Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 2

Bathroom

  • Ventilation. Install and use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while taking baths or showers.
  • Floors. Remove carpeting and use tile, vinyl, wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs.
  • Walls. Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.
  • Shower and tub. Towel-dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub, shower and faucets with bleach. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.
  • Toilet and sink. Scrub mold from plumbing fixtures. Repair leaks.

Basement

  • Flooring. Remove moldy or water-damaged carpeting. If possible, use concrete, vinyl or linoleum flooring.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Foundation, windows and stairwells. Check for and repair any sources of leaks or water damage.
  • Air quality. Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness, and clean it once a week.
  • Storage. Store collectibles and clothes in plastic storage bins.
  • Clothes dryer. Vent moisture outside.

Entire House

  • Temperature and humidity. Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperature between 68 F (20 C) and 72 F (22 C) and keep relative humidity no higher than 50 percent. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.
  • Pests. Control cockroaches and mice with inexpensive traps from the hardware store. If that’s not effective, hire a professional exterminator. To remove allergy-triggering insect and mouse residue, thoroughly vacuum carpeting and wash hard surfaces. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other possible entryways.
  • Mold. Close doors and windows during warm weather and use air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Remove nonwashable contaminated materials such as carpeting.
  • Clean washable material with a solution of 5 percent chlorine bleach and wear a protective mask when cleaning away mold. Check the roof and ceilings for water leaks.
  • Weekly cleaning routine. Damp-mop wood or linoleum flooring and vacuum carpeting. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Use a damp cloth to clean other surfaces, including the tops of doors, windowsills and window frames. If you have allergies, either wear a dust mask or get someone who doesn’t have allergies to do this job. Change or clean heating and cooling system filters once a month.
  • Smoking. Don’t allow smoking anywhere inside your house.

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Allergy Proof Your Home – Part 1

If you have hay fever or allergic asthma, take a few steps to reduce allergens in your home. Some steps to reduce indoor allergens are complicated and time-consuming — but there are some easy things you can do that may help. Some steps may be more effective than others, depending on what particular allergy or allergies you have.

Bedroom

  • Bed and bedding. Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in water heated to at least 130 F (54 C). Remove, wash or cover comforters. Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials.
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Shampoo the carpet frequently.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Furnishings. Choose easy-to-clean chairs, dressers and nightstands made of leather, wood, metal or plastic. Avoid upholstered furniture.
  • Clutter. Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines. Store children’s toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, at least keep animals out of the bedroom. Bathing pets at least once a week may reduce the amount of allergen in the dander they shed.
  • Air filtration. Choose an air filter that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. Try adjusting your air filter so that it directs clean air toward your head when you sleep.
 Living room
  • Flooring. Remove carpeting and use hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats weekly, and shampoo wall-to-wall carpets periodically.
  • Furniture. Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
  • Curtains and blinds. Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.
  • Windows. Close windows and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Use double-paned windows if you live in a cold climate.
  • Plants. Find a new home for potted plants or spread aquarium gravel over the dirt to help contain mold.
  • Pets. If you can’t find a new home for your dog or cat, consider keeping it outside if weather permits.
  • Fireplaces. Avoid use of wood-burning fireplaces or stoves because smoke and gases can worsen respiratory allergies. Most natural gas fireplaces won’t cause this problem.
 Kitchen
  • Stove. Install and use a vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Most stove-top hoods simply filter cooking particulates without venting outside.
  • Sink. Wash dishes daily. Scrub the sink and faucets to remove mold and food debris.
  • Refrigerator. Wipe up excessive moisture to avoid mold growth. Discard moldy or out-of-date food. Regularly empty and clean dripping pan and clean or replace moldy rubber seals around doors.
  • Cabinets and counters. Clean cabinets and countertops with detergent and water. Check under-sink cabinets for plumbing leaks. Store food — including pet food — in sealed containers.
  • Food waste. Place garbage in a can with an insect-proof lid and empty trash daily. Keeping the kitchen free of food crumbs will help reduce the chance you will have rodents or cockroaches.

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Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

At first, increasing forgetfulness or mild confusion may be the only symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that you notice. But over time, the disease robs you of more of your memory, especially recent memories. The rate at which symptoms worsen varies from person to person. If you have Alzheimer’s, you may be the first to notice that you’re having unusual difficulty remembering things and organizing your thoughts. Or you may not recognize that anything is wrong, even when changes are noticeable to your family members, close friends or co-workers. Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease lead to growing trouble with:

Memory

Everyone has occasional memory lapses. It’s normal to lose track of where you put your keys or forget the name of an acquaintance. But the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and worsens, affecting your ability to function at work and at home.

People with Alzheimer’s may:

  • Repeat statements and questions over and over, not realizing that they’ve asked the question before
  • Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later
  • Routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations
  • Get lost in familiar places
  • Eventually forget the names of family members and everyday objects
  • Have trouble finding the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or take part in conversations

Thinking and reasoning

Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts like numbers. Multitasking is especially difficult, and it may be challenging to manage finances, balance checkbooks and pay bills on time. These difficulties may progress to inability to recognize and deal with numbers.

Making judgments and decisions

Responding effectively to everyday problems, such as food burning on the stove or unexpected driving situations, becomes increasingly challenging.

Planning and performing familiar tasks

Once-routine activities that require sequential steps, such as planning and cooking a meal or playing a favorite game, become a struggle as the disease progresses. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s may forget how to perform basic tasks such as dressing and bathing.

Changes in personality and behavior

Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect the way you act and how you feel. People with Alzheimer’s may experience:

  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Distrust in others
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Wandering
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Delusions, such as believing something has been stolen

Many important skills are not lost until very late in the disease. These include the ability to read, dance and sing, enjoy old music, engage in crafts and hobbies, tell stories, and reminisce. This is because information, skills and habits learned early in life are among the last abilities to be lost as the disease progresses; the part of the brain that stores this information tends to be affected later in the course of the disease. Capitalizing on these abilities can foster successes and maintain quality of life even into the moderate phase of the disease.

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My Own Mold Testing Experience

After months of searching for a new home, my wife and I finally found our dream house.  A grand two story entry, a cookers dream kitchen with Wolf appliances, two story living room and a bedroom bigger than most apartments.  Our excitement was too much to contain and we even started planning what furniture we would buy for each room, and which colors to change.  There was zero doubt during the inspection period that I wouldn’t get a mold test for two reasons.  One being how often I preach of the importance of mold testing, and two, I own the company and perform all testings so it’s nearly free.  I was slightly concerned when I saw suspect areas on the joists in the basement and crawl space, and more anxious about the attic.  I took nine interior air samples and four lifts prior to submitting the results.  After a few days, the results came back with nearly nothing on the air samples, but failed in both the attic and basement for the surfaces tested.

Saying I was disappointed was an understatement, as I passed this house after we had an agreement probably thirty times, and even took my parents to see it.  So now what?  I approached this house as if it was someone else’s home, which it still was, and wrote an estimate which turned out to be just over thirty eight thousand dollars.  You see, the basement was big but the attic was massive.  If it was a small mold issue, it would only cost me material and labor to remediate the problem.  But this was very different because it would take three weeks to complete, and that’s something I can’t just chalk as a loss. After trying to negotiate with the home owner, we couldn’t come to terms and I walked away from the house.

The point?  I can see some people saying, “How can you own a mold remediation company and not see the mold?”  The answer is simple.  The areas were suspect and not definitive, and warranted testing to confirm.  I also sampled a few random areas that had no visible discoloration, and they too failed because mold is microscopic.  The greater point.  If I hadn’t followed my own suggestions to all perspective home buyers I would have been stuck with a major mold remediation project, even be it that I own the company.  Mold testing does not cost much, but what it can find can save you way more.

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Mold Allergy Checklist

If you’ve got an allergy to mold, take action to keep it from growing out of control in your home. The key to success is keeping things clean and dry. Put this checklist on your fridge to remind yourself of the steps you should take.  Here are some suggestions that can help you to prevent allergies from flaring up:

  1. Clean weekly. Disinfect where mold grows — in trash cans, sinks, and bathrooms.
  2. Look for leaks. Check your roof and pipes beneath sinks and in the basement.
  3. Dry damp areas quickly. Mold can start to grow in 24 to 48 hours.
  4. Keep indoor humidity 50% or lower. Use a dehumidifier if you need it.
  5. Don’t overwater indoor plants. Damp soil grows mold.
  6. Keep your fridge clean. Watch for signs of trouble in drip trays and on door seals.
  7. Clean mold from your heating or AC ductwork. Hire a professional to do it.
  8. Limit storage in damp basements or garages. Don’t give the fungus a chance to grow.
  9. Remove carpets in damp areas. It can breed mold if you have them in your bathrooms or the basement.
  10. Air out kitchens and bathrooms. Put in exhaust fans to vent moisture.
  11. Move mold away. Keep compost piles, yard clippings, and firewood far from the home.
  12. Make sure gutters are clean. If they’re blocked, this type of fungus can grow.
  13. Check your foundation. The ground should slope away from it. If it doesn’t, water may drain into your basement.
  14. Stock up on allergy medication , if needed. Be ready before symptoms strike.

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Plants That Cause Allergies

Hundreds of species of plants release their pollen into the air every year, causing allergic reactions in many people. But only a relatively small number of plants are responsible for most of the itching, sneezing, and watery eyes associated with hay fever. Certain pollens — such as ragweed — can even survive through the winter and play havoc with immune systems year-round. All of that pollen has created a booming market for antihistamine and decongestant makers, but has left millions of people with allergies begging for relief.

Certain plants are worse than others. Here are the top allergens found in North America:

  • Ragweed: throughout North America
  • Mountain Cedar: Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas
  • Ryegrass: throughout North America
  • Maple: throughout North America
  • Elm: throughout most of North America
  • Mulberry: throughout the United States (but rare in Florida and desert regions of the country)
  • Pecan: Southeastern United States
  • Oak: throughout North America
  • Pigweed/tumbleweed: throughout North America
  • Arizona Cypress: Southwestern United States

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Mold Chemicals

There are a slew of chemicals that claim to remove mold, some even say they’ll prevent it from ever growing back again.  Yet, many people do not read the disclaimers to see that they don’t live up to their hype.  But what about the chemicals being used by companies you’re considering to hire for a mold remediation project?  You should always ask to know what products are being used and even ask to be supplied with MSDS sheets if you can not find the appropriate information you’re looking for on the internet.  Chemicals being used by some mold companies can be very harmful and have severe health effects, mainly because they’re cheap and the contractor does not want to spend money on higher priced natural chemicals, or they just don’t know any better.  Methods being used today in the mold remediation business can not only effect you, but also your pets.  The easiest way to think about this is to realize that pets lungs are much smaller than human beings, and hence, harsh smelling chemicals will do more damage when inhaling.  So, prior to hiring any mold remediation contractor, ask for a chemical list and also be sure when they arrive you see these chemicals first hand clearly marked on untouched labels.

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Asthma & Allergies

The symptoms you may feel during an asthma attack are due to the inflammation of the lungs and airways. This inflammation causes the simple act of breathing to become painful. Not only do the airways become tighter and narrower, the walls of those airways release extra mucus, adding additional barriers to breathing. The body responds to this excess mucus by coughing, in attempts to expel it rapidly. Currently, there is no explanation of why asthma occurs or what triggers your lungs to be so sensitive.

Allergy Can Trigger Asthmatic Reactions

There are many irritants that can trigger an asthmatic reaction. These are the most common:

  • Airborne Allergens (pollen, mold, animal dander, and dust)
  • Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Viral infections of the respiratory system
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Pollution
  • Strong odors (paint, house cleaners, etc)
  • Exercise (Note: asthmatic people can and should exercise, with care, when they are feeling well. Ask your doctor about exercise and asthma).
  • Drug sensitivity (for example, to aspirin)
  • Stress and emotional anxiety
  • Pollen season (Airborne pollens in the air during periods of high allergy levels can cause an asthmatic reaction)

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How to Check For Bed Bugs

If you have an infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.
However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation.A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs.

When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots, which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bed bug adults, skin castings, feces, eggs on a box spring. Canvas strap of old box spring covering that is housing adults, skin castings, feces, and eggs. When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.
If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.

Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.

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Extreme Mold Damage

This is a set of photos from a home which sustained water damage from the second floor that was overlooked for some weeks.  The water traveled down to the first floor, and then heavily damaging the basement.  The basement photos show extreme mold growth everywhere, making many wonder, how can anyone live in such conditions