaves can quickly accumulate and begin to mold.  As active mold grows in decaying leaf piles, it produces spores and can begin churning out mycotoxins.  The spores cause varying reactions in different people, but mycotoxins can affect anyone, allergies, asthma or not. On top of all of these are people burning leaves. This is more common in rural areas but leaf smoke can be a powerful irritant.

Brisk mornings or cool evenings can trigger asthma attacks for many.  Walking the dog in the morning or that early evening jog can be particularly troublesome.  As you exercise or your respiration rate increases with activity, your mouth and nose can have problems keeping up with warming the air you are breathing.

Honeycomb Carbon Allergy Mask Silk Allergy Face MaskVogmask Mask - 8-Bit

All of these things can be reduced or minimized with the use of a mask or respirator.  There are a variety of styles available, but here's a quick rundown of how they can help.  Masks can provide varying degrees of filtration that can top out with true HEPA certified filters that capture 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns and larger (which covers your mold spores, pollen and most other irritating or reaction causing particles).  Other the other end of the spectrum are N95 masks which trap 95% of particles of the same size range.  Other masks may filter less than 95%, but N95 has become the standard for masks since the CDC has recommended this minimum as effective to help stop the spread of SARS, Avian flu, H1N1 and other strains of influenza.  In terms of filter ragweed or mold spores, each NIOSH type will offer varying degrees of efficiency.

This doesn't mean you should simple go for a HEPA masks.  There are other things to consider like the filter type you want or whether activated carbon/charcoal in the filter to adsorb odors, chemicals or smoke, in addition to the particle filtration, is wanted.  You may also want a mask that is warmer than others, particularly if you have cold air induced asthma.  This might include a fleece mask or simply a mask that holds heat around the face better.  Regardless of what your specific needs are, there are a variety of masks to choose from.  And most importantly, all can be effective in helping you reduce allergic reactions or asthma attacks while limiting exposure to the things that cause you the most trouble.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by KevvyG on Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Ragweed is Here!  Are you Ready?Ok, so perhaps I'm being a bit dramatic when I wrote that title, but to be honest, the theme from Jaws was playing in my head. Still, the summer months are quickly winding down, and despite Mother Nature's insistence on strange summer weather, fall is rapidly approaching. Not that anyone particularly needs a weather recap, but for much of the country east of the Mississippi, heavy rains have dampened summer temps. This matters some, but the predicted trends for the fall are more important in terms of ragweed season. To try to determine how this year's season will be, I've looked at a couple different sources - NOAA's National Weather Service, The Weather Channel, and the Old Farmer's Almanac. That's right folks. I'm moonlighting as a weather prediction expert and as such, an allergen prediction expert!

Starting in the Northeast - Apparently the deluge is over? At least that's the thought. The forecast of a cooler, dry fall for the central and western portions means relatively normal conditions for ragweed. Rain can be a double edged sword when it comes to pollen. It can increase overall pollen production, while a relative lack of it can mean the pollen that is produced will likely be dispersed over a wider area. As one of the lightest pollens, ragweed can literally travel for hundreds of miles before settling. With temperatures possibly being cooler, despite potential above average rain around the upper Mississippi, the overall effect may likely even out some. As a note though, the far Northeast does appear to be slightly warmer than average, so expect pollen counts in the New England states to buck the trend of the larger region.

Speaking of Rain - The Southeast looks like a coin toss. And as mentioned above, rain can tamp down the dispersal of pollen but may mean greater production of this potent allergen. As showers are typically very hit or miss in the South and Southeast, we could experience bouts of high pollen that will hopefully be cleaned out by nature's natural cleanser, rain. The prediction of average or cooler than average temps should keep the season in line with those in the past.

While out West - Conditions could be wetter, but according to NOAA, only really in the Dakotas region. For much of the West, expect slightly warmer than average temperatures. This can spell trouble in terms of ragweed as warmer, dry conditions often lead to widespread pollen dispersal. On another note, this dryer, warmer than normal forecast offers no relief for the current problem - wildfires and smoke.

To recap, stock up on allergy masks and furnace filters west of the Mississippi, and for the rest of us, stay calm and carry on.

Regardless of where you are, there are a few things you can do to help with ragweed season. Ragweed can be a particularly potent allergen and is light enough to be widely dispersed. With over two dozen species and the ability for a single plant to produce over a million grains of pollen in a single season, it is a far reaching allergen. So to help,
  • Monitor the Count - Pollen counts have become a staple of most local forecasts. Keep an eye on this, and outdoor activities that can be rescheduled, should be when the pollen count is particularly high. Warmer, windy days can be some of the worst, so look for rain. The day after rains typically have some of the lowest pollen counts of the season.

  • Allergy Masks Don't Have to be DrabMasks - A good N95 mask or respirator is handy to have around nearly anytime of the year but particularly during peak allergen seasons. NIOSH rated masks and respirators can filter out allergens like pollen, mold spores and dander. HEPA rated masks (N100) do the best job at this, and there is a wide variety to choose from which gives you many options of price, style and size. Disposable N95 masks are great for doing a little yard work or gardening, while a more stylish mask with a replaceable filters might be a better fit everyday use. Regardless of what you choose, any will help block ragweed pollens.

  • Filters - If you use an air purifier, fall is a good time to check the filters. Many of the more expensive brands have long filter life and may not need to be changed. Back-blowing can help remove large particles, especially from pre-filters, and extend the life of filters. This simply involves using low pressure compressed air and blowing air back through the filter in the opposite direction of normal airflow. For less expensive air purifiers that often require more frequent filter changes, find your brand and replace the HEPA or particle filter as necessary.

  • Ragweed 2013 - Forecast
  • Furnace Filters - These are likely due for a change. During the summer months, we often get lax about things like this, particularly with more people spending time outdoors. Regular replacement can keep your HVAC running in tip-top shape while also filtering out allergens like mold spores and ragweed pollen. Vent filters are also a good idea, particularly for areas where air conditioning isn't used as much. Fall can mean the first use of the furnace and the dust in the ducts that has been collecting all summer, can be trapped by vent filters.

  • Landscaping - Keeping brush and dead vegetation clear can help. In areas prone to weeds, try a heavy coat of mulch or even that fabric-style landscaping cover can keep weeds at bay in flower beds, gardens and other areas. By keeping dead or rotting vegetation clear, you can reduce another common fall allergen - mold spores.

  • Keep Up With Your Medication - Maintenance medication for asthma (preventatives), should not be skipped during times when seasonal allergies are peaking. When symptoms do flare up, antihistamines can help. These over the counter medications can reduce the histamines that cause the allergic symptoms in most people, and in more severe situations, prescription medications can offer a more potent form of relief.

  • Rinse - Of course your dentist will recommend that you rinse regularly, but I'm talking about a sinus rinse! Using a saline solution can rinse away allergens and help to reduce symptoms. Rinsing can also moisturize and soothe inflamed sinuses. Though a bit odd, sinus irrigation is a non-pharmaceutical way to bring about relief for many.
Ultimately, who knows? Though my B.A. in history may likely make me as qualified as any "meteorologist" you see on TV, I wouldn't bet the farm on my weather prediction abilities. And speaking of the farm, I mentioned at the onset that I also referred to the Old Farmer's Almanac. I fully intended to, until I saw the predictions for our current summer. Considering most of the eastern half of the country was a complete miss, I stuck with NOAA and The Weather Channel. I know my family has often relied on the Almanac, but this year - bust (sorry Dad). Check out the lower image on this page.

To view NOAA's temperature and precipitation forecast or the Weather Channel's fall temperature outlook.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, April 15, 2013
With Spring finally here, the many months of keeping up with my yard begins. From pressure washing away red clay and pollen to mowing and trimming, lawn care is one of those outdoor tasks that can really aggravate those with allergies or asthma. Pollen levels are up but so is the grass, so aside from hiring someone to take care of your lawn (or napalming it), what can you do about allergies? There is one simple item that can help regardless of the season - a mask.

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.

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Common CPAP MaskPeople who suffer from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), sleep apnea or other respiratory conditions have some familiarity with wearing a mask while sleeping. Perhaps not the most comfortable, these masks often help keep airways open or deliver concentrated oxygen to assist breathing when lung functionality or airways are compromised. Sometimes bulky, these masks provide a very real and much needed benefit to ensure oxygen levels remain at levels that keep the body healthy and feeling refreshed after a night's rest. For those who suffer from other respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies, masks serve a different purpose. They block particle allergens like dander and pollen while some also filter out odors, smoke and chemicals. While these types of masks are often worn during the day, there may also be some benefit to wearing them at night.

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.

Wearing a Mask While Sleeping May Help Children Better Control AsthmaThis 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

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