AchooAllergy.com Blog

Masks


Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, November 18, 2014
If you spend any amount of time outdoors, particularly during the winter when the temperatures and dip to around or below freezing, you may notice your nose changes. Normally our noses range in function (or dysfunction!) from an odd looking feature that sits squarely When It's Cold, My Nose Doesn't Get Red?!? in the middle of our face, doing little beyond taking up space or generally getting in the way to smelling all manners of things, acting as the doorway to our respiratory system, filtering air, and holding up our glasses. During the winter, you may notice two changes that your nose undergoes. Let's take a closer look at why your nose get red in cold weather, and why your nose turns into a faucet of clear mucus.

First, let's take a look at why your nose is so festive when it's cold out. We all can't be body doubles for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, but if you're standing at the bus stop on a cold day, it may appear that we're all headed to the same audition. As the temperature dips, the body's natural response is to warm things back up. The initial response from your body is to send extra blood to the extremities that are cold. This extra blood fills the tiny blood vessels in your nose and gives it that red hue. The same is true for your hands, at least initially.

If the internal temperature in your hands and feet dips too much, the body literally goes into survival mode and begins to cut its losses. Retaining its core temperature becomes priority number one and the process of vasoconstriction begins. ...And You Think Water is Pouring Out of YOUR Nose! Vasoconstriction is when the body begins to decrease blood flow to the extremities in an effort to reduce heat loss at the extremities and retain heat in the core. Before we get too far off track, lets circle back again to the nose.

The other common change your nose undergoes in cold weather is that it may begin to mimic a leaky faucet. Like the steady drip of poor plumbing, your nose will start dripping clear fluid. Yes Virginia, it's mucus. Normally, mucus serves two purposes. First, it humidifies the air you breathe, adding much needed moisture to air before it reaches the lungs. Second, it filters the air. In moderate temperatures mucus is constantly being produced and constantly moving, but when the mercury falls, it thickens and moves very slowly or ceases movement at all. While your river of mucus may have stopped moving, the body keeps producing it, and with nowhere to go, it begins to drip out of your nose.

You can take some solace with both of these things. First, you hardly notice a red nose. If you're outside in the cold with others, you'll all be freezing your noses off, and there's nothing like sharing when it comes to misery! As far as your runny nose goes, many times you don't notice this either, as the cold numbs the nose, deadening out the ability for you to even feel that inevitable drip, drip, drip.

So, you've decided a red nose or dripping nose isn't for you, eh? Cold Weather Mask - Warms and Conveniently Hides Cold, Red, and Drippy Noses Last time I checked, I'm not a polar bear, and while some of us may have issues with excessive body hair, we simply can't compete with cold weather. There are a couple things you can do to help with this, and the easiest is to get out of the cold. If you have to be outside, get a mask. A cold weather mask can be a great way to trap moisture and warmth around your face and nose, not only reducing the potential of cold weather induced asthma but making the frigid air you're breathing much more manageable. Frequent breaks and warm liquids are also good ideas.

This.... Is Probably NOT My Best IdeaAt this point, I would suggest a ski mask, but there might be at least one drawback to this. Unless you're on the slopes, you may give your neighbors the wrong impression. With daylight savings time pushing sunset back earlier and earlier, nothing says "Hello, neighbor!" like jogging around the neighborhood, at night in a nice, warm ski mask! (To Mr. Phelps and his Yorkie - I'm sorry!!) For people who regularly work out in cold temperatures, there is an upside. After repeated exposure to colder temperatures, the body will acclimate through the process of habituation (though don't think that drippy and red nose is going anywhere).

In conclusion, it is likely time we accept that we're not penguins with hands or woolly mammoths sans trunks and tusks. No, we're humans, who get cold, red, runny noses. Go inside, have some hot coco and read another one of my blog posts! Or look at cat pictures... because at this point, I'm too cold to care.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I've avoided writing about this topic for about as long as possible, but with my entire family being in Ohio, two nurses in the family, and the recent revelation about a second Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola a day after visiting family in Akron, OH, it seems like a good time to finally broach the topic. This isn't to say we've not had our share of call from people concerned with Ebola, because as the days have ticked by the frequency of calls has steadily climbed. So I wanted to go over a few things about Ebola, how it spreads, and touch on some things in terms of prevention. And keep in mind, while the first part of this is rather serious (and should be), there is some levity at the end.

Halloween is Almost Here, but This Is NOT Gummy Worms - The Ebola Virus Under a MicroscopeFirst, though cases have been numbered in the single digits here in the U.S., Ebola has affected the African continent for the better part of four decades. Though known for that long, what this latest outbreak has shown us is that the American public knew little of the disease and that while infections can spread quickly in an increasingly interconnected world, panic and fear always spread faster.

Ebola is a virus that first made itself in 1976, and as of now, unless you're one of the tiny percent of East Africans who are naturally immune or have had and survived the disease, there is no known immunity or vaccine.

Just as a disclaimer, this description can be a bit intense for some readers. The Ebola virus attaches itself to cells, then once inside the cell replicates and causes the cell to burst, destroying the cell and spreading further. This bursting of cells is what triggers your body's inflammatory reaction - the flu-like symptoms of a fever, vomiting, severe headache, and weakness. The virus then attacks the immune system and uses it spread throughout the body. Ebola attacks all organs and disrupts the natural blood clotting process, causing what appears to be a rash under the skin and other internal bleeding. This is also where the name "hemorrhagic fever" comes from. The destruction of cells and organs (organ failure) coupled with bleeding internally and externally is what causes the high mortality rates (nearly 60%) that we see with the Ebola virus.

So how does Ebola spread? It is EXTREMELY important to remember that though deadly, Ebola can only be spread by coming in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected or items that have been contaminated by these things. It is NOT spread through the air. It is NOT spread through water. Symptoms can occur any time within twenty-one days of infection, but up until someone exhibits symptoms, they are not contagious.

Not to make light of the situation, but before fear completely takes hold, it's a good idea to ask a couple questions. Have I been around someone who has Ebola? Have I been in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has Ebola? If I answer "no" to these questions, then good news, I'm very likely ok! Yes, that's simplistic, but when you consider that this virus ONLY spreads by coming in contact with these things, you can see why it's a good idea to ask these questions before becoming overly fearful. As of this moment in time, you're more likely to be bitten by Luis Suarez (soccer player from World Cup) than to contract Ebola.

Still, with sensationalized coverage on every cable news channel, it's not difficult to get swept up into the fear of "what do I do?!" And it's at this time, that it is good to remember the basics, some of the very same things that are recommended to help prevent the spread of other viruses.Combatting Ebola - Overkill For Most of Us
  • Wash your hands. Scrubby, scrubby! Thoroughly washing your hands is the most basic and easiest way to prevent the spread of any virus. Remember, hot water, and you don't have to do this aloud, but sing through "Happy Birthday" twice, and you've likely got them good and clean.
  • Use hand sanitizer. Avoid ones with triclosan if possible and instead opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Stop touching your face. At the very least, pay more attention to how often you do this. The average person touches his/her face 3-4 times per hour. Assuming you sleep eight hours, that's 50-60 times a day! Viruses enter the body, most often, through the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose and mouth or through broken skin.
There are additional things you can do, but the three listed above are the most basic and most helpful. Face masks are an option, but since the virus isn't airborne, wearing a mask most likely helps you by preventing you from touching your face. For healthcare professionals dealing with someone who is actually infected with Ebola, a HEPA respirator is a critical piece of personal protective gear, but for most of us however, an N95 (or better rated) mask will be very helpful in preventing the spread of the flu or Enterovirus D68.

Sign in Africa Telling You Handshakes Are Out But 'A Node' Is OK!You can also cut back on the handshakes. Seriously, limiting personal contact can be helpful in preventing the spread of any virus, but again, if the other person doesn't have the flu, Ebola or some other virus, or if you're not currently living in East Africa, this may be helpful but not terribly so.

Would an air purifier help? For Ebola, no. Again, it's NOT airborne. However, an air purifier equipped with UV or with antimicrobial filters WILL help with the flu and other airborne, seasonal viruses. Cleaning more is also good general advice. Disinfectants, when used properly, can kill microbes and germs that spread viruses. Lastly, avoid contact with bats. Bat soup should be off the table this Halloween.*

Is Ebola scary? Yes. Is it easy to catch? Unless you work in a profession where you are likely to come in contact with it, no. Common sense can be a very good friend when it comes to things like this, while fear and panic can spread faster and farther than any virus.

My mother is a nurse, but where she works, she is highly unlikely to come in contact with anyone remotely affected, so honestly, I worry more about her catching the flu repeatedly. My family all lives in Ohio, but again, the likelihood of any of them coming in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the virus is remote. A family member of mine will be flying in the coming weeks, and for her I've a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a mask - the exact same things I used when I flew this past spring, when Ebola was but a passing story on a far away continent.

*Seriously, "avoid contact with bats... and raw meat prepared from these animals" is stated on the CDC site.

For more information, visit the CDCs Ebola site or for more information on this current outbreak, I’ve found this site to give a well-rounded view of the topic.

Author:
K. Gilmore

How the Ebola Virus is NOT Spread

Tags: Masks
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 R. Power on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Graffiti/Tag SW Atlanta Before getting into our actual topic today, I want to define some terms that may be misunderstood or ambiguous to the general public.

Street Art - a form of visual art in public locations that the artist has been given legal consent to produce/perform.

Graffiti - Drawings, markings or slogans spray painted or sketched on a public wall or sidewalk.

Tag - A graffiti artist's personal signature.

N95 Respirator or Mask - Face mask or respirator that has been NIOSH rated to filter 95% of particles (0.3 microns or larger) that are NOT oil-based.

EN149FFP1(S) - A European standard for solid aerosol particles and is usable in all outdoor sports, the US equivalent of N95 filtration.

I’ve always enjoyed the street art that has decorated cities. My favorite kinds have full-blown color and culture or have been cleverly placed to bring some humor to the streets (Banksy).

Graffiti/Tag SW AtlantaAcross the street from AchooAllergy.com are train tracks where freight cars pass by throughout day. Sometimes after work, I get to watch the trains go by carrying along tagged boxcars, some belonging to longtime artists, and some belonging to beginners who have not set their style yet. Watching the boxcars pass by yesterday, I started to wonder if they use masks while they paint.

I searched online for a while, looking for forums or sites that got specific on masks for this purpose. After finding few resources on this topic, I decided to write this blog for friends and artists who were looking for the right mask.

It is easy to think that since you are outdoors, a mask might not be necessary. While it's true that working outside, fumes from paint dissipate more quickly, it's easy to forget that you arms are not quite as long as you think. Street Art - Masks to Block Paint Fumes But, if you consider that paint is literally being applied just a couple feet from your face, it becomes a little easier to recognize a mask, even outdoors, can only help. Wearing a mask can help keep the neurotoxins and paint fumes from being inhaled while working on a piece. Here are a few that may be suitable for your painting adventures!

Respro Techno Mask
A neoprene mask from the UK conforming to the EN149FFP1(S) filtration standard, the Techno has layers of particle filter media as well as Dynamic Activated Charcoal Cloth (ACC). This filters out dust, odors, benzene, pyrene, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, lead oxide, and black smoke. Filters will last about 60 hours (so about a month), and replacements sell as a pack of two.

Respro Bandit Mask
Made of cotton with Dynamic ACC laminated in between, it makes for a great mask to fend off urban pollution while covering your face and neck. This mask is hand washable and effective for around six months. You can leave it loose or use the secondary strap to pull in the lower portion of the mask to tighten up against the jaw. It comes in red or blue… This might be a good time to remind folks to pay attention to your environment and your choice in mask colors.

Vogmasks
Coming out of southern San Francisco, these masks are unique in their design and color. A soft cotton shell, extra soft hems, and ear loops makes extended time wearing them comfortable, while the colors make the masked artist look more approachable than with other mask options that I have seen.
These protect you from non-oil based particles, pathogens, dust, pollen and other contaminants. Our Classic microfiber Vogmasks are 3-ply with a middle filter later. For the best protection of any Vogmask, the new N99 CV Vogmask meets the NIOSH N99 standards. With active carbon and an N99 layer, the CV also has an exhale valve and comes in even more vibrant colors than the Classic Vogmask.

3M 6291 & 6391 HEPA Masks
Although a bit bulky, this P100 rated respirator is ideal for working with oil-based aerosols. The pink round filters capture 99.97% (HEPA standard)of liquid and aerosol particles, pathogens (influenza strains such as Avian Flu, SARS, etc.), dust, pollen and mold. It is the warmest to wear, but it also provides the best filtration of the masks listed.
Other NIOSH approved filter options that you can purchase separately for the 6291/6391 mask are the 3M 6006 Multi Gas Vapor Cartridge (for chlorine, hydrogen chloride, chlorine dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide escape only, ammonia/methylamine, formaldehyde and hydrogen fluoride) and the 3M 6001 Organic Vapor Cartridge (for Xylene, Benzene, paint fumes, pesticides and myriad of other industrial solvents). All of these filters will last about 60 hours, and you can always switch filter types as needed.

I hope that street artists in the Southeast will find this blog and use our masks to create some more street art in Atlanta this summer!

Street Art - San Francisco InstagramWear a Mask - The Mustache is a Clever Touch

Author: R. Power

Tags: Masks
Posted by kevvyg on Friday, April 11, 2014
Not Dust. Not Bird Doo-Doo.  Pollen!Spring allergy season is fully upon us in many parts of the country. Locally, Atlanta has seen an average pollen count of 2,624 for each of the last nine days! As usual tree pollen is the primary culprit early in the season. If the iPhone was just a little better, I could have shared an image of a literal cloud of pollen blowing off the pines this weekend! So with all this going on what can you do? Sitting indoors during this beautiful part of the year, though not attractive, is an option. Medication is readily available, but many people don't like dealing with the side effects. Here are three simple products and tasks to help keep allergies under better control during this difficult time of the year.

First and foremost, you should try to limit your exposure. For many outdoor tasks this can mean squeezing them into different parts of the day when pollen levels and air quality is better. Typically, mornings are good since dew can help to keep pollen from becoming airborne, winds are generally lighter, and overall air quality is at its best. However, if you're outdoors, remember a few things. A quality allergy mask can be handy to have. Most are lightweight; many are washable; and all can help to prevent you from breathing in pollen while you're outdoors. When outdoors, wear something that you plan on taking off or changing when you go indoors. This means that when you're done, remove your shoes, jacket, hat, etc. at the door and set them aside. Just because there is pollen outside doesn't mean you should have to deal with it indoors as well. Once inside, wash up! If you're doing a more strenuous outdoor activity, you may not want to wear a mask, but if this is the case, flush your sinuses when you’re finished. This can rinse away any allergens trapped in your nose or nasal passages and remove the source of the irritation.

Two Free Boxes of Filterbags with Each Miele Marin VacuumMoving indoors, remember to vacuum! Just one walk to the mailbox outside is enough for me to leave greenish-yellow tracks on the rug at my front door. Vacuuming and dusting with sealed system, HEPA vacuum cleaner can keep spring pollen from started at your front door and being dispersed throughout your home. If you were considering a Miele HEPA vacuum, now might be a good time to choose one. In addition to Free Express Delivery (all but one model delivers in 1 or 2 business days), when you buy now you can get a year's worth of vacuum bags for free! The Miele filterbag trap all visible particles and features 9-ply filtration to remove large allergens while the certified HEPA filter removes all of the rest from not only your floors but also the air in your home.

Lastly, using a HEPA air purifier in your bedroom and can make all the difference in how well you sleep. We have long been proponents of creating a space in your home that is allergy friendly, and since most people spend more time in the bedroom than any other room, it is the best place to start! A high quality air purifier can filter out and trap common allergens like dust mites, dander, dust, and yes, pollen. Generally, it is best to set the air purifier on a low or medium setting and let it quietly do its work through the day and night.

Vornado AC500 HEPA Air PurifierWhile these things cannot cure your allergies, combined, they can go a very long ways toward reducing your exposure and limiting symptoms during this trying part of the year. To help you feel better and breathe easier, not only are we offering the free filterbags with each Miele vacuum, but we're also going to give away a Vornado HEPA Air Purifier! Sleek and powerful, the AC500 uses two HEPA filters and two activated carbon prefilters to remove large visible particles as well as pollen, dust and common household allergens. With four fan speeds, digital controls, replacement indicators and a five year warranty, this HEPA air purifier is effective, simply to operate and bound to provide years of allergy relief.

Using Rafflecopter, we're offering you several ways to enter, retweet, share on Facebook, etc. It's up to you how many chances you'd like to win, but sharing is caring! (And it's also a good way to increase your chances of winning!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway Author: KevvyG

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Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, April 03, 2014
Respro Allergy Mask - Royal BlueToday at lunch, I again noticed a nice yellow-green dust on my truck. So, with spring pollen season gearing up, we're proud to give you a choice Respro Allergy Masks. It now comes in Royal Blue!

The Respro Allergy Mask has long been a popular choice for anyone dealing with allergies, asthma, COPD, MCS or simply wanting to keep dust and other particulate out of the air they breathe. With a soft, flexible mesh shell and exhale valves, the Allergy Mask is breathable and lightweight. It seals well around the face and allow heat and moisture to escape via two exhale valves.

The Allergy Mask comes standard with a particle filter that offers N95 equivalent filtration of particles like pollen, mold spores, dirt, dust, and dander, and will filter particles less than 1 micron in size and larger. Add the optional chemical/particle filters, which have activated charcoal embedded in them, and broaden your filtration to include smoke, odors, chemical vapors, exhaust, fragrance and perfumes.

Block Spring PollenRespro Allergy masks are now available in two colors and three sizes, with most adults finding the best with Medium or Large masks. The Small size is best suited for children. The Royal Blue mask has a soft, flexible nose piece while the White uses the standard, soft alloy nosepiece that can be shaped and formed. Each filter provides about 50-60 hours of use, and the valves can be removed and rinsed or replaced. The mesh shell can be hand washed, and finally, all Respro masks are latex free.

Whether your gardening or mowing the yard, working outdoors or simply trying to avoid tobacco smoke and perfumes, the Respro Allergy mask is one of the most popular ways to accomplish this. When you're done, it can be folded small enough to easily fit in a purse or even your pocket!

To Shop all Allergy Masks or to Compare and Contrast All Masks.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Part of my Thanksgiving holiday was spent tackling a chore that I really don't like this time of year - raking leaves. I love trees as much as the next tree hugger but after having mulched up and filled over two dozen bags worth of leaves, I dread stiff breezes. The yard will be clean then along comes the wind to spoil it. Aside from the hassle that fall leaves present, they can and do lead to bigger problems when left to lay where they fall. What's the problem you ask?

After I Raked Away the Leaves, I Got A Surprise.  No, It's Not SnowSunday I was raking up an area on the side of the house. I often neglect it simply because it's a smaller space, but it does tend to fill with maple and oak leaves as well as pine needles. When I was done, it was nearly dark, but I noticed white splotches on the ground. No, it's not snow. It was entirely too warm for that... Mold!

Mold spores are all around us, and given the right conditions, mold can quickly turn from spores to actively growing colonies. Fall leaves often present the perfect opportunity for mold growth. The dead leaves provide the perfect cellulose based food source, and when enough of them fall in any area, they form an insulating barrier over the soil. This barrier helps to trap warmth but more importantly moisture, which is critical for mold growth. In this situation, all of the conditions for mold growth are set, oxygen, food, and moisture.

This type of scenario is fairly common during this time of year, regardless of where you live in the U.S. Actively growing mold colonies can create problems for anyone but particularly those who deal with allergies and asthma. The substances produced by mold colonies can range from the benign to the toxic and cause symptoms that can include dermatitis, sneezing, runny nose, congestion, red eyes and wheezing. So what can you do?

Well, the easy approach is stay holed up for the winter and "much like the bear do," sleep your way through winter. For most of us though, that notion is nothing more than a pleasant fiction. Besides, by the time spring rolls around, you'll still be dealing with mold. Removing it can be simple enough, provided you have the time and the right tools. Raking up and bagging leaves is the tried and true way to remove much of this problem, but while you're doing so, there are a couple of things you should do to reduce your exposure to mold.

I always wear gloves. It's not because I have delicate hands, but there can be a variety of decaying leaves, pine needles and other debris that can range from being bone dry to gelatinous mush. Second, I always wear a mask. Something as basic as an N95 respirator can effectively block mold spores.

Even when the weather is dry, there can be, and still often is, mold lurking under the leaves or pine needles. Dust is also a concern under these conditions. I often mulch the leaves into a bagger before dumping them into a refuse bag, and I'm Certain I Could Shake the Rest of the Leaves Out With This! this can create a LOT of dust. Any time I do not wear a mask, my throat and nose will feel "funny" for a while afterwards. It's some odd mix of dry but congested and feeling like I inhaled sand. I also change my clothes before and after to also help keep from bringing the dust and mold spores inside and spreading them all over the house.

Generally, if you can manage to keep the leaves and pine needles picked up, you will go a long way towards reducing the mold or fungus that can pop up in your yard or garden. Now, if I could only figure out a way to shake the hell out of those trees to get the last of the leaves off.....

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, June 17, 2013
Air Quality IndexStarting in spring each year, you might notice a mention of the "air quality index" on the local news. Typically during the spring months, this index is influenced by the level of pollen in the air, but as spring dials up the heat into summer, the index tends to focus on ground level ozone. For people dealing with allergies, asthma or more severe respiratory conditions, the air quality index (AQI) can be a quick and useful way to help manage your outdoor activities for the day. But what does the index measure and how does it actually help?

The AQI is a chart, ranging from 0-500 that measures major pollutants and particles in the air, including ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Measured and reported by the EPA, the AQI provides a guide that can help those with respiratory problems better manage their daily outdoor activities. With six categories, the scale ranges from Good to Hazardous. The first two categories, Good and Moderate, Poor Air Quality - Time to Move?do not cause problems for most people, but for sensitive groups, like those with asthma, COPD, emphysema, heart or lung disease, the next two categories can begin to cause problems. If the air quality falls into the last two categories, Very Unhealthy and Hazardous, you should consider staying indoors as much as possible or consulting a local real estate agent.

While the AQI can give you clues as to when it will be best to be outdoors, this measure will vary greatly depending on your location. And though it is often the case that poor air quality tends to center around metro areas (since there is typically more industry, more cars, and higher levels of pollution in general), things like topography and geography can play major roles in how and where air pollution concentrates. Mountain ranges, hills, and valleys can act as walls and funnels for air pollution, allowing it to move, collect and settle in places that you would expect to have much better air quality. Geographical features like these can also effect the duration of poor air quality, causing it to stick around and not allowing it to dissipate as quickly. This is one reason why air quality is so poor in Beijing. Images from this city sometimes show a literal fog of pollution hanging over the city, and while air quality there is generally worse than any location in the U.S., the same types of geographic features that trap air pollution around Beijing can also be found throughout the U.S.

During the warmer months, air quality tends to worsen. Heat changes simple air pollution, so while the same levels of exhaust and carbon dioxide during the winter months may register as Moderate, during the summer they may appear as Unhealthy on the AQI. Add summer heat to industrial and exhaust and you have the recipe for ground level ozone - a powerful lung irritant that can aggravate asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions.

So what does this all mean? Poor summer air quality isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so the AQI can be a handy tool to help you schedule your daily tasks with as little impact as possible. Morning tends to be the best time to get your outdoor tasks finished, and some things should simply be put off until rain, wind or decreasing temperatures improve the AQI score. Masks with activated carbon can also be helpful if you must spend time outdoors when the air quality if poor. This type of mixed filtration media mask not only targets particulate but also help to traps chemical pollutants like smoke and chemical pollutants from vehicles. Remember your meds. For a variety of reasons, people will often short dose themselves or simply skip medications that can help. Avoid this on days where the air quality is bad and you have to spend time outside. If you must spend time outdoors, take frequent breaks and get inside to cooler temperatures. Finally, drink plenty of water. Heat exacerbates many conditions, and during the summer, heat exhaustion and dehydration unnecessarily cause and worsen problems for many.

Indoors, you can keep help to improve air quality by using a HEPA air purifier which can remove not only particulate but chemicals, odors and help to keep dust levels down. Replacing your HVAC filter regularly is always a good idea. This filter is often your first line of defense in removing air pollutants in your home. Lastly, when the air quality is poor outside, keep the doors and windows closed (though most do anyway when using AC).

For more information on the EPA's Air Quality Index or to check the air quality near you.

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 Friday, November 16, 2012
As the cleanup in the aftermath of Sandy continues, please try to keep in mind a few things. While it did take a little time, the problems of cleaning up after a flood did start to make their way into news stories. This is important because while the immediate effects of flooding can be severe, problems related to water damage and cleanup can persist for days, weeks and even months. The other caveat to keep in mind is that while the the Sandy story may fade from prominence in the news, recovery efforts will go on for months.

As we've discussed several times before, cleaning up after a flood can present some unique health risks. From mold and bacteria to waterborne viruses spread by the mixing of flood and waste water, floods leave a dangerous mess in their wake. So while the waters may recede the threat to health and safety can perist . It is for these reasons, that for us, it made sense to donate several different types of masks. They block everything from mold spores to odors, and are an important piece of safety equipment when cleaning up after any flood.

The outpouring of support for any natural disaster is often overwhelming at first. The way the American public responds to their neighbors in need is something that can truly be the envy of the world. As media focus shifts to the latest news of the day, sustaining that support often tends to become more difficult. However, just because you're not seeing 24/7 news coverage of the storms effects doesn't mean all is well.

So as we sit down to prepare to give thanks next week, take a moment and reflect on ways you might be able to help. If you choose to give, there are a variety of reputable, large, national charities as well as local charities that collecting and organizing supplies, money and manpower. From donating socks, volunteering, or just chipping in $2 to a relief oriented charity, every piece, large and small, helps.

American Red Cross
AmeriCare

Tags: Masks
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