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
For nearly 100 years Miele has been designing and building quality vacuum cleaners. Here at AchooAllergy, Miele has been a brand of vacuum cleaner that we highly recommend. Their emphasis on air filtration, keeping your indoor air clean while you vacuum, is critical for people concerned with allergies, asthma or indoor air quality in general. Traditional vacuum cleaners can remove visible dirt but can release millions of particles back into the air. They can literally take allergens and particulate that had previously settled out of the air and onto the floor and disperse them back into the air you breathe. Unfortunately, even HEPA vacuum cleaners can be guilty of this.
Miele takes air quality a step further. Not only do they independently test their products, but with a HEPA filter, they include the use of a 9-ply filter bag, a pre-motor, and a sealed system (on most vacs) to not only completely clean the air as it passes through the vacuum but ensure that dirty and clean air do not mix or leak. Sealed system Miele vacuums, equipped with their H13 HEPA remove allergens like mold spores, dander, dust mite allergen and dust from the floor and from the air you breathe - the perfect allergy vacuum.
This is all in addition to Miele's superior cleaning ability, high quality and unparalleled durability. The Vortex motor creates powerful, concentrated suction to remove not only the dirt, hair and soil you can see but also capture the microparticles that you can't. A range of included accessories (even more than usual if you are considering their HomeCare line) and attachments make Miele vacuums some of the most versatile cleaning machines you can own. In addition to all of this is the knowledge that Miele's are built to last twenty years!
So if you were considering purchasing one of the most advanced, durable and effective vacuum cleaners on the market, now is the time to buy. In addition to free express delivery (next day or two day delivery of nearly all Miele vacs) you will also receive TWO FREE BOXES of FILTERBAGS. That's a year's worth of bags, nearly a $40 value, free!
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Miele Onyx - First on our list in the Miele Onyx. Most people who are considering the Onyx find that it is perfectly suited for home with mostly smooth floors with some low to medium pile carpet and rugs. Quiet, powerful and economical, the Onyx is an easy choice for most.
Miele Callisto - An old mainstay, the Callisto is the most awarded Miele vacuum cleaner in history. Consistently ranking well in consumer reporting surveys, recipient of numerous Best Buy awards, the Callisto is a balanced HEPA vacuum cleaner that fits the cleaning needs of almost any home. Though it is retiring, the Kona is a direct replacement model. Though a new model, the Kona's features, price, and performance are all almost identical to the Callisto.
Miele Quickstep - Compact, lightweight and priced right, the Quickstep has been THE choice when it comes to having a second vacuum for the kitchen or laundry area. The slim design, ability to assemble and reassemble the handle, wand and body allow the Quickstep to go from an upright to handheld in seconds. Small apartment and loft dwellers love this compact vacuum.
Miele Alize - Though only available for a few months, the Alize has quickly become a very popular vacuum. Completely unique features like the sound-reducing DynamicDrive casters and Integrated Spotlight set the Alize apart while these features and the included floor tool makes this an ideal vacuum for anyone with smooth floors and a desire to remove allergens in the home. (Just a note, the UniQ was a close second amongst all S8 models, though the Marin is QUICKLY gaining ground on both .)
Miele Twist - Miele is known for canister vacuums, but since the introduction of the S7 uprights, these vacuums have been making serious headway in terms of popularity. Powerful, almost self-propelled, durable and very maneuverable, the Twist provides the largest cleaning radius of any Miele vacuum, works well all types of carpet and smooth flooring, and is far quieter than any comparable upright.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Spend One Day Cleaning Things You Normally Don't - This shouldn't take but a couple hours, but focus on things like washing your drapes or dusting areas that need it but rarely receive it (top of door frames, ceiling fans, ceiling corners that often get winter cobwebs, vents and registers, under furniture, etc.). Wipe down handles or knobs that get used every day but cleaned only rarely.
Check and Replace Filters - In many modern homes there are an increasing amount of air filters. From a furnace or air purifier to the water in your home, there can be a variety of filters that are often forgotten. Spending more time indoors can really take its toll on furnace filters, so replacing them is the natural starting place. From here, replace air purifier and vent filters, and don't forget to replace those water filters (whether they are above or below the sink, in your refrigerator or in your Brita). Being out of sight, filters are easy to forget.
If You're Going to Clean, Do It Right - We all clean our homes, but most often we simply clean for appearances - removing splatter on the countertops but not thinking about actually killing the germs that are likely forming plaques there; vacuuming up dirt tracking in on the carpet but forgetting that the most damaging particles to our lungs are the ones we cannot see; disinfecting the bathroom but ignoring the damage that harsh chemicals like ammonia and chlorine are going to your skin, eyes and lungs. We too often clean for appearances but fail when it comes to cleaning for our health. (Personally, I've had my best luck with the Vital Oxide Disinfectant. It's food safe, non-toxic and works on mold, mildew, and kills bacteria and viruses.)
Of course, it never hurts to cut down on the sugary drinks and potato chips or eliminate tobacco, but there are enough people out there harping about those things. Besides, my focus is on small, quick habits or ways you can improve the health of your home and how you feel when you're there. With little time and money you can help to make sure your home is healthier and that the air, water and surfaces inside it are healthier for you!
Author: K. Gilmore
Why Should I and How Do I Change My Furnace Filter?
Allergens and micro-particles can be a source of constant irritation at best and make some people absolutely miserable at worst. Most vacuum cleaners allow these particles to simply pass through the vacuum. This is probably the worst thing a vacuum can do for allergy and asthma sufferers - take allergens that have actually settled to the floor and redistribute them back into the air you breathe.
Most vacuums tout a HEPA filter, and while you can find a HEPA filter in just about any inexpensive vacuum, the quality is often poor at best. Even with more expensive brands and models that have a filter and sealed system, testing actually shows they fall far short of Miele's filtration standards.
Independent tests like the one above show that even some of the most expensive and well known HEPA vacuums can still come up short in terms of filtration. Though the Dyson model tested (DC25) did come the closest, each model failed to meet Miele's overall filtration standards and many actually delivered less than the HEPA standard of filtration for the most penetrating particle size (0.3 microns). The Riccar, Simplicity, and SEBO models that were tested, fared much worse, and with top models putting in this type of performance, can you imagine the air quality when using a less expensive import (think Shark, Eureka or Hoover)?
So in terms of filtering the air in your home while you vacuum, there really is no comparison. Miele delivers the best filtration of particles, from carbon dust and dirt to pollen and pet dander and everything in between. The self-sealing dustbag and HEPA filter make sure that these particles are trapped and removed from the air while making disposal easy and hygienic. For allergy and asthma sufferers or anyone concerned with improving indoor air quality, the right choice in a vacuum cleaner can make all the difference.
For full test results, visit Miele USA.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
With most homes sealed tightly to keep the cooling effects of air conditioning in, the air quality inside your home can quickly become as bad as the ground level ozone infused air outside the home. Dust, pollens, dander, residue from household cleaners, cooking fumes, and pet odor can accumulate quickly when the air in the home stagnates. Not cooking or cleaning, and getting rid of the pets is not likely to happen, but what you can do is invest in your health by using a high efficiency air purifier.
At this point, you can take a trip to your local big box and pick up an air purifier fairly cheaply, but if cheap is what you need, you may be better served by not purchasing at all. Not only is the quality of most cheap imported air purifiers questionable at best, but filtration is often less than adequate. No air purifier will do you much good if the materials are cheap and the workmanship is shoddy. For as much particle content as most cheap air purifiers allow to pass through their filters, you could likely get a box fan, strap a furnace filter to it and get about the same results.
Any air purifier worth it's price tag should have at least a few basic features: HEPA filter, sealed system, and some type of odor control filtration. The HEPA filter is the core of any air purifier, so look for models that have true HEPA filters (not HEPA-like or S-Class). You want something that is certified HEPA--traps 99.97% of all particles 0.3 microns or larger. This is key because this type of filtration has the range to remove dust particles, dust mite allergen, pollen, dander, mold spores and even most bactera.
Next make sure the unit has a sealed system. An air purifier lacking a sealed system is like closing the front door during winter, but leaving the window open and wondering why it's cold in your house. If air can escape or bypass the filter, it will. So look for models that mention a sealed system (usually use rubber or foam gaskets or are designed to interlock tightly enough to form an air tight seal).
Lastly, look for one that at least has an activated carbon pre-filter. Activated carbon remains the most efficient way to remove odors, like those from smoke, pets and cooking. Though activated carbon pre-filters generally only last three months or so, they are usually effective during that time. For heavy duty filtration, look for air cleaners that use granular activated carbon. Usually measured in pounds, this stuff lasts much longer than carbon pre-filters and provide better filtration.
So while the temps heat up and ozone increases, make sure your home is truly a refuge from the heat and pollution by using a high quality air purifier. Currently we have a couple promotions running on our most popular units. Purchase any IQAir Health Pro Plus air purifier and automatically be entered to win five years worth of replacement filters. If the HealthPro Plus is out of your budget, you may want to consider an Amaircare HEPA Air purifier. Both the 2500 and 3000 series models have true HEPA filtration and activated carbon filters, in addition to a sealed system. If you want better odor and chemical filtration, consider the model that comes with a VOC canister.
Whether it's for a home office, bar, bedroom or anything in between, we offer a wide variety of air purifiers to meet your air filtration needs.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
- Cleaners and Pesticides - Be aware that when you use chemical cleaners or bug sprays, that unintended byproduct can often be dirtier indoor air. Fumes from these often times harsh or toxic chemicals can quickly reduce indoor air quality. Limit their use or use more natural alternatives when possible.
- Smoking - Ok, this is a bit of a no-brainer. Smoking indoors not only pollutes the air, but the chemicals in tobacco smoke can cling to drapes, furniture and walls for years to come. If you're not going to quit, at least smoke outdoors, or if inside, limit it to a specific room where you have a decent exhaust system or filtration system installed.
- Furnace Filters - Furnace filters should be replaced every three months. If you have washable furnace filters please clean them regularly. Dirty or clogged furnace filters not only harm your blowers motor but they ineffective in controlling your indoor air quality.
- Exhaust Fans - You primarily need these in your kitchen and bathroom. Why? Often it is the kitchen (burnt food and cleaners) and bathroom (harsh cleaners) where indoor air quality can be at its worst. Exhausts fans help remove noxious odor and chemical fumes, so if you have them, use them!
- Maintain Your Heating/Cooling System - Not only can keeping this equipment running well cut your energy costs, but when it comes to IAQ, think of your heating and cooling system as the heart and lungs of your home. The central unit pushes and pulls air through the ducts throughout your home. Ensuring this is working properly ensures that air circulates properly and is filtered through your HVAC filter. Dust, dirt, allergens and other debris can settle in the vents and airways, and keeping them clean can not only improve IAQ but also keep the system running longer .
For years we have recommended that allergy, asthma and MCS sufferers invest in a quality HEPA vacuum cleaner that features a sealed system. The reason was because only this type of vacuum can truly remove allergens and the ultra fine particles in the air that can trigger asthma attacks or allergic reactions. Researchers in Australia recently published findings confirming what we have long recommended.
In testing 21 different types of vacuum cleaners, researchers concluded that the models tested allowed between 40,000 and 1.2 billion particles to pass completely through the vacuum. The size of the particles in this range was .5 to 20 microns, which means that in a typical household it could include common allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust.
Some of the models tested include Dyson, Hoover, iRobot, and Sanyo. The ages of the vacuums tested also ranged from 6 months to 22 years old.
An article from WebMD highlighted this study, pointing out other practices and products we have recommended for allergy sufferers, including the use of HEPA filters, microfiber or electrostatic dust cloths and the removal of carpet.
While the testing did not cover a comprehensive sampling of models, there are a few important take aways. First, vacuuming with a traditional vacuum cleaner that lacks a sealed system or HEPA filter will NOT help to remove allergens and fine particles. Secondly, using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter can improve indoor air quality while cleaning your floors. Lastly, and most importantly, this study highlights the link between vacuuming and its relationship to indoor air quality in the home.
To read the Study's Abstract
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 article describes how "the homes and offices of many top leaders are filtered by high-end devices, at least according to a Chinese company, the Broad Group, which has been promoting its air-purifying machines in advertisements that highlight their ubiquity in places where many officials work and live."
Beijing's air is notoriously polluted, and lately the city has been particularly polluted. The United States Embassy monitors Beijing's air and has registered unsafe levels of pollution multiple times recently. Interestingly, the Chinese government does not publicly release data on the smallest particulates in the air, those that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers. However, these are the most harmful pollutants because they can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Much of this pollution is due to vehicular exhaust.
While debates continue over whether and when to change this air quality reporting policy, Communist Party leaders don't need much convincing to obtain air purifiers that cost a couple thousand dollars: "To make their case, company executives [of the Broad Group air purifier company] installed [an air purifier] in a meeting room used by members of the Politburo Standing Committee. The deal was apparently sealed a short while later, when technicians made a show of cleaning out the soot-laden filters. 'After they saw the inklike dirty water, Broad air purifier became the national leaders’ appointed air purifier!'" according to the Broad Group's website.