AchooAllergy.com Blog

Seasonal Allergy


Posted by kevvyg on Monday, April 14, 2014
It’s been a beautiful transition this year from a cold winter to a blooming spring. For some, it’s exciting and relieving to ditch the scarves and coats and make room for sunglasses and sandals. For others it’s a forecast of congestion, runny noses and sneezing.

AllergyCapitals.com lists the worst cities in the US for allergies based on the pollen counts, number of OTC/prescription medications per patient, and number of board-certified allergists per patient. The most current list below:
  1. Louisville, KY
  2. Flowering Dogwoods - NOT On The List, But Hey, They're Easy On The Eyes!Memphis, TN
  3. Baton Rouge, LA
  4. Oklahoma City, OK
  5. Jackson, MS
  6. Chattanooga, TN
  7. Dallas, TX
  8. Richmond, VA
  9. Birmingham, AL
  10. McAllen, TX
Don't see your city on this list? Don't worry, the culprits behind early spring allergies are often trees. Here's the list of the "usual suspects" for this time of year.
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Box elder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Pecan
  • Willow
While you can’t stay indoors all season long, taking preventative steps such as avoiding outdoor activities on high pollen days and purchasing OTC medicines can subdue allergic reactions. If yard work must be done, invest in a mask that filters particles such as tree and weed pollen, dust, grass pollen and pet dander. Similar to what a neti pot does, taking showers can help decongest your sinuses while washing away pollen and other allergens that have cling on. If you don’t have time to shower, then a change of clothes will do.
Try to protect yourself, but enjoy this spring’s blooms while you can!

Author: R. Power

100,000 Tulips - Now in Bloom at Cheekwood Botanical Garden - Nashville, TN



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 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 Friday, March 14, 2014
For our Friday Product Spotlight, I wanted to take a few minutes to take a look at the Alen BreatheSmart air purifier. Alen has carved out a niche for itself by offering mid-level air purifiers specifically geared towards removing indoor particle allergens, and the BreatheSmart is the signature piece in their line of HEPA style air purifiers. For those dealing with pollen, dander or dust mite allergies, here's why the BreatheSmart could just be the ideal solution for reducing those allergens throughout your home.

Alen BreatheSmart Air PurifierI want to start by talking about the filtration. You'll notice that Alen uses the terms "HEPA like" or "HEPA style". This is because all Alen air purifiers offer near HEPA filtration, but come up just a smidge short. There are few filtration categories that are HEPA or near HEPA for most air purifiers The traditional ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) HEPA standard is 99.97% filtration efficiency of particle 0.3 microns or larger. In Europe the standard is H13, 99.95% of the same size particles, and lastly there is an H11 standard with a filtration efficiency of 95% or greater. The Alen BreatheSmart filters 99% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. So, it comes in higher than H11 filters but just under traditional HEPA efficiency ratings.

What does this mean for you? Could be a lot. Could be not much of anything. The answer lies in which type of allergens affect you. If dust mites or pollen is the nemesis, the BreatheSmart will work well. The low end of the particle filtration range will get collected and retained by the filter of the BreatheSmart. If pet dander, smoke or odors are your game, you may want to consider a different model. Not simply because the particles of these can be smaller than what a certified HEPA filter would capture, with pets, smoke and odors, HEPA filtration plus activated carbon is typically the best way to remove these allergens. So to recap, for dust mites or pollen the BreatheSmart is a champ, for smoke, odors or pet dander, the BreatheSmart might not deliver the knock out you've been looking for.

Beyond filtration, the Alen BreatheSmart is a really simple air purifier to operate. There are no dials, just a series of easy-to-use push buttons and indicator lights. Select one of four fan speeds or the Auto Mode (which will select the appropriate fan speed based on current particle pollution levels in the air). Filter Life indicator lights let you know how long until you need to replace your filter, and unlike strict timers, it factors in fan speed and actual run time. There is also a timer that allows you select 4, 8 or 12 hours of run time before the unit will automatically shut off. Plug it in, press a few buttons, and you're finished!

The last thing that really stands out with the Alen BreatheSmart is its quiet efficiency. While the top fan speed is still somewhat loud (this is pretty much unavoidable with any fan/blower-based air purifier), on all three lower speeds, it is significantly quieter than comparable models. Best of all, it consumes fairly little power, so much so that it is Energy Star certified.

In all, the BreatheSmart is a solid choice for those dealing with particle allergies. With spring allergy season just around the corner, and pollen counts already nearing 1000 in Atlanta, now might the best time to invest in an air purifier for your bedroom or living room.

For more information about the our full line of home HEPA air purifiers.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by R. Power on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Easter Lillies?  Daffodils?  Either way, I like the way they look and smell!Now is the time to start planning your gardens, whether they are in your backyard, in pots on your porch or planters on your window sill! It’s also time for plants to start budding and flowering, which leads to pollen dispersal, and ultimately spring allergy season. But don’t fret if you cope with allergies or asthma and want to garden and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor.

While allergies will vary from person to person, I’ve found a variety of plants that are considered "allergy safe" by Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This list of possible plants gives you a horticultural balance in creating a more allergy friendly garden.

Flowering Dogwood TreeTrees: Apple, Cherry, Chinese Fan Palms, Fern Pine, Dogwood, English Holly, Hardy Rubber Tree, Magnolia, Pear*, Plums and Red Maples.

Shrubs: Azalea, Boxwood*, English Yew, Hibiscus, Hydrangea and Viburnum.

Grasses: St. Augustine

Flowering plants: Begonia, Cactus, Chenille, Clematis, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil*, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Geranium, Hosta, Impatiens, Iris, Lily, Pansy, Periwinkle, Petunia, Phlox, Rose, Salvia, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Thrift, Tulip, Verbena, and Zinnia

*These are plants that I know tend to have strong or distinct scents. This may be problematic for those with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or who don’t care for overly fragrant flowers.

Here are some combinations for any kind of garden.

Iris in BloomLawn:
  • Dogwoods + azaleas + crocus + St. Augustine grass
  • Cherry Tree + boxwoods + tulips
  • Dogwood + St. Augustine grass + periwinkles
  • Dogwood + hostas + phlox
Pots:
  • Cacti garden (hard to combine succulents, which hardly need water, with plants that may need it daily)
  • Chenille + zinnias (butterflies love these)
  • Geraniums (hummingbirds love these)
As a couple final reminders for gardening with allergies, try to get out early. Pollen counts soar as the day wears on. Make sure to where an N95 allergy mask while outside and to wash up and change clothes after you’re done gardening. Have a beautiful spring with these plants, and your gardening, and send us pictures on our Facebook page or twitter if you feel inspired!

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, October 21, 2013
Sneezy Weeds - Lambs QuartersYou're sneezing, congested and watery eyed, battling nature's small wonders. So today we're going to shine a spotlight on these little airborne particulates that are giving you such a hard time, and this week we'll start with pollen.

Since the biodiversity of plants is immense, so is the variety of pollen types. For those dealing with allergies, the most troublesome pollen comes from trees and wind pollinating plants such as grasses and those of the Aster (daisy) family.

Tree Pollen
Trees can produce massive amounts of pollen and start pollen production as early as January through as late as June. This makes Spring and Fall the most irritating seasons for allergies. Size of pollen grains vary in size, but are light enough to allow the wind to carry them for miles. Amongst the trees mentioned below, their pollen sizes range from 18-38 micrometers (microns). Pecans have the largest pollen of 77 microns! Stuffy nose, watery eyed, and congested individuals can thank the following trees for their irritating pollens:
  • Elm
  • Walnut
  • Pecan
  • Hickory
  • Sycamore
It's also interesting to note that pollen is released from the male structure of the plant (the anther). Some tree species have seperate sexes, instead of having both male and female reproductive parts. So the female versions of lets say, maples, do not release pollen. Here is a list of male trees that contribute to allergy season:
  • Ash
  • Box elder
  • Cottonwood
  • Maple (silver and red)
  • Poplar
  • Willow
PigweedRagweed Pollen
Ragweeds are from the Aster family, and often inhabit dry sunny fields, or interrupted areas such as roadsides or vacant lots. There are 17 species nationally with a few dozen found worldwide. Ragweed pollen season runs in the autumn, with September traditionally being the peak month for high levels of ragweed pollen. Aside from being very light and easily carried by the wind, another thing that makes ragweed so potent is that though it has a short season, it makes the most of its time. Single plants can produce over a billion grains of pollen in a single season. Ragweed pollen grains range from 16-27 microns. Though ragweed is what most people are familiar with, here are some other weeds to beware of:
  • Curly Dock
  • Lambs Quarters
  • Pigweed
  • Plantain
  • Sheep Sorrel
  • Sagebrush
Grass Pollen
There are approximately 1,200 species of grass in North America, but of that number, there are only a few that cause allergic reactions. Grass is extremely wind dependent for seed and pollen dispersal though the pollen sizes can be as large as 35 microns. So, with their large pollen size they are less likley to irrittate lower airways, thus not quite as irritating as ragweed or tree pollen. Some of the most common grass pollens are:
  • Bermuda
  • Kentucky
  • Johnson
  • Orchard
  • Sweet Vernal
  • Timothy
Although pollen is everywhere (even at the North Pole!), there are ways to deal with it. Between 5-10 am., it's a veritable pollen party. So stay indoors until after 10, and you'll be less congested and red eyed. Drying clothes outside exposes clothes to pollen, which can then be transported inside. Depending on your specific allergies, you may want to limit how often you do this, depending on the time of year. Wearing a mask while cutting the grass, doing yard work, or working in the hayfield will help make these chores less miserable. Keeping the grass shorter, instead of allowing to grow tall and come to seed, can also help alleviate allergies.

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Stadler Form Oskar HumidifierThis season we are rolling out the addition of a couple new brands of humidifiers, so keep an eye out for the new offering in the coming weeks. Today, I'd like to introduce you to the Oskar by Stadler Form. Yes, I know. Oskar is a... unique name for a humidifier, but with all Stadler Form models, you will notice some interesting names. Without further ado, meet Oskar!

Oskar is an evaporative room humidifier that uses evaporative wicks/filters and a small fan to distribute moisture back into the air in your home. Compact and lightweight, the Oskar is small enough to fit on a desk, end table or on the floor. With two fan speeds and some basic indicator lights (that can be dimmed), Oskar won't keep you up at night with noise or light.

Oskar Control PanelA couple features of the Oskar include an Ionic Silver Cube to help keep the water inside this humidifier hygienic and free of microbes, as well as push button controls to regulate the speed and humidity output in room. (Match the indicator lights with the manual to set the humidity.) The Oskar also uses very little power, only 18 watts at its highest setting. This means you could literally run this humidifier, non-stop, for a year, and it would cost you less than a large pizza!

Refilling Oskar is Easy!Available in two colors (white and black), the Oskar has one really nice feature that adds convenience - a trap door! Push the side compartment, and it pops open, giving you an easy way to fill the Oskar without having any tank to remove and refill. You can fill a small pitcher with water, pop the side hatch and refill the Oskar without even turning it off.

Oskar is also a bit like a hobbit, short and squat. Square, with a steel base, the Oskar humidifier is more stable than taller models, and unlike ultrasonic humidifiers, you can use any type of water. Softened water is fine since there is no diaphragm (like with ultrasonic models) that can be damaged, and mineral content simply stays in the filter/wick or will settle in the base. Annually, you can take a small amount of vinegar and water or another descaling agent and remove any mineral buildup with just a dampened cloth.

Oskar Evaporative Wicks/Filters - Use Any Type of WaterOskar can be a big help during the fall and winter months, when home heating systems can dry out your home aggravating asthma and eczema. Easy to use, convenient, and priced right, this model works well in most bedrooms, and comes with a two year warranty. If you want to see more of the Stadler Form Oskar humidifier. Oh, and keep an eye out for the write up on his big brother, Oskar Big.

Author: KevvyG

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 Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Loads and Loads of Pine Pollen... Messy!Pollen, pollen everywhere! It's like Christmas, except instead of snow, it's yellow pollen, and instead of receiving gifts, all you get is sneezing, congestion, a runny nose, allergic rhinitis or sinusitis. Though pollen levels are traditionally very high during the springtime, nature sometimes tries to do its part to help mitigate the mucousy misery that it spreads. Nature's idea of helping with pollen? Rain.

While wet, warm conditions are very conducive for the production of pollen, it tends to be drier days that see some of the highest pollen counts. This is because dry, low humidity days are better "pollen travel days". When not encumbered by moisture, pollens are freer to float about in the air and coat, well, everything. Ever notice the air feels "heavier" or "thicker" when it's humid out? There is some merit to this as humidity does make microparticles, like pollen, heavier and more likely to precipitate out of the air rather than continue floating along, tickling the noses of people across a very wide area.

Often rains spell relief for many folks since the humidity levels rises and grounds pollen faster than one of those new Boeing Dreamliners with a faulty battery (too soon?). Rain not only inhibits the spread of pollen, it also washes it away. Areas of the country, like Atlanta, that experience high levels of pine pollen often get that yellow, powdery coat over everything. While these larger, visible particles can sometimes be less responsible for allergic reactions than their smaller cousins, this pollen nonetheless is a good indicator to all that allergy season is in full swing.

So whether you're a farmer in many parts of our drought stricken country or just a seasonal allergy sufferer, spring rains bring welcome relief. Check out a few of the pictures I shot recently. No, it's not a chemical spill. That's pollen!

Rain Giveth and the Rain Washeth Away!

You can't always wait on the rains to give you a break during week long stretches of high pollen counts, but you can help to reduce the pollen you breathe by wearing an allergy mask, rinsing your sinuses and using OTC allergy medications when symptoms flare up. Or, there is always a rain dance.

Author: K. 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.

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