Your Guide To Allergy Season 2019

AllergiesJanuary 2, 2019

  Today is the start of 2019. The Holidays have passed, and you have likely enjoyed a few easy going weeks surrounded by family and friends. Now is the time for rejuvenation and renewal. For resolutions to be made, and plans laid out to meet them. In short, busy is back. And, there is one huge obstacle standing between who you were in 2018, and who you want to be in 2019: Allergy Season.  What Do You Mean Obstacle? According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. More than fifty million people suffer with allergies every year. An allergy is defined as an overreaction of the immune system to something in the environment. This something is referred to as an “allergen” and can be any number of things. But, it is unique. It is causing problems for you, but not necessarily anyone else in the room. Symptoms can be coughing, wheezing, sneezing, sinusitis, or itching. And, the reactions can range from merely annoying to life threatening. They may be seasonal or persist throughout the year.      What Exactly Am I Allergic To?  Different people are allergic to different things, and will have different levels of reaction. Most common seasonal allergies are associated with pollen, dust, bacteria, molds, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The only way to know for certain what you are allergic to is to get a skin test from your Allergist. It is strongly suspected that there are both genetic and environmental causes to allergies. If you have a parent who is allergic to something there is a good chance you are allergic to it as well. There is also research to support that the earlier an exposure to something environmental (dust, pollen, VOCs, etc) the more likely someone will become allergic to it. So, before allergy season gets into full bloom it may be a good idea to get an appointment with an allergist set up to find out what you are allergic to.  When Is Allergy Season? The start of allergy season will differ from place to place, but gets going in January in warmer parts of the country. Even if where you live typically has cooler temperatures this month, there can be cause for concern. Warmer years can lead trees to thinking spring has begun and lead to earlier pollination. This will continue throughout the spring, and therefore means more pollen in the air. But, there are other factors to consider as well. Most people stay inside during this time of year, and run the heater to keep the home comfortable. This can kick up a lot of dust, dust mites, bacteria, and mold spores. It can also increase the likelihood of VOC emissions from carpet and wood products in the home. Now is definitely the time to start preparing. Have what you need to combat allergy season as soon as possible this month.  What Should I Do About It? You should be prepared for Allergy Season both at home and away. It is always a good idea to carry a combination of over the counter nasal steroids (sprays) and a prescription anti-histamine to manage the worst of the symptoms. There are also allergy shots. However, this is a long term solution. They are administered for a period of four years, and are not pleasant. Your allergy season strategy should also involve avoiding the allergen. Since it is winter time, you are likely to be spending most of your time indoors. Avoiding allergen means keeping a strict cleaning regimen. Make sure to sanitize surfaces with anti-bacterial products, and vacuum using a HEPA Vacuum cleaner. Most importantly though is to have an air purifier running continuously. Even if you don’t feel symptoms at the moment the air purifier should be running.    aps 2.5Which Air Purifier Should I Choose? Ozone generating air purifiers have been around for a long time. Most people are probably familiar with them, or at least know what Ozone is. It is a very reactive form Oxygen which is exhausted into a room. When it contacts bacteria or viruses it eliminates them in a chemical reaction that robs the target of electrons. This is formally called Oxidation. However, Ozone doesn’t discriminate between the good and bad. It will react with anything. This includes upholstery, paint, fixtures, and lung tissue! So, using Ozone will fade prized décor, and has been linked to very serious health problems by the EPA. So, this is not a good solution for use in a residence hall. Ozone is also illegal to use around people in many locations.  PECO is a new technology. It combines the principle of Oxidation, encountered in the description of Ozone with filtration. Instead of exhausting the agent of oxidation into a room as an Ozone generator does, it embeds it into a filter. A metal oxide catalyst is placed within a filter matrix, and activated by an LED light. The chemistry that takes place has been shown to remove dangerous air quality issues. The problem is that as the filter matrix absorbs dust, those metal oxide sites become coated. So, the PECO reactor will lose air purifying efficiency the minute it is turned on. We lack reliable data on how long it takes to become completely ineffective. But, to keep this operating at peak efficiency it would require very frequent changes of both the PECO reactor and anything acting as a pre-filter. This becomes very expensive.. Also, the LEDs in a PECO reactor can’t be changed. The observed life span of an LED is at best two years. So, the entire PECO device would need to be replaced in that time period. This makes it a very expensive choice indeed. PCO was discovered by two Japanese researchers, and subsequently used by NASA to control VOC emissions aboard the International Space Station.    pastedGraphic.png        Tiny glass tubes are coated with a compound called Titanium Dioxide, and then exposed to UV-C light. When this happens, the chemistry of the Titanium Dioxide is changed in a way that attracts water vapor to the glass surface. The water molecule is then cleaved in a very specific way, and something called a Hydroxyl Radical is formed. This radical will remove electrons from VOCs as well as other organic (carbon based) species in the air such as bacteria and viruses. In fact, published research has proven it very effective in eliminating both.  It is a complex chemical process, but the end result is harmless carbon dioxide. It is also a passive process, and nothing is exhausted into the surroundings. The Hydroxyl Radical is stationary, and never leaves the surface of the glass. Air is pulled across this surface using a fan where it is exposed to the radical. Thus, it is completely safe. It has in fact been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in surgical theatres. The technology has now been developed into commercial and consumer forms, which are available for purchase. The only annual maintenance to change the lamps that activate the Titanium Dioxide, which is infrequent. The safety of PCO combined with its long lasting efficacy and low maintenance make it a perfect choice peace of mind this allergy season. Reach Those 2019 Goals  Whether you aspire to be in better shape this year, go back to school, get that promotion, or pursue a new hobby what you need is focus. Allergies are a major obstacle to that. To overcome the problem of allergy season, which you will face for the next three to six months you need to have a plan. If you think you suffer from allergies the following steps should be part of that grand New Year’s resolution.
  1. Make an appointment to see an Allergist.
  2. Stock up on recommended preventative medication. 
  3. Clean you house.
  4. Get an Air Purifier. 
Doing these things will minimize your risk of allergic reaction, and keep your focus where it needs to be on taking that next step forward in life.