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Friday, March 29, 2013

As Good As It Gets With Allergies

The 1997 film As Good As It Gets starring Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear addressed some very real health issues. These included the character known as Melvin Udall—Nicholson--dealing with an obsessive compulsive disorder while the single mother--played by Helen Hunt--likewise struggled to manage her son’s asthma, which may have been triggered by allergies.

The compelling comedy drama sees the Nicholson character (both a literal and figurative term) actually stepping up to pay for a doctor that can deal with the boy’s asthma and allergies.

The result is dramatic. When the boy finally gets tested for allergies he is able to function more normally, even playing soccer and running around like young kids should.

Rare glimpse at a common world

The scenario of dealing with allergies and asthma, and especially the relationship between the two vexing conditions, is rare in film and in society in general. Yet millions of children do experience illness and even life-threatening conditions every day. The reality of allergy and asthma is that it costs children previous time away from school as well as keeping parents away from work to care for their children.

This reality is compounded in some ways by the environment in which many children live. A recent study reported on NPR Health documents a program at Children’s Hospital in Boston that has been tracking down the source of allergies and asthma in children. It turns out the condition of a child’s home can be a major factor in how often allergies and asthma occur, as well as the severity.

Where threats are greatest

It makes sense that allergies occur most where allergy threats are greatest. Taking simple, direct steps to allergy-proof the home is, therefore, vital to helping families combat threats from allergens in the home. Allergy attacks can be triggered by dust mites, mold, and pests, like bed bugs, as well as family pets. The list is never-ending when it comes to the source of allergens, but taking steps to control dust and airborne threats can have encouraging results in preventing frequent or severe allergy attacks.

Easy cures

Allergy-free bedding is an important place to start. Allergy-free comforters, pillows, duvets and mattress pads all seal off dust mites and bed bugs. Allergy-free blankets and sheets both avoid materials that allow dust mites to penetrate the fabric, and seal in down so that you can enjoy the feel of a down comforter without risk of allergens seeping through the fabric to get in your nose and cause allergic reactions.

The Boston study at Children’s Hospital went directly to the community to examine how many factors were affecting the allergies of children involved in the study. Workers from Children’s Hospital visited homes to consult with families, provide advice on cutting down allergy risks, and providing an “allergy score” to help families rate their efforts in cleaning up their homes from allergy threats.

Economic factors

Part of the trigger for the study was to ascertain whether children living in lower income homes were at greater risk for allergies. It turns out they were. But even children in high income homes can be at risk for the same problems as low-income children. The same can be true for chemical sensitivities. Americans are hyper-diligent about cleaning with products containing bleach and other chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions and chemical sensitivities. Eliminating those products and replacing them with allergy-free products with equal and sometimes superior cleaning power is vital for families with people who have allergies, asthma or chemical sensitivities.

Sometimes the simplest change can produce beneficial results. Using a HEPA filtered vacuum, or one that comes equipped with a UV-C light--like the CleanWave UV-C--to kill germs, viruses, dust mites and bed bugs can eliminate significant risks in the home.

It is up to each person to ask themselves if their allergy strategy in the home is “as good as it gets.” Learning a little about how you can eliminate or prevent allergens from affecting your family members or yourself can be just as effective, if not more effective, than going to the doctor or showing up at the emergency room when things get out of hand. Dealing with allergies is best done in a proactive, rather than reactive, fashion.

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