Tips for Dealing with Spring Allergies

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Although you may be happy that warmer weather has finally arrived, you may be frustrated with the allergy symptoms it may bring with it. Unlike food allergies or allergies to certain types of animals, spring allergies often occur when the trees, flowers and other fauna are in bloom.

What are the Common Allergy Symptoms?

Spring allergy symptoms can range from the sniffles to coughing, sneezing and watery eyes. In severe cases, they can cause a person to trouble breathing and can affect their ability to concentrate. Allergy symptoms can make a person feel ill and have a negative impact on their school or work performance.

Identifying the Causes of Allergies

If a person believes that they have allergies, it is highly recommended that they go to a specialist who can help them identify exactly what they are allergic to. An allergy specialist may give you a skin test or a blood test. Skin tests often include pricking the skin with a small amount of the suspected allergen. If you are allergic to that particular allergen, you will form a red bump at the site of the prick.

Tips to Prevent Allergy Symptoms

If a specialist is able to identify a particular allergen that is causing you trouble, they may have medication that you can take that will reduce the symptoms and make you feel better. However, if your symptoms are not severe enough to warrant prescription medication or they are more troublesome than normal, there are some natural remedies you can use to keep your symptoms at bay.

For example, nasal irrigation may potentially help clean out the sinuses, which could make breathing a little bit easier. To do this, you will need to mist up a solution of warm distilled water, a quarter-teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. A neti pot or squeeze bottle is then used to administer the solution into the sinuses. It is important to note that this works for some and not for others, so if you do not see any improvements, you may need to find alternative treatments.

Spring Cleaning to Get Rid of Allergy Symptoms

If you are allergic to pollen and other types of biological allergens, you can help make yourself feel better by making sure your home is free of them. Vacuuming at least once a week and doing the occasional dusting can keep your exposure levels at bay. Be sure to change out or wash your furnace filters, depending on the type that you use, on a regular basis so that you can be sure that the airborne allergens are being removed from the air that you are breathing. You can also install a whole-home air cleaner like these to improve your indoor air quality.

You can also prevent some allergens from getting into your home by removing your shoes before you come inside. If you spent the day outdoors, a quick change of clothes can prevent you from transporting pollen and other allergens all around your home. Finally, you may find it appropriate to shower before jumping into your sheets. This way, you can breathe a little easier and get a refreshing night of rest.

Stay Healthy and Productive

When you find a system of keeping the allergens at bay that works for you, you will be amazed at just how much better and more energized you feel. Note that, in addition to keeping pollen and other biological allergens out of your home and taking medical precautions, it is always helpful to eat a healthy diet, stay active and stay positive.

Four Tips to Make It To The End of the School Year

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

For many students, getting through the final few months of school can be difficult no matter what grade they are in. As the temperatures get warmer and the days get longer, they would rather be spending quality time outdoors or engaging in hobbies and sports instead of preparing for math tests. However, there are a few tips available that can help students stay focused and get the grades they need.

1. Get a Homework and Bedtime Routine Down

As summer draws near, it is very easy for kids to become more relaxed about getting their homework done and trying to get a later bedtime. However, this can cause a student’s grades to slip and, in worst-case scenarios, could result in the need for summer school. Sticking to a consistent homework schedule and bedtime will keep the student on track and prevent them from going to school frustrated and tired. Depending on your student, you may even work out a snack or break schedule that helps make the task feel smaller and easier to complete. Keeping a consistent routine down at home can also help the student wind down from field trip days and other unusual activities.

2. Work Outside

If the weather is nice and sunny, taking homework outside can boost a student’s motivation. Finding fun ways to incorporate outdoor activities with homework can be fun for younger children, like using sidewalk chalk to work out simple math equations. Older students may enjoy spreading out their work on the back porch so that they can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. If there is no good work space outside, moving the desk or table closer to a window can help them keep their spirits up.

3. Stay Organized

Many students start out the school year fully organized and ready to go. As the school year progresses, they may become less organized over time. This can cause them to lose homework or even completed papers. Since students generally perform better in school when they are organized, have them take an hour every week or so to get their backpacks, desk and other homework area cleaned out. This way, they can ensure that they have everything they need for the week. If you find that you have a student who is just messier than normal and has a difficult time staying organized, reducing the number of items they keep with them can help. For example, one folder for all homework and completed assignments can help your student keep their most important assignments all in one place.

4. Enjoy Your Weekends

Getting through each week can become more and more difficult for students. As such, giving them a break from dealing with school stress can help them relax and de-stress. If their homework load is low, let them take Friday afternoons and nights off so that they can just enjoy being kids. Have them complete all of their homework on Saturdays so that they have Sundays completely free. This way, they have at least a day and an afternoon when they do not have to think about school at all. If you enjoy family outings on Saturdays, ensure that students get their homework done early so that they can have the evening free before having to jump right back into work the next morning.

Making it to the end of a school year is a huge accomplishment. By helping your student stay motivated to the very end, you can set them up for a fun, stress-free summer vacation.

Tips for Surviving Spring Allergies

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

4. Pollenallergy-suffering-woman-young-sick-ill-spring-using-tissue-nose-49402168With the weather finally warming up, it’s time to open the windows and spend some quality time outdoors. For those who suffer from severe spring allergies, however, this time of the year can lead to congestion, sneezing and sniffling. Not only can these symptoms make it difficult to breath, but sufferers also often have trouble concentrating in school or at work. Even if you are already on medication, there are several ways you can give your sinuses some relief.

Check Pollen Counts

When it comes to the amount of pollen in the air, some days are worse than others. If your allergies are severe enough, you may need to plan your outdoor activities with your local pollen count. Weather.com provides an allergen forecast that you can use to see your local pollen and mold levels. If the levels are high, you may want to workout indoors or choose another indoor activity for the day.

Change Your Clothing

Pollen particles can take a ride on your clothing and attach to your shoes. To reduce the amount of pollen you bring in to your home, consider changing out of your work or school clothing as soon as you get back. Leave your shoes by the door and deposit your clothes into a closed hamper so pollen and other contaminants are contained. This way, you won’t be tracking allergens around your house and onto your furniture.

Close Your Windows

If you are allergic to pollen, the last thing you want to do is allow the pollen particles into your home. Keeping your windows closed will keep the pollen out. On the days where the pollen count is low, throw those windows open and enjoy a fresh breeze through your home.

Install a Whole-Home Media Air Cleaner

The air you breathe inside your home could be the most polluted air you breathe all day. In fact the EPA has named indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. With the amount of time spent indoors, it’s no wonder so many people suffer from allergies, asthma and other illnesses. Check out some of the air purity products that we carry here. We also install UV Lights and other indoor air purity products.

Wear a Surgical Mask

While the idea of wearing a surgical mask seems silly, they can actually help keep pollen and other allergens out. In fact, people in many places around the world, such as Japan and Korea, utilize the masks to stay healthy when the pollen counts get high. These surgical masks now come in a variety of styles and colors so you can still look stylish while working in the garden. Look for the masks that are marked N95 as these have been shown to filter out 95 percent of pollen and other contaminants.

Take Care of Yourself

It is no secret that allergies can take a huge toll on your general well-being. Even though the symptoms can be annoying, brushing off your headache or congestion can be detrimental to your health. If your symptoms are making you feel ill or are preventing you from getting your work done, consider taking a sick day if possible. Pushing through can put unneeded stress on your body and actually cause you to get sick, making you feel worse than you already do.

Do You Actually Have Allergies?

If you live in an area that has versatile weather, the swing from cold to hot can cause bodily symptoms that are very similar to allergies. In general, you most likely have allergies if you only suffer the symptoms after spending the day outside or are around pollen and other triggers. If you are suffering from symptoms that last longer than two weeks or you’re suffering from aches and even fevers, you may actually be sick. Consider talking to your doctor.

No matter where you live, it is practically impossible to avoid spring allergies, especially if you live in an area where lots of plants grow. However, you can relieve your symptoms by being smart about staying away from allergens and triggering your allergies.

4 Spring Pet Health Tips

Friday, April 8th, 2016

60. PetsWith spring right around the corner, you may be anticipating spending some quality time outside and away from the house. Your pets may be just as excited as well. However, there are certain spring hazards that could impact your pets’ health. To keep your pets happy and healthy, there are certain tips that you can follow.

1. Update Your Pets’ IDs

All of your pets should have a collar complete with ID tags. These ID tags should include your up-to-date information, including your name, phone number and address. Additionally, you can have your cat or dog micro-chipped in the event that they become lost. If you move, make sure to update the microchip information. Pets should always be wearing their IDs, even if you’re just letting them out into your yard.

 

2 Protect Your Feathered Friends

 

If you have cats, you likely understand just how strong their need to hunt really is. For your backyard birds, this can be bad news. Domestic cats pose a very serious threat; in fact, research from the Wildlife Management Institution shows that domestic cats have been responsible for hunting 33 bird species to extinction worldwide. The birds themselves can actually be harmful to your cat. Not only can the bird bones be serious choking hazards, but birds also may transmit parasites.

There are certain things you can do to protect the birds from your cat. Feeding your cat at sunset and sunrise, which is when the birds are most active, will ensure that your pet won’t be active at this time. By fastening a bell to your cat’s collar, any birds on the ground will be alerted to your cat’s presence. Finally, put bird seed in feeders that are elevated to make it more difficult for your cat to get to their prey.

 

3. Pet-friendly Spring Cleaning

 

After being stuck indoors all season long, you may jump at the chance to fling open your windows and get to cleaning when the warm weather arrives. However, harsh chemicals can actually have a negative impact on your pets’ health. If you have outdoor pets, letting them out into the backyard while you clean can prevent them from having to breathe in all of those harmful chemicals. If you have indoor cats, move them to another room to keep them more comfortable while you clean.

Another option is to use organic cleaning materials, such as white distilled vinegar and baking soda. There are also commercial environmentally-friendly cleaning products available at many local stores.

 

4. Spring Vaccinations and Medications

 

A flea infestation can happen very quickly once the weather warms up. Instead of waiting for an infestation to happen, get your flea medications early. Most flea medications should be applied to your pets monthly to keep health hazards to your pet low. The beginning of spring is also a great time to visit the vet to get your pets’ heartworm preventatives and any other medications taken care of for the year.

The flea medication should also protect your pet against ticks. However, there are occasions where ticks can still bite. If your pet is exhibiting unusual behavior, you may want to groom him or her to look for ticks. If you find and remove a tick, keep the tick in a screw-top jar so you can show your vet if you need to.

 

Natural flea prevention is also available, there are many online sources to help you prevent fleas.

 

A Healthy Pet is a Happy Pet

 

The beginning of spring is always welcome, especially if you and your pets have been holed up all winter long. However, this is the time when your pets are most at risk. By paying special attention to your pets’ health this spring, you’ll have happy family members who are ready to spend the new spring with you.

 

Protecting Your Basement from Spring Flooding

Friday, February 19th, 2016

SnowdriftAlthough a heavy snow fall can look quite beautiful, your home or basement may be at risk for flooding when all of that snow starts to melt. The drainage system built into your home is supposed to deal with this runoff by directing water away from the foundation. However, if the drainage system is inadequate or your sump pump is not working properly, you could find inches of water covering your basement floor. However, there are ways you can prevent water from coming in.

Check Your Gutters

 

No matter how well your drainage system works, you could potentially come home to a flooded basement if your gutters are blocked or are in poor condition. If you find that your basement becomes damp when the snow melts, take a look at your gutters. If you see space between the gutters and the fascia, water is most likely falling from your roof and dripping down into your walls instead of into your gutters. If you notice that your gutters have pulled away from the walls, call a local roofing contractor as soon as possible for a quick fix.

You may also have flooding problems if your gutters are clogged. In general, it is recommended that homeowners clean out their gutters once a season at the very minimum, even if you have gutter guards. Leaf litter can block the flow of water from being able to enter the downspouts, causing the water to overflow. Your roofer can also assist with basic gutter cleanings if you are not comfortable working on ladders.

 

Repair or Install a New Sump Pump

 

Sump pumps pump out any water that does infiltrate your basement. Like your HVAC equipment, however, the sump pump will eventually need repairs or fail. If this happens, you’ll find that your basement may be turning into an unwanted indoor pool. If your sump pump is working but you don’t want to have to worry about it suddenly failing without your knowledge, a sump pump alarm will let you know that your basement is no longer protected. This will allow you to get the repairs you need before any flooding actually happens.

If you don’t have a sump pump installed but often find your basement damp in the spring, consider installing one. Not only will the pump protect your basement against water damage and mold, but you’ll also add value to your home and keep your home structurally sound.

 

Waterproof Your Basement

 

If you find that your basement is always damp even though you have a working sump pump and a properly maintained gutter system, it might be time to hire a waterproofer. Most waterproofing companies provide a free estimate for their work. The contractor should be able to find a solution that works for you.

Before you hire a contractor, always look at online reviews for established contractors. Feel free to ask for references so you can ensure that you’re getting quality workmanship. The great thing about waterproofing work is that you will know immediately if the contractor fixed the problems as the water will disappear.

 

Don’t Wait Until You have a Water Problem

 

When your yard is covered in snow and that snow begins to melt, the resulting water will take the path of least resistance. If your foundation is not adequately protected, all of that snow melt may find its way into your basement. If that water sits for any length of time, a small water problem can turn into a major mold and mildew problem. By ensuring your gutters are maintained, your sump pump is in working order and your basement is waterproof, you’ll never have to worry.

Preparing Your Central AC for the Cooling Season Part 1

Friday, April 17th, 2015

After sitting unused through the winter months, your air conditioning unit will need a thorough cleaning to make it run efficiently. It is highly recommended that your unit receive an annual checkup from your local HVAC professional, as only they can check the coolant levels and electrical components. For the most efficient service, call before the cooling season begins.

Otherwise, a thorough cleaning of your basic air conditioning components will guarantee that your unit will be running at full efficiency at the beginning of the cooling season. Continuing basic maintenance throughout the season will help to keep your unit working properly through the heat of the summer while keeping your energy bills low.

Before beginning any cleaning on your unit, make sure that the power to the air conditioner has been turned off.

Air Conditioner Basics: Components

Outdoor air conditioner units are comprised an evaporator and a condenser. The condenser is located outside the home while the evaporator sits above the furnace inside.

The condenser contains a fan, which pulls air into the unit. The air passes through cooling fins and reduces the temperature of a special coolant, which is then pushed by the compressor into the evaporator. Once inside the evaporator, the coolant chills the tubes. Warm air is pulled through the house and into the evaporator by the blower, where it is cooled by the chilled tubes. Condensation is drained out of the evaporator through a tube, which connects to a floor drain.

General Cleaning and Maintenance of the Condenser:

Trane AC Cutaway

As a quick reminder, the power to the air conditioning unit should always be turned off before you begin any routine maintenance or cleaning.

Since the condenser fan pulls outdoor air through the cooling fins, the unit often becomes clogged with dust, dirt and other organic debris. This causes your unit to work less efficiently by blocking the air flow. Thus, the grille and cooling fins are the main focus when servicing your condenser.

  • Clear the area of any leaf litter and debris surrounding the condenser. Make sure to pull any twigs, leaves and grass clippings from the grille. Using a soft brush attachment, vacuum up any dust, seeds and pollen from the exterior cooling fins. In some newer models, the cooling fins are housed behind a metal box, which will need to be unscrewed and removed to reach the fins.
  • The cooling fins are fragile and bend easily. If you notice any bent fins, a fin comb can be used to straighten them. Fin combs can be found at any store that sells appliance parts.
  •  Unscrew the fan in order to vacuum any debris that may have found its way into the interior of the condenser. The fan will still be attached to the condenser by a number of wires, so you may need to recruit an extra set of hands to hold the fan while you clean the interior.
  •  Hose down the cooling fins. Always make sure to direct the spray from the inside out so that none of the electrical components get wet.
  •  If you have an older model, check for lubrication ports on the fan motor. Add a few drops of electric motor oil to the ports. If the bearings are sealed, no lubrication is required. Replace the fan.

Next post: General Cleaning and Maintenance of the Evaporator Coil and Cleaning or Replacing the Filter

Preventing Water Problems Caused by Snow Melt

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Living in an area that sees a lot of snow every year can be difficult. You may begin to rejoice when the temperatures begin to rise, heralding the arrival of spring. However, what you may not know is that you may be at risk for flooding, especially if the temperature rises too quickly.

What is Snow Melt?Snow melt

Snow melt, also known as spring thaw, occurs when warm temperatures return and causes the snow to melt. Because the remaining snow covers frozen land, the melting snow has nowhere to go. The melted snow may then run through any cracks in a home’s foundation or flow into nearby waterways, causing flooding.

Reducing the Risk of Flooding from Snow Melt

There are several things that homeowners can do to reduce the risk of flooding caused by snow melt. It is estimated that each cubic foot of snow can contain up to 3 gallons of water. Approximately 1,000 cubic square feet of snow surrounding a home could quickly turn into 2,500 gallons of water that may seep into the home’s lower level or basement. During the winter, moving snow away from the home before it piles up can help keep water away from the foundation of your home once the snow begins to melt.

You can also test your home’s sump pump prior to the temperature rising by pouring some water into the pit. If the sump pump isn’t working, it may be worth calling your contractor so that it can be fixed before the snow begins to melt.

What to do if a Flood Occurs

There is always the chance that your home could be damaged when a flood occurs. If the floor of the lower level or basement is completely covered with water, an electrocution hazard is present and the proper authorities should be notified prior to re-entering the home.

If the water has receded, the drying process must begin immediately. All wet items should be removed and either cleaned or discarded within 24 to 48 hours, including:

  • Carpeting
  • Bedding
  • Furniture
  • Drywall

Once it is known what damage has been done to the home, you should contact your insurance provider and a local contractor. The contractor can inspect your home and give estimates for the damage while your insurance provider can start working getting the repairs taken care of.

 

Advantages of Using Natural Ingredients for Spring Cleaning

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Cleaning the EarthAfter months of dreary winter weather, the temperatures are rising and the sun is shining. It’s time to open the windows, break out trusty cleaning supplies, and rid the home of winter dust and grime. Before you make your run to the store to stock up on your favorite cleaning chemicals, there are a few things that you should know to start off summer feeling healthy.
When used correctly, the cleaners release indoor air pollutants in the form of odors and vapors into the home. If used incorrectly, these cleaners can result in very real dangers to the health of all residents. For example, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, over 192,771 reported poisonings in 2011 are attributed to accidental consumption of commercial household cleaning products. To bypass these dangers but still get the home sparkling clean for summer, there are a number of alternative green cleaners available.

Traditional commercial cleaners are anything but clean:

  • Many chemicals in commercial cleaners are broken down at municipal treatment plants. However, many toxins will not, and enter the waterways, threatening marine ecosystems and wildlife. In 2002, a U.S. Geological Survey discovered that 69 percent of tested streams contained detergent metabolites, and 66 percent contained disinfectants.
  • Many cleaning products include chemicals that are petroleum based, which further depletes the planet’s natural resources.
  • While many cleaning product packages are becoming more widely accepted for recycling, packages made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is not, and less than one percent is recycled each year. The production and incineration of PVC creates dioxin, a known carcinogen.
  • Traditional cleaning products contain contaminants that pollute indoor air. High concentrations of these contaminants can cause flu-like symptoms, headaches, respiratory illnesses and allergic reactions.

 

Using Natural Ingredients:

 

  • Creating cleaners from natural ingredients at home reduces the amount of plastic packaging being left in the landfills and the amount of harmful chemicals that end up in the water supply.
  • Natural ingredients do not contain toxic chemicals that cause illness, headaches, respiratory infections or dermatological problems.
  • With the exception of vinegar, which cannot be detected once dried, natural ingredients do not contain strong smells or odors. Thus, these ingredients are less likely to cause allergic reactions and make cleaning more pleasant in general.
  • Using natural ingredients cut down on the number of different cleaners that are needed for each part of the house. Solutions made from white vinegar, baking soda, borax, lemon juice and other natural ingredients can be used to clean a majority of home, and make effective general all-purpose cleaners, furniture polishes, deodorizers, laundry and dish washing detergent.

By using natural ingredients for Spring cleaning, not only are harmful chemicals removed from the household, you know the exact ingredients that are being used to clean your home. Homemade cleaners can be made quickly and easily, and you may already have the ingredients you need right in your home. Many homeowners who have already made the switch have even found that their homemade cleaners work just as well as the commercial cleaners.