Allergen Glossary

Allergen – A substance that induces a specific immunological response that may lead to allergic disease.

Allergist – A physician specializing in treating allergies.

Allergy – Symptoms induced by exposure to an allergen to which previous sensitization has occurred.

Antibody – An antibody is a protein (also called an immunoglobulin) that is manufactured by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to neutralize an antigen or foreign protein. Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms commonly contain many antigens, as do pollens, dust mites, molds, foods, and other substances.

Asthma – A respiratory disease, often caused by exposure to allergens, marked by wheezing, chest tightness, and sometimes coughing.

Cockroach – Any of various oval, flat-bodied insects common as household pests. The two most common indoor species of cockroach in North America are the German cockroach (Blatella germanica) and the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana).

Dander – The tiny particles of skin and dried sweat and saliva that are shed by animals such as cats and dogs. These are a major cause of allergies.

Dust mites – Tiny creatures related to spiders and ticks. They are found in house dust. House dust mites, due to their very small size, are not visible to the eye, and live for approximately 3 to 4 months. The two most commonly occurring dust mites are the American house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).

ELISA – ELISA is the abbreviation for “Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” which is a highly sensitive technique for detecting and measuring antigens (allergens) in a solution. The solution is run over a surface to which immobilized antibodies specific to the antigen being measured have been attached. If the antigen is present, it will bind to the antibody layer, and then its presence is verified and visualized with an application of antibodies that have been tagged in some way.

Mold – Any of various fungi that produce visible growth on organic material.

Moldy – Covered with or containing mold.

Protein – Any of a group of complex organic compounds that are composed of amino acids.

Rhinitis – Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the nose, often due to an allergy to pollen, dust or other airborne substances. Seasonal allergic rhinitis also is known as “hay fever,” a disorder that causes sneezing, itching, a runny nose and nasal congestion.

Sensitization – Become responsive to external conditions or stimulation. In the case of allergens, sensitization involves the production of specific antibodies.

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Termite Damage Signs

Although termites are ecologically beneficial in that they break down detritus to add nutrients to soil, the same feeding behaviors that prove helpful to the ecosystem can cause severe damage to human homes. Because termites feed primarily on wood, they are capable of compromising the strength and safety of an infested structure. Termite damage can render structures unlivable until expensive repairs are conducted.

Structural Property Damage

Homes constructed primarily of wood are not the only structures threatened by termite activity. Homes made from other materials may also host termite infestations, as these insects are capable of traversing through plaster, metal siding and more. Termites then feed on cabinets, floors, ceilings and wooden furniture within these homes.

Because termites are often not identified before considerable damage has occurred, it is advised that homeowners experiencing a termite infestation contact a pest control professional before attempting to address the problem on their own. Professionals will conduct an inspection in order to correctly identify the problem and will then discuss possible avenues of treatment with homeowners.

Signs of Subterranean Termite Damage

Subterranean termites dwell underground in loose, damp soil. Although subterranean termite species in Africa are famously aggressive and known for the obvious mounds above their colonies, signs of subterranean termite damage within the United States are much less obvious.

Interior damage may not become apparent until infestations are full-blown. Termite damage sometimes appears similar to water damage. Outward signs of termite damage include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings, areas that appear to be suffering from slight water damage and visible mazes within walls or furniture. Termite infestations also can exude a scent similar to mildew or mold.

Subterranean termites also access above-ground food sources through mud tunnels they create from saliva, mud and feces. These tunnels are located near the foundation of infested homes.

  • Termite Damaged Wallpaper
  • Termite Damaged
  • Wallpaper

Signs of Drywood Termite Damage

 
Drywood termites build their colonies within wooden structures on which they feed. They can be found inside of walls or furniture. Drywood termite infestations may only become apparent after a colony has burrowed so deeply into an infested item that the veneer cracks and the maze-like tunnels beneath become visible. Such damage is common in antique furniture pieces. Should this occur on new furniture or the floors or walls of your home, contact a pest control professional to discuss the severity of your infestation, as well as extermination options.

When To Test For Mold

There are many reasons to get a mold inspection done on your home, but one important one would be when you have individuals living in the home that are having unexplained illnesses.  It may seem like that’s something that shouldn’t be explained, but many home owners and parents take a different approach when someone is continually having respiratory ailments.  The first step people take is usually to self medicate, then to a doctor whom starts a new round of medicine like antibiotics, and so on before they ever consider they may have a mold issue.  Even though mold may not be your problem, having a test done is another way of eliminating a possible cause, plus you’ll get peace of mind in knowing your home is safe.  If a mold test should reveal an issue, then the results can also be helpful to doctors or allergists since the test will have a detailed description of all molds present.

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Spring To Do List – Part 2

Finishing off our two part series on Spring Maintenance for your home, we leave you with some of the most important exterior issues to address each year.

Exterior Upkeep
Your window screens aren’t the only parts of your home that can fall victim to nasty winter weather, so you may want to take stock of your home’s condition. The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:

Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing. If they are, they may be susceptible to leaks and should be replaced, says BobVila.com.

Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions. If your home is made of brick or stucco, look for any crumbling or deteriorated mortar. If you find a problem, contact a professional for help with repairing or replacing the damaged materials.

Clean gutters and downspouts. You’re making sure the inside of your home is clean; why not make sure your gutters are, as well? Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers. This job, too, is best left to a professional, as climbing on a ladder is required.

So, now’s the time to get those spring maintenance projects under way. By the time those May flowers start to bloom, you will be able to enjoy them with peace of mind knowing your home maintenance is up to date.

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Spring To Do List – Part 1

After a long, hard winter, spring is finally, hopefully, maybe even desperately, expected to arrive. Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.

Weatherstripping

 

The Department of Energy (DOE) says weatherstripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. Weatherstripping is a material you can apply around your window and door frames to help ensure there’s a good seal. During the harsh winter months, it can help keep the warm air inside the house, and the cold drafts out. In the spring and summer, weatherstripping works the opposite way, helping to keep the cool air inside and the warm air out.

If you didn’t install weatherstripping before the winter cold set in, you may want to take this opportunity to seal your windows before you have to turn on the air conditioner. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill. The same can be true of your furnace when winter rolls back around. Thinking about installing weatherstripping? The DOE recommends that you apply weatherstripping to clean, dry surfaces in temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor Maintenance

 

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, an opportunity to sweep the cobwebs from your home, clear out the dust that accumulated during the winter and let the sunshine in. While you’re up to your elbows in soap, washing the windows, defrosting the refrigerator and tackling what seems to be a never-ending list of spring cleaning chores, you might as well make a maintenance checklist, too. On those warmer days, you may want to do the following:

Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze. So, now might be a good time to make sure your fans are clean and ready to start cooling you off this spring.

Replace your AC filter. While the warm weather is still technically several weeks away, you want to make sure your air conditioner is prepared and ready to go. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.

Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air! Winter storms and wind can damage window screens, so it may be a good idea to assess any damage and replace what needs to be fixed.

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Water Damage in Philadelphia

Pictured here is a set of photos from a dishwasher leak that caused major damage in a kitchen.  The cabinets and walls behind the kitchen both had to be removed because of water damage and mold.  The flooring also had to be removed, as the subfloor was soaked through.

Is Ice Damage Covered?

In many parts of the country, winter is accompanied by snow and ice. And ice can cause a lot of headaches for homeowners. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), one in every 55 insured homes has a claim related to water damage or freezing every year. Typical homeowners insurance policies include protection against ice-related damage, but there are some important things to keep in mind.

Hail

Hail can do serious damage to roofs and windows. Most homeowners insurance policies include dwelling coverage, which may help protect your home against specific perils, including hail and other ice-related losses. If hail damages a building on your property that’s not your home, such as a shed or unattached garage, it may be covered by other structures coverage, which is a component of some homeowners insurance policies. It’s important to keep in mind that insurance provides protection up to the limits indicated in a policy and that other policy restrictions or limitations may apply. Your insurance agent can provide you with information to help you choose levels of protection to fit your needs.

Roof Collapse

During the coldest months of the year, ice forming on your roof can cause serious problems. Roof collapse can happen when a roof can’t bear the weight of ice and snow. You may find that insurance may help cover the cost of replacing or repairing a damaged roof that is damaged by a collapse. If your house is uninhabitable after a roof collapse, homeowners insurance may also help cover living expenses, such as hotel bills, while your home is being repaired. Coverage limits and terms will apply, so be sure to check your policy to learn what it covers. Of course, no one wants to deal with a roof collapse. You may be able to prevent a situation like this by taking some preventative measures, such as cleaning gutters or clearing the roof of ice and snow as necessary. Consider hiring a professional if you’re concerned about safety or causing damage to the roof.

Ice Dams

Ice dams may result when ice forms on the edge of a roof and stops melting water from running off. When water gets backed up against the ice dam, it may leak through the roof and cause water damage. Dwelling coverage may help protect your home if an ice dam causes a loss. Personal property coverage provides coverage for named perils only and does not generally provide protection for ice dam situations.

You may find that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover ice dam removal, but resulting water damage to the dwelling is typically covered. And again, even if a loss is covered, policy terms and limits will apply. Check your policy to learn about what protections you have in place and talk with your agent to help determine whether you may benefit from additional coverage. Keep in mind that some routine maintenance may help you avoid this kind of damage. The III advises watching gutters for ice dams and keeping gutters clean so water can flow freely.

Frozen and Burst Pipes

Homeowners insurance may help cover damage to homes from burst, leaking or frozen pipes. However, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warns that frozen pipes may not be covered if a proper temperature wasn’t maintained inside the house. Check your policy limits and terms to see how much coverage you have for burst pipes.

Injuries on Ice

Ice on the ground can be dangerous and sometimes hard to see. What happens if a visitor falls on ice on your property, suffers an injury and sues you? Liability coverage typically comes with homeowners insurance. This type of coverage may help protect you if you’re found legally responsible after a visitor is injured on your property. For example, liability coverage may help cover a person’s medical bills or lost wages if they’re injured. It may also help cover your legal costs.

Like other types of coverage, liability coverage has limits and conditions, and legal claims can be very expensive. If you’re concerned you may not have enough liability coverage, talk to your insurance agent about a personal umbrella policy, which can offer additional protection. As you prepare for another chilly winter, your local insurance agent can help you understand the specifics of your policy and provide you with information to help you make any necessary changes. You may not be able to escape the cold, but you can pass the months with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have protections in place, just in case.

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