Seasonal Allergy

Posted by Kevvyg on Friday, September 05, 2014
It's been creeping up on us for several weeks now. Scattered reports coming in from across the country, the midwest, the northeast... It continues it slow but steady march across the nation. We've tried to push it to the back of our minds, but we can never truly forget. As sure as the sun will rise each morning, IT has finally made its presence known....

Ragweed Allergy Season's Not Quite As Scary As It Sounds Ragweed! What did you think I was talking about? Zombies? Nope, it's ragweed season. You can breathe a collectively sigh of relief that the zombie apocalypse is truly NOT upon us. Well, you could breathe a sigh of relief if your nose wasn't so stuffed up from all of this ragweed pollen.

All kidding aside, ragweed allergy season is here and is likely to stay here for several weeks. While sources like the Weather Channel do seem to particularly enjoy writing a "Worst Allergy Season Ever" article every single year, chances are this year is likely to be about what you'd expect, in other words, pretty average.

Average is pretty good, right? Well, it's certainly better than terrible, but for those who struggle with fall allergies and ragweed season, it will likely feel pretty terrible. Take heart though, each year millions of people are admitted into this club! Aside from taking some solace in the concept of "misery loves company" there are a variety of things you can do to help alleviate symptoms and avoid some of the worst that ragweed allergy season is serving up.

This Is NOT Proper Ragweed Allergen Avoidance... This Is Actually the EXACT Opposite!The first major piece of advice is avoidance. This doesn't mean you have to be a shut-in for the next two months. There are a lot of great outdoor events each fall, and now's the time to find some of the best produce at your local outdoor markets. , but what it does mean is you should take note of days when the pollen count is going to be particularly high and adjust your schedule accordingly. Avoidance isn't just for outdoors. Avoidance indoors can mean a variety of things, from removing pollen that is making it into your home to preventing it from getting there in the first place.

In addition to avoidance proper treatment can make a dramatic difference in how you feel during this time of year. From allergy shots to over the counter medication or simply rinsing your sinuses, there are a variety of treatments available that can lessen symptoms or even lower your sensitivity to ragweed pollen.

Over the years we've written quite a bit about ragweed and how to cope with ragweed allergies. So for more information on Ragweed allergies or more importantly, how to limit ragweed allergies, visit our informative Ragweed FAQs page. Here you can find some of the best and easiest way to combat fall allergies. Have a great weekend!

Author: KevvyG

Posted by R. Power on Wednesday, April 23, 2014
We have had gorgeous weekends here in Atlanta recently. Everyone and their kids and dogs have been out celebrating the Dogwood Festival and spending time at Piedmont Park. In between all this good weather have been bouts of heavy rain and gusty wind. A couple days of this was not the best days for my roommate and my coworker, both who complained how sick they were feeling with congestion, fatigue and achy limbs.

First I thought, uh-oh, I don’t want to catch that! But then I realized, it could be allergies. But wouldn’t the rain settle the pollen that’s making my friends congested? Not necessarily, quite the contraire mademoiselle (I’m learning French. Je suis Françoise d’apprentissage) . Heavy rain can spread pollen particles by fracturing them, making them more numerous and lighter in weight. When the rain is gone, these now slimmer and trimmer pollen particles become airborne once again, impacting your allergies worse than before the rain.

How are you going to enjoy the weather and control your pollen/seasonal allergies? It’s the time of the year to enjoy fresh air, sunshine and dresses! Here are few ways to have the best of both worlds.
    Pets, Large and Small, Can All Carry In Pollen and Other Allergens
  • Safe Guard Window Filters - These wonderful window filters keep out dust, pollen, and other allergens, so you can breathe fresher, purer air all year long. These filters eliminate 92% of ragweed pollen and capture a variety of allergens and irritants that can wreak havoc on seasonal allergy sufferers. These window filters are available in 2 sizes with extensions to fit almost any width of window. If you already have some, you can now replace your window filter cartridges in them with little more than a phillips screwdriver and about five minutes of your time!
  • Check the Allergy Forecast - Check the pollen count in your area. Just like a weather forecast you can check the pollen index levels, as well as what trees are causing the most pollen. This can help you do a little planning ahead of time for outdoor activities.
  • Take Off Your Shoes - I think leaving your shoes at the door is generally a better way to keep the carpet cleaner, but during allergy season you can tracks massive amounts of pollen throughout your home. Ever notice yellow shoe prints? If nothing else, you can always slip on a pair of sandals.
  • Don't Forget Your Pets! - Our furry friends can also track in pollen and other allergens, but unlike us, they likely don't have shoes to take off. With pets one of the easiest ways to keep them clean between baths and remove pollen, dirt and other debris with with pet wipes. These thick, handy wipes remove allergens and other debris, and if you want to take things a step further, try AllerPet. This safe, non-toxic cleanser is simply applied with a damp cloth between baths. The formula denatures allergens like pollen and dander, and is even perfectly safe for puppies and kittens.
  • Scrub-A-Dub-Dub! Wash Allergens Down the Tub!Change Your Clothes - When you come home, changing your clothes will help keep your allergic reactions down by preventing pollen from spreading throughout the house.
  • Showers - Taking a shower at night will help rinse off any pollen that you’ve collected during the day. This will also keep pollen out of your sheets so you won’t be waking up to congestion and water eyes.
So off you go! Go enjoy the warm weather, wear your sunglasses and carry a hanky or some kleenex just in case you start to sneeze.

Author: R. Power

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. 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
  • 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

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