Archive |

Flu Season Soldiers On, Learn How to Fight Back!

2 minute read

It’s been a rough flu season this year and the CDC recently announced that we still haven’t seen the peak despite 85,000 confirmed cases. The actual numbers are probably much higher since most people don’t seek treatment.

While the flu simply runs its course for most people, this year’s strain has caused some pretty severe symptoms. Some people have even died.  So what’s the secret to staying healthy when influenza seems to be everywhere?

An ounce of prevention is worth….

A pound of cure, and probably some unused sick time. Despite the fact that we have drones delivering televisions, we still haven’t cured the flu. Your best weapon is the same as your great-grandparents: avoidance.

Protecting yourself during the flu season

  • Wash hands – Touching your eyes, nose or mouth is the most common way the flu spreads. The flu can live on non-porous surfaces for up to two days. Washing your hands or using an effective hand sanitizer throughout the day is the best way to stay healthy.
  • Get a flu shot The flu shot is safe and usually effective, but it still doesn’t totally prevent you from getting sick. It’s available at most drug stores.
  • Stay home when you’re sick – Hey, it’s all about the herd. If you do get the flu, forget what your kindergarten teacher told you and DON’T share. Stay away from work or school or until you’re feeling better. If you need to travel, consider wearing a surgical mask to protect others.
  • Humidify your space – Dry air increases your chances of getting sick, so using a whole-home humidifier can help protect you and your family.

Each flu season is a new battle, so understanding how to stay protected is a skill that will serve you. Since the flu virus mutates often, chances are the above list could be your great-grandkids best bet too!

Family |

DIY Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids

2 minute read

Every year, your little one comes home from school on Valentine’s Day with tons of adorable cards from classmates. They likely feature their classmates’ favorite television characters in silly situations or cartoon animals with cute, punny sayings like “Bee Mine!” or “You’re Un-BEAR-ably Cute!” Perhaps your little one even prepared a specific Valentine for that special someone in class. This year, show off of your child’s adorable Valentine’s cards in this DIY Valentine display made from a recycled Aprilaire water panel.

Materials Needed for DIY Valentine Display

Aprilaire Water Panel

Red Spray Paint

Craft Knife

Ribbon

Steps for DIY Valentine Display

Step One: Rinse off and dry your recycled Aprilaire water panel. Then, using a red marker, sketch out the shape of a heart on the water panel. Leave the heart flat at the bottom so that your DIY Valentine display will stand on its own. Don’t worry about the red lines as you’ll eventually paint your display red.

DIY-Valentine-Display-Step-One

Step Two: Use a craft knife to cut your Aprilaire water panel into the shape of a heart along the guides from your red marker.

DIY-Valentine-Display-Step-TwoStep Three: In a well-ventilated area, spray paint your DIY Valentine display red.

DIY-Valentine-Display-Step-Three

Step Four: Once the paint is dry, string ribbon around your newly painted Valentine display.

DIY-Valentine-Display-Step-Four

Step Five: Fasten binder clips to the front of your DIY Valentine display. These will securely hold your Valentine cards.

DIY-Valentine-Display-Step-5

Step Six: Add your child’s Valentine cards to the display and enjoy!

DIY-Valentine-Display-Step-6

 

Archive |

Does Air Quality Affect Heart Health?

2 minute read

Indoor Air Quality and its impact on your heart

February is all about heart. There’s Valentine’s Day, with all the love, heart-shaped chocolates, and last-minute dinner reservations that go along with it. But it’s also American Heart Month. And It turns out unrequited love is not the biggest threat to your heart this time of year. It may be air pollution.

As we discussed in a previous post, cold winter air can increase pollution and worsens the quality of air you’re breathing in. This makes February the perfect time to take a closer look at the link between air quality and heart health.

The Full Impact of Air Pollution on Heart Health

According to the EPA, there is a direct link between air pollution and atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the coronary artery. This can lead to heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, and even kidney problems.

The effects of pollution on your heart health can be short or long-term. For the elderly or those already dealing with heart disease, being exposed to polluted air can quickly make their conditions worse. And for those who spend years in polluted environments can lead to problems down the road.

Simply put, the connection between long-term exposure to air pollution and heart disease should be taken seriously. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your exposure to air pollution, and find ways to minimize your risk.

American Heart Month Heart Health tips

Of course, there are many more factors to heart health than just air pollution. Here are a few general tips for improving heart health, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

  • Encourage family members to make small changes like using spices to season their foods instead of salt.
  • Motivate kids to get active every day, and start good habits early in their lives.
  • Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to ensure a lifetime of good heart health.

Sources

https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/FebruaryToolkit.aspx

https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/linking-air-pollution-and-heart-disease

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Air-Pollution-and-Heart-Disease-Stroke_UCM_442923_Article.jsp#.WmjIN5M-eRs

 

healthy home

Archive |

Fight the Flu by Keeping a Healthy Home

2 minute read

In January, the CDC reported that every state in the continental U.S. showed widespread activity of the flu virus.

While this flu season’s rates of illness and death are not unusual on a national scale, the high levels of illness concentrated in particular areas show just how bad it can get when the flu virus strain takes hold.

And until we get that universal flu vaccine, the best defense is to protect yourself from the flu virus when in public and to try to maintain a healthy home environment.

Protecting yourself against the flu virus

Healthy Home

The viruses that cause the flu virus are microscopic and easily transferred through direct contact or through the air. That’s why being in close quarters with other people increases your likelihood of becoming sick. Those public environments are hard to predict and impossible to control.

But you can control the air in your home to make it uninhabitable for some of those viruses. It comes down to three factors: Humidity, Air Purity, and Ventilation

Humidity

Dry indoor air is common during the winter season, and you and your family more susceptible to getting sick. In fact, low relative humidity has been linked to speedier progression and transmission of viruses in the air. The ideal humidity level for health and comfort is between 40-50%. Whole-home humidifiers are the most efficient and effective way to accomplish that number, but single-room units can be useful in bedrooms or wherever your family spends most of its time.

Air Purity

When viruses and germs go airborne, they can spread rapidly from person to person. You can help offset this with high-efficiency air purifiers that can consistently remove particles of the smallest size (0.3 – 1.0 microns). The purifier removes those viruses from the air so you’re not at risk of breathing them in and becoming sick.

Ventilation

The third tip: fresh air. While today’s tightly sealed homes are great for conserving energy, they can also trap air that contains flu viruses. Whole-home ventilation systems pull fresh air into your home from the outside, while pushing stale, contaminated air out. And if you don’t have a ventilation system, it never hurts to crack a window to get some fresh air.

Healthy Clean Air | Family |

Non-Toxic DIY Fabric Softener

2 minute read

It might surprise you, but fabric softener is the number one cause of indoor air pollution. Never fear though, this DIY fabric softener is easy to make and VOC-free. But first, what’s a VOC? A VOC is a Volatile Organic Compound. They’re typically airborne, taking the form of various chemicals used in a variety of products. These VOCs can impact the air quality of your home, which can impact your family’s respiratory wellness.

It’s true, whenever you smell that “laundry smell,” you’re inhaling VOCs including, but not limited to, Ethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Linalool, Phthalates, and more. Through the simple two-ingredient DIY fabric softener below, you’ll still be able to soften your clothes while saving a few bucks in the process. Just mix them together and voila! you’ve got super soft clothes without sacrificing your health.

DIY Fabric Softener Materials Needed

  • White Vinegar
  • 100% Pure Essential Oils
  • Spray Bottle
  • Measuring Cups

DIY-Fabric-Softener-Materials

DIY Fabric Softener Instructions

Step One: To start, pour out one cup of white vinegar into your measuring cup.

DIY-Fabric-Softener-Step-One

Step Two: Carefully, gently squeeze 30 drops of your 100% pure essential oil into your cup of vinegar. Stir the mixture together.

DIY-Fabric-Softener-Step-Two

Step Three: Pour your DIY fabric softener mixture into your spray bottle and simply screw the spray nozzle on.

DIY-Fabric-Softener-Step-ThreeAnd there you have it! Easy, right? To stay organized, label your new, VOC-free DIY fabric softener and place it with your laundry essentials. When you go to use it, be sure to shake well and spray the solution over wet clothes in the dryer 10-15 times before drying. One thing to note, there’s no need to go overboard with your fabric softener. Any more than 15 sprays and you risk your clothes smelling more like vinegar than essential oils. Now if that’s the odor you’re looking for then spray away!

Healthy airline travel

Healthy Air | Wellness |

Stay Healthy and Hydrated During Airplane Travel

2 minute read

Dry winter air is a problem. It leads to dry skin, irritated sinuses, and can increase your susceptibility to illness. It’s somewhat simple to combat dry air in your home or office using a humidifier. But it’s not so easy during airplane travel, where humidity levels can drop as low as 10-20%. Those are not good numbers when for healthy airplane travel. (For comparison, the Sahara has an average humidity level of 25%.)

This is true for airplanes any time of year, not just the winter. And the unpleasant environment is caused, in part, by the airplane’s air filtration system. To replace the carbon dioxide created by the passengers, crew, and machinery, the plane cycles in air from outside the plane.

At high altitudes, the air is very thin and very dry. So that means the oxygen coming into the plane to keep the air breathable is also causing your sinuses and skin to dry up. (It’s a fair trade-off, true, but that doesn’t mean the dry skin isn’t annoying.)

To compound the issue of healthy airplane travel, airplanes are an easy place to get sick, especially during the winter. Hundreds of people sitting elbow-to-elbow, fresh off of trips to the mall and time spent with sniffling family members.

Getting sick on the plane is the last thing you want. So let’s talk solutions. Try some of these simple tips for healthy airline travel and avoid the pain of dry air inside the cabin and give yourself a fighting chance against the illness-spreading plane environment.

Drink Water

Here’s one you know: drink water to stay hydrated. If you didn’t bring your own bottle, make sure to order a water when the beverage cart comes by. Often times, the flight crew will make a trip through the cabin with glasses of water about halfway through the flight, so don’t pass up that chance for hydration.

Worried about going to the bathroom too often? Don’t be. A trip to the bathroom is a good sign of hydration, and it gives you a chance to stretch out and get your blood flowing on long flights.

Avoid Salty Snacks and Alcohol

On the same carts where you’ll find the good stuff (water), you’ll also have the temptations of salt and booze. The free pretzels and peanuts are loaded with salt that can further dehydrate you. And even if the beer or mixer makes the cramped flight a little easier to manage, it also sets you up for a dry nose and throat. If you can, avoid these. (And skip the sugary soda, too.)

Carry On Lotion

After hydrating your insides with water, you can also add some moisture to the outside with lotions and lip balms. Just make sure the bottles are under 3.4 ounces. Anything larger will be taken by airport security.

Nasal Spray

A dry nose is irritating wherever you are, and a bloody nose is definitely not ideal on an airplane. If this is a concern for you, consider a saline nasal spray. They’re available over-the-counter and are formulated to mimic the natural moisture that’s created by your body. As a courtesy to your fellow passengers, it’s a smart idea to do this in the bathroom after the captain turns off the fasten seat belt sign.

Healthy Air | Wellness |

Is Air Quality Worse in the Winter?

2 minute read

Ever notice how car exhaust is much more visible in the cold winter months? The level of pollution emitted from things like cars and factories remains somewhat constant throughout the year. But it’s no coincidence that it’s easier to see that pollution in the winter. Cold temperatures in the winter can lead to worsened air quality. That means you should be vigilant about creating a Healthy Home environment during the winter months.

The EPA has some useful tips for improving the quality of air in your home. These are good practice any time of year, but especially when the temperatures drop.

So, why exactly is air quality worse in the winter? Let’s take a look at some of the factors involved.

Increased Pollution

No one likes a cold car, and it’s common to see lots of idling cars in the winter as people wait for them to warm up before driving off. That leads to a slight uptick in vehicle emissions.

Staying warm is true for indoor environments as well, so fireplaces, furnaces, and wood-burning stoves are hard at work all winter long. Beyond individual home usage, energy production (often in the form of coal-burning) and consumption skyrocket during the winter in large factories and businesses.

More Time Indoors

It can be hard to leave your warm bed on a cold morning, and just as difficult to walk outside into frigid temperatures. It’s no secret that we all spend more time indoors during the winter, and that can make us more susceptible to the effects of poor ventilation and increased carbon dioxide levels.

Even things that are positive for efficiently heating homes can lead to air quality concerns for the people inside. Layers of insulation and tight seals on doors and windows can prevent fresh outdoor air from circulating indoors. For that reason, consider ways to increase the distribution of fresh air in your home using things like whole-home ventilation systems and air purifiers.

Temperature Inversion

Cold temperatures can trap pollutants near the ground through a process called “temperature inversion.”

This happens when a layer of warmer air sits above the colder air at the surface, acting like a cap that traps in pollution and allergens. This is especially common in areas where wood-burning is common practice during the winter.

This is how things like smog, smoke, and carbon dioxide can stay around for long periods of time, and they usually don’t get broken up until a weather event (wind, rain, snow) comes through the area.

Diagram courtesy of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association website.