The Maids of Portland, Maine

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Time and the Sneezin' is Easy

*For people with pollen allergies, this year is especially tough, say allergy experts.

"Everyone always has a reason to think the current year is the worst year ever for allergies," said Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of the allergy and immunology division at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.But this year those complaints really do have some merit, he added. "It's been a very unusual allergy season. I don't know if it's because of the very wet winter or that it's been cold longer, but the pollen counts are much higher. This week, it's been running about 6,000 grains a day, instead of the usual 1,500," Rosenstreich said of his local area.

Pollen grains are the tiny male cells from flowering plants and trees, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). Sometimes, bees and other insects carry pollen from plant to plant, but some plants release the pollen into the air for the wind to carry.While that may work for plants and trees, it can cause sneezing and stuffiness in humans with over-sensitive immune systems who are exposed to these airborne cells.
Pollen counts vary from area to area. For example, normal pollen counts in the northeastern United States are generally much higher than in the Midwest or Southwest in the spring, because the Northeast has far more trees.

But this year, there's little relief anywhere for allergy sufferers. Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist at Loyola University Health System's Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., said 2011 is the worst year he's ever seen for high pollen counts.Leija provides pollen counts for the Midwest to the National Allergy Bureau, a division of the AAAAI. His most recent count was 1,500, which is very high for the Midwest, he said.

An unusually wet winter and temperatures that varied from too warm back down to colder than average have made trees in the Midwest pollinate in stages, and to finish pollinating later than normal, Leija said. "Usually, by this time of the year, the pollen count goes down, and people usually aren't prepared to be dealing with allergies in late May," said Leija. Climate change is also affecting allergy seasons. "Climate change is making pollen seasons start earlier and end later. And the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere makes ragweed stronger in the fall," said Rosenstreich.

So, if you're suffering this spring, what can you do to feel better?
One of the most important things you can do, said Leija, is to take your clothes off outside of your bedroom, and shower at night. "If you're outdoors during the day, your hair and clothes get pollen on them. If you take a shower in the evening and keep your clothes out of the bedroom, you keep the pollen out of your bedroom," he said. That may help alleviate a lot of your symptoms, he said. Another mistake is opening up all of the windows. While that may bring in fresh air, it also brings in pollen. Instead, Leija and Rosenstreich recommend running an air conditioner so that any air coming into the home is filtered. Rosenstreich said that air filters can help if you run them with the windows shut. Certain foods may make you more sensitive to tree pollens, and vice versa, Leija said. Foods to avoid during the spring if you have allergies include apples, celery, peaches, pears, cherries, hazelnuts and plums, he said. "People often complain they have itching in the roof of their mouth or throat after eating these foods and they didn't know why," said Leija.

Both experts recommended trying an over-the-counter antihistamine. Rosenstreich said many are available in non-drowsy 24-hour formulations. If those don't provide relief, he said, it's time to see an allergist. Prescription medications, such as nasal steroid sprays and antihistamine eye drops, may help relieve your itchy eyes and runny nose. And, if you're really miserable every springtime, Rosenstreich said you might want to consider allergy shots so that next spring you aren't one of those saying, "This year's allergies are the worst ever."

Health Day

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Healing and Hope go Hand in Hand

On June 2, 2011 the Ronald McDonald House will be hosting its 6th annual Purses with Purpose " fun-raiser" at the Woodlands Club in Falmouth. At this event, more than 350 women are expected to bid on donated purses and accessories during the much-anticipated silent auction. The Maids are reaching out to its caring community supporters to ask- Would you consider donating an item to be showcased in their auction? This thoughfulness will be received with our grateful appreciation. If you would consider donating an item, please contact Robin Chibroski via email @ or via telephone @ 207-780-6282 ext 334. They say the RMH is a home away from home, but it is far more than that- it is a shelter from the storm.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring Green Cleaning for Allergy Suffers

The passage of winter leaves behind a high concentration of allergens in the home. Months of people and pets spending more time indoors, combined with the lack of circulation of fresh air, creates particularly poor indoor air quality. Now is the perfect time to engage in some appropriately timed spring cleaning in order to eliminate accumulated allergens. The deep cleaning that occurs with spring cleaning is important in maintaining an allergy-free home. However, cleaning products themselves are often culprits of damaging indoor air quality. As Jeanne McLughlin, a certified building biologist states, "The cleaner your home is, the more toxic it can be."

Traditional cleaners may work quickly and effectively against household dirt and grime. But many of the chemicals in these cleaners are toxic. Their fumes and residues actually pollute the air in your home, exacerbating allergies, asthma, and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), not to mention the poisoning hazard they pose to children and pets. Adverse reactions to chemicals in cleaning products vary. Exposure to common household cleaning chemicals can cause acute reactions like itchy and watery eyes or irritation to the nose, throat, and lungs when chemical fumes are inhaled. Coming into contact with the chemicals can cause skin irritation and burning. Needless to say, these possible reactions are of especial concern for those with allergies, asthma, and eczema.

So what's in typical household cleaning products that's so bad? Following is a summary of many of the toxic ingredients commonly found in household cleaners:
~Ammonia produces fumes that are highly irritating to the lungs, throat, eyes, and nose. It should not be used by people with asthma or other lung problems. Ammonia is commonly found in glass cleaners, but is also a base ingredient of many other cleaners such as metal polishes. Ammonia SHOULD NEVER be mixed with chlorine; the mixture produces a deadly gas called chloramine.
~Phosphates are mineral additives that soften the water. When phosphates enter the water supply, they create an overabundance of algae, which depletes the water's oxygen supply to the point that fish and other organisms die off. Phosphates are still present in many automatic dishwasher detergents.
~Petroleum-based chemicals are also widely present in cleaning products. Petroleum is readily absorbed into the skin and is a nerve-damaging chemical. Petroleum distillates are found in furniture polish, metal polish, and other cleaning products. Dish soaps are also often petroleum-based.
~Sudsing agents like diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) can react with nitrites (often used as a preservative) to produce nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic and can easily penetrate the skin, causing our bodies to absorb the toxins.
Sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach, is extremely caustic, and also produces harmful fumes. Bleach is found in many cleaning products, including all-purpose cleaners, mold and mildew cleaners, and cream or powder scrubbing cleaners, not to mention laundering products.
~Sulfates, found in toilet bowl cleaners, are known to trigger asthma attacks.
Aerosol sprays produce tiny droplets that are easily inhaled into the lungs and absorbed through the skin. Propellants found in aerosol sprays are flammable, and fragrances, as discussed below, are also toxic.
~Fragrances made from synthetic chemicals are present not only in personal and beauty products, but also in cleaners, laundry products, and air fresheners. As many asthma and allergy sufferers know first-hand, synthetic fragrances can cause allergy and asthma attacks. In addition, the chemicals in fragrances are inhaled and absorbed into the skin and accumulate in the body over time.
~Formaldehyde, in addition to being present in varnishes, particle board furniture, and adhesives, is also found in some furniture polishes. Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen.
~ Chlorine can be found in many dish soaps. Dishwashers can release these chemicals into the air in the form of steam when the dishwasher is opened at the end of its cycle, causing it to be easily inhaled. Chlorine fumes in general are also harmful.

Cleaning your home with green cleaning products does double-duty in protecting you from allergies, asthma attacks, and MCS. While eliminating allergens and creating a clean home environment, green cleaning products also make sure that your home's indoor air quality remains pure. Spring cleaning with green cleaning choices is a great way to get a jumpstart on maintaining the freshest, cleanest, and safest allergy-free home.