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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise stay tuned for another potential Easter Bunny sighting.
Author: K. Gilmore
Similar to the mechanism used with successful cancer vaccines, the new dust mite vaccine uses an adjuvant (an agent that enhances the body's immune response) in addition to the antigen (the substance that actually induces the immune system to produce antibodies). The way this works is a package (of the adjuvant and antigen) is introduced to a patient. The adjuvant essentially raises the alarm, calling the immune system forward to what it perceives as an "all hands on deck" situation. The immune system absorbs and disposes of the package, but the tangible result of this is speeding up the adsorption process and increasing the rate of absorption of the vaccine.
In this instance, the adjuvant (CpG) was packaged with the vaccine and given to mice. Not only was the package absorbed 90% of the time but subsequent daily exposure to the dust mite allergen showed higher production of antibodies and lower rates of lung inflammation. While more research is needed, this outcome is one of the very best that researchers could have hoped for.
With nearly 10% of the population allergic to dust mites, they are easily among the most common allergens on the planet. Often found in mattresses, carpet, upholstered furniture and bedding, dust mites are microscopic pests that feed on dead skin cells. They are one reason why your mattress can double in weight after ten years of use. Millions of these tiny creatures call your mattress home, and it is their tiny decomposing body parts and feces that cause the sneezing, wheezing, congestion, and coughing that are commonly associated with dust mite allergies.
The most common methods of coping with dust mite allergies often include a mix of several things, including allergen avoidance (the use of quality allergy bedding covers or a HEPA air purifier, more frequent cleaning and removal of carpet from the home), medication to the treat the symptoms (most commonly antihistamines), and allergy shots (to increase the tolerance of the allergen). Each of these tackle different aspects of the allergy, and even with promising research such as this, a vaccine or simpler longterm solution is still likely several years away.
For more information, see the official University of Iowa press release.
Author: K. Gilmore
P.S. Just in case you were wondering what CpG stands for... the "C" is for cytosine triphospate deoxynucleotide. The "G" is for guanine triphosphate deoxynucleotide, and the "p" is for the phosphodiester that links the two nucleotides. You may recognize cytosine and guanine. They are two of the four bases of DNA (along with adenine and thymine), and that concludes today's biology lesson!
I am headed off to enjoy the sunshine, beach and rainforests of Costa Rica! We will be traveling to the Guanacaste region where it will be dry with little rain during this time of year. This is also means I will be packing and planning for this five day trip abroad. If you deal with allergies, asthma, sensitive skin or any health condition really, you should always make sure to pack what you will need. You cannot always rely on certain things being available at your destination. Aside from givens like medication, specialized items you use or things you just can't travel without (favorite pillow), here are a few things I will be bringing:
This will help me snooze through the four hour flight down to Costa Rica. It’ll keep me warmer than the blankets they supply on airplanes. Plus, it will be nice to use my own organic blanket rather than a blanket that’s been kept in a plastic bag for who knows how long. Call me a germaphobe, but just how many people use an airline blanket before it is replaced?
Sometimes the air in airplanes dries out my nose and throat, making for an uncomfortable flight. I’m going to bring along a Silk comfort mask to make breathing a little easier and have a barrier between me and the air conditioning on the plane.
This is ideal for all of the water activities we have planned for our trip, and can be used on both face and body. This sunscreen is water resistant, so I don't have to reapply it every time I get in the ocean. With non-toxic ingredients ideal for those with fair or sensitive skin, I will feel relieved to know that I’m not contaminating water and marine life with PABA (once a common ingredient in sunscreen, now known for its "carcinogenic potential" as Environmental Working Group defines it), preservatives, benzophenones, dyes, fragrance or formaldehyde releasers.
These are perfect travel components for my dust mite allergies and a range of other allergies (pollen, mold, or pet dander). They fold up neatly, take up almost no space, are easy to pack and can be used on any pillow, available in all common sizes. I have two of these with me for this trip, so no matter how old the pillows I'll be sleeping on are, with these I've one less thing to worry about!
Hopefully I’ll have some stories and a tan when I get back!
Author: R. Power
As seen in Women's Health magazine, Allergy Armor Ultra features the smallest average pore size in the industry, 2.8 microns. This makes our allergy bedding covers one of the most effective ways to block the dust mite allergy and relieve night time coughing as well as morning time congestion and sneezing.
For most people, dust mites are the common household allergen that can keep you from getting a good night's sleep. Found in everyone's pillow and mattress, dust mites are microscopic mites that are part of the reason why a mattress can double in weight after 8-10 years. Dust mite feces and their microscopic dead and decaying body parts are inhaled while you sleep. For asthmatics this often means a cough that starts soon after laying down for bed, while for those with allergies it often means morning time congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or sinus pressure. Allergy Armor can help relieve these symptoms.
By blocking the allergen and keeping it trapped, Ultra mattress, pillow and comforter covers can help to keep this allergen out of the air you breathe at night. They go over your mattress or pillow and zip closed. Once installed, you put your regular sheets or pillow cases back on. Though you won't see them, you will likely notice a difference in how you sleep at night and how you feel in the morning. And unlike other bedding covers, Ultra is made right here in the USA. We cut, sew and package every piece of Allergy Armor Ultra right in our Atlanta location. And, once you buy, you're all set! A lifetime guarantee, means years of relieve and peace of mind.
There are sizes available to fit all mattress and pillow sizes. Invest in a better night's sleep and try Allergy Armor Ultra!
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Author: K. Gilmore
Desloratadine is an antihistimine prescribed to allergy sufferers to relief runny nose, red, itchy and tearing eyes as well as other hay fever and allergic rhinitis symptoms. Currently, desloratadine is only available as Clarinex, but with the introduction of this new generic, allergy sufferers will soon have a less expensive alternative to turn to when seeking allergy relief medication.
Clarinex, available as a tablet and oral solution, has been prescribed to millions of allergy sufferers worldwide, with sales reaching nearly $200,000,000 last year.
Azelastine hydrochloride is an antihistamine currently being used to treat rhinitis and seasonal conjuctivitis and is the active ingredient in Asteplin and Astepro, both products in the Meda line of allergy products. Fluticasone propionate is an anti-inflammatory found in Flonase.
Dymista is expected to roll out in the U.S. in the latter part of 2012. It claims better efficacy than drugs that contain either of the active ingredients alone. In clinical trials, there were no instances of nasal ulceration or septal perforation (reported side effects of some nasal corticosteroids). In three double blind trials conducted by the FDA, Dymista was shown to be an effective treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis. Click here for a full transcript of the FDA clinical trial results for Dymista.
Meda, Sweden's largest publicly traded pharma company, is based in Solna, and sells products in 120 countries. As one of the 50 largest pharmaceutical companies worldwide, Meda's sales exceed $1.6 billion annually.
Follow these links for more information on seasonal allergies or to see non-pharmaceutical allergy control products.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
From this initial list, the top two items were to avoid using IgG or battery of IgE tests as the primary basis for diagnosing an allergy, and to stop prescribing antibiotics for uncomplicated acute rhinosinusitis. These two things touch issues we've highlighted in recent months.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin E (IgE) tests alone are not accurate in determining an allergy, and overreliance on these tests can often lead to false positives. They are convenient, easy, and give you answers, but unfortunately, those answers aren't always accurate. Instead of general testing, the "Choose Wisely" top-five suggests a doctor take into account the patients history and physical exam records, then administer a specific IgE test based on these factors. Combined, these three pieces form a more complete picture of the puzzle and can dramatically reduce the occurrence of false positives in allergy testing.
Over prescription of antibiotics for sinusitis is something we touched recently with this post. For quite some time it has been the theory that not only are they ineffective in most cases, but overuse, in general, in directly leading to their ineffectiveness against modern germs. Most acute sinus infections are viral in nature, and like we learned in high school biology, antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. Additionally, most viral sinus infections run their course in a couple weeks.
In all, there are five recommendations put forth that deal with allergies, asthma or immune disorders. You can find the full list here. We encourage anyone who suffers from allergies, asthma or related disorder to take a look and see if any apply to you. Then the next time you visit your allergist, ENT or doctor, discuss them and see if there are ways to curb certain tests or treatments which may not offer much benefit.
The memory foam pillows as well as the new Dyson canister and Ball uprights were hot items. The Allergy Armor memory foam pillow is contoured to support the head and neck, and includes a free Ultra pillow cover. So not only is the foam dust mite resistant, the cover keeps out dust mites and other allergens and is treated with a permanent antimicrobial finish.
As one of the newest additions to Dyson's line of vacuums, the DC41 Animal features some of the best innovations that Dyson has to offer. Not only does it include staples like the Ball and Root Cyclone technology, but it features a new streamlined designed, lighter weight and self-adjusting head. So as you move from surface to surface, the powerhead adjusts to optimal height.
Overall, it was a great weekend! Achoo staffers got to interact with a wide variety of people and offer the local Atlanta community allergy relief products and information during this busy allergy season.
There have been countless studies done on how certain issues like lack of sleep, and even problems at home, can affect children and their performance in school. More recently, individual states and cities have been taking this a step further and have examined the link between poor indoor air quality and increased instances of hospitalization due to asthma.
Studies like this are important for two reasons. First, they highlight how building maintenance and cleaning procedures (or lack thereof) can impact students vis-à-vis indoor air quality issues (IAQ). Secondly, they illustrate the link between increased instances of asthma and how this can affect students' academic performance.
In this New York State Department of Health study, even school districts with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) programs in place found that there were still environmental allergy triggers and conditions present.
As some of the largest respiratory irritants, dust or dust reservoirs were reported in 99% of schools. Additionally, 84% reported mold or moisture issues, and nearly half (42%) reported possible exposure to diesel fumes and exhaust (usually from idling school buses).
A recent CNN article highlights that these conditions are often exacerbated by a poor economy. With today's slimmer budgets, renovation, upkeep, and the construction of new buildings are often an afterthought. Unfortunately, a possible consequence of this can be a slow but steady increase in the rates of allergies and asthma – both of which can negatively impact a child's educational experience.
These problems are not just confined to students. Surveys of some of the nation's largest school systems have shown as many as 30% of teachers reporting health issues or sickness related to the school environment.
With 7 million children currently diagnosed with asthma1 and approximately 8.5 million who have suffered from respiratory allergies in the last year, the impact of poor IAQ in our schools is no small matter.
Aside from dealing with these issues on an individual level, either with OTC antihistamines or non-pharmaceutical allergy relief methods, there are some excellent CDC resources as well as helpful tips and guides that can be useful in highlighting this situation and helping improve conditions in your local schools.1CDC Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children – December 2011
Author: K. Gilmore
The holiday season makes these difficult-to-navigate issues especially apparent. Below are some allergy conundrums that come up this time of year:
What kind of Christmas tree?
Recently, we discussed the presence of lead on artificial Christmas trees. No amount of lead exposure is safe for children or animals, and lead often ends up in household dust. Furthermore, artificial trees tend to harbor dust and other allergens. For these reasons, choosing a real tree seems like the best option.
However, some individuals are allergic to fresh trees. CNN highlights this point in On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and … Wheezy?, which describes how those allergic to pine trees experience itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and even a skin rash if there's contact with a pine tree.
Everyone knows that holiday decorations can be an onslaught for all the senses. Strong artificial fragrances often hit you in the face when walking into department stores or craft stores, to mention a couple. For some, these smells might evoke the holiday spirit, but to allergy sufferers and those with chemical sensitivities, these scents are a powerful symptom trigger.
One allergic woman, Kimberly Burton, who is quoted in the CNN article, describes the effect of these fragrance-laced decorations: "Unfortunately, it makes me dread holiday decorations coming out - and also forces me to get much of my shopping done well before the holidays are even here." Ms. Burton must avoid malls between September and February, when all the scents has been aired out.
Humidify – But Carefully
Since the heater can make indoor air exceptionally dry, many people use humidifiers during cold winter months. Allergy sufferers definitely should use humidifiers because dry nasal and respiratory passages can lead to or worsen allergy symptoms.
But not gauging humidity levels properly can lead to additional problems: Humidity levels over 50 percent can lead to mold growth, which is unhealthy for everyone, but particularly allergy sufferers. If your unit has a built-in hygrometer, use it, and if it doesn't, be sure to have a separate hygrometer on hand to keep humidity at optimum levels.