|Miele : "Red Star - with Hepa" Vacuum Cleaner|
|This vacuum is for all us cat fans who keep allergists in business and insist on keeping their cats. So , while it isn't the cat hair to which we are allergic [it's the dander]but vacuuming up all that hair,[spoken as a cat owner] which seems to get everywhere, is a major priority. So when Miele announced the "Red Star - with Hepa", it had our name written all over it.
We liked the neat but effective power-head. There was no task that it did not tackle with superlative efficiency. There were no visible lint particulates left on dark colored carpets and we could literally hear the light weight power head suck up the dirt from our carpets. The onboard tools are top class. We found we could change the tools on the fly and vacuum all those hard to reach places-picture rails, baseboards, pleated lampshades, upholstery and all sorts of nooks and crannies. We did find we needed to use the optional mini powerhead for removing layers of cat hair from dark velvet cushions since the regular upholstery attachment was not up to the task. The dusting brush is soft enough even for your most delicate antique furniture. The tools are perfect for serious dirt removal in your car after along hard winter. Other neat features include parking when not in use, and a bag which automatically seals itself when you change it[no dust blowing back in your face]and a post hepa sealed motor which has consistently been rated as one of the most effective in the industry.
Now, compared to the White Star, our other favorite Miele allergy machine, this model is a little more complex to use as you have to disassemble the power head in order to attach the hand tools. The process is not complex or time consuming but it is just not so simple as the Medivac .We had to peer under a bright light to reassemble the power head after using the tools, since the socket is placed on a slant. Our other gripes were that Miele does not have one of those handy dirt alert lights such a used in the Eureka or Panasonic uprights. In our house, the vacuum bags seem to need to be changed every two weeks[read buy lots of spare bags]and two of our testers needed to consult the manual in order to change the bag the first time. The bags are not very big in order to accommodate the on board tools. Once you read the instructions in the manual ,changing bags was very simple-but to two dumb new users it was not intuitive. Moreover, depending on how you look at it, the Miele seemed to stop working when the bag was full-a good safety feature but when it first happened we almost panicked!
Our overall summary
Another winner from Miele. Light, easy to use and effective.
If you prefer to order online - the internet equivalent is the "Red Star - with Hepa" with the HEPA filter sold in our store. There is an optional mini power-head for upholstery [great for cat hair] but unnecessary for most people.
Be warned you need a ton of the replacement bags, they fill up fast.
Allergy buyers club members get a specially packaged machine with a hepa filter which does not come standard with this machine from other vendors.
Survival Guide to Remodeling
by Mercia Tapping
Just in case you are in any doubt, remodeling is extra stressful for allergy, asthma, and sinusitis and MCS sufferers. Not only do we have to deal with the inconvenience of rooms of furniture under dustsheets, contractors who are running over time and budget, contractors ignoring our instructions or the specifications BUT the process is designed for most of us to make us PHYSICALLY SICK. Children, the elderly and the rest of us with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable. Three years ago, this author, a remodeling veteran decided it was easier on her health to move house.
Together with great deal of patience, fortitude and a number of products to be found in our online shopping you can preserve your health. Here are some survival tips to reduce the stress and preserve your health.
1. Spend as much time out of the house as possible. This means schedule your remodeling for the summer months.
2. If you are a "stay at home Mom" - find activities out of the house. Breathing in that dust and toxic makes you sick.
3. If you have an orallergic child, schedule them with lots of after school activities.
4. The are the most important rooms in the house. We spend 8 hours a day in there. If they are not being remodeled-have your contractors tape up the doors each day to prevent dust from entering.
5. If you have forced hot air heating close down the vents in your bedrooms during the day time.
6. out the entry to the forced air heating system in your bedrooms on a daily basis.
7. Use very fine filter material on the entry to your forced air heating system. This prevents a good deal of the dust from entering the bedrooms.
8. Use a high quality , completely sealed hepa vacuum on a daily basis to vacuum every inch of all bedrooms. Use a vacuum with on board tools to vacuum walls, crevices ,furniture, floors. We recommend in particular the canister models from and or the Eureka Sanitaire. Wear an allergy face mask as an extra precaution while you do the job.
9. Use a really good hepa filter in the bedroom and choose one which not only deals with particulates [the dust] but one which deals with toxic fumes. Top of the line models by Austin Air, Allertech and IQAir are offered on the Allergy Buyers Club site. Have those filters going on high all day long. Turn them down to low at night so as not to be disturbed by the fan noise.
10. Try to remember to seal off your closets daily so your clothes remain dust free.
11. Open your windows for several hours a day but not during 5 to 10am in Pollen season. Get in that fresh air. Fresh air is much better than the toxic fumes of renovating materials! This is not the time to worry about heating bills.
12. Use a high quality electrostatic filter on your furnace, or a pleated disposable filter and change weekly if needed during the remodeling process.
13. Wear an allergy face mask walking around your house in the day time to avoid the dust [forget feeling like a hypochondriac].
14. If your kitchen was remodeled, wash all your dishes afterwards and throw out any "open boxed" foods.
15. Talk to your contractor about using toxic free paints and varnishes. There are plenty on the market such as by Glidden, even available in places like Home Depot. MCS sufferers already know you may have to go to extra steps to find materials to which you do not react.
16. Doing the remodeling yourself? You are crazy, but wear a mask at all times and make sure your materials are toxic free. The mask is to help you not breathe in dust.
17. Make sure your contractors use your natural cleaning materials. Don't even think of using the regular supermarket products. Plenty of good brands are available in your local health food store .Our favorite mail order natural cleaner product is "Lifetime"-a review is the August 1999 issue of Allergy Consumer Review.
18. Step up your vitamin and exercise program. Anything you can do to boost your immune system can only help.
19. Have your ducts cleaned after all the remodeling has finished and get a professional cleaning company to rid your house of every inch of dust - it is worth the expense after all the stress you have been through.
20. Read some of the articles in our Library, is a useful one.
And finally spoken as someone who has been there - good luck!
Q. Dumb question I know, but what is the difference between dust and dust mites?
A. Dust is the accumulation of very fine particulates, the kind that you can sometimes see floating around the air when the light streams through the windows late afternoon. It is not healthy to breathe in dirt. Dust mites are live creatures, millions of them that inhabit our bedding, carpets and upholstery. They feed off our dead skin shedding , mostly happening at night. Many of us are allergic to their feces[this is the most common allergy of all].To keep it simple, cut off their food source and so they die. Also they tend to thrive in moist environments [over 50% humidity], so even if you have sinus problems do not over humidify your bedroom. The cheapest way to keep dust mites at bay? , a 20 or 30 percent level of humidity will do the trick.
Interview with Dr Sheldon Spector
Ever wondered whether Immunotherapy is worthwhile or just a lot of trouble for questionable results?
Dr Sheldon Spector is one of the most preeminent and respected internationally known allergists in the field. In an interview with our staff he answers your questions on Immunotherapy.
Q. What exactly is Immunotherapy?
A. Immunotherapy is commonly known as " getting allergy shots". It is the process of administering by injection increasing amounts of substances a patient is allergic to , such as pollen and dust mite, with the aim to eventually build tolerance to these substances and prevent them from causing symptoms. Immunotherapy is especially useful against substances that are difficult to avoid such as pollen or dust mites.
Q. Is Immunotherapy a "cure"?
A. Immunotherapy is not a cure but can significantly lessen symptoms caused by specific substances. For example, a person with allergic rhinitis may no longer react to Bermuda grass or Olive trees but will always have a higher tendency than the general population of manifesting allergic symptoms to other substances.
Q. Does Immunotherapy mean I would no longer suffer from allergies?
A. Immunotherapy improves symptoms to substances contained in the immunotherapy injections to different degrees. For example, some patients with cat allergy may no longer have symptoms around cats while others will need much less medication to prevent symptoms. Q. Are there different types of Immunotherapy?
A. Yes. Immunotherapy is given most commonly to improve symptoms from aeroallergens ( inhaled allergens ). Venom immunotherapy is given to patients who have experienced systemic or life-threatening reactions to stinging or biting insects.
Q. What is the success rate of Immunotherapy?
A. Studies showing the effectiveness of immunotherapy ,show that roughly 8 out of 10 patients benefit from immunotherapy.
Q. Does Immunotherapy work better for one kind of allergy more than another?
A. Immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in allergies to pollen, cats, dogs, molds, dust mites as well as stinging insects. Immunotherapy is not effective for food allergies.
Q. Are there different types of Immunotherapy? When I go to a doctor are they all going to use the same formulas?
A. Although there are community mixes that include common substances from a specific region, the most effective formulas or mixtures are made especially for the patient to include all specific substances or allergens he or she is allergic to. Q. How long does Immunotherapy take?
A. Immunotherapy is usually given for three to five years for long-term benefit.
Q. Is there a chance that I could go through all this trouble and it make no difference?
A. Improvement in symptoms is usually observed in most patients after 6 months to 1 year of immunotherapy. It is not effective in all patients and if no improvement is seen within the first year, the allergist may decide to stop or change the therapy.
Q. If I went through Immunotherapy would I still need to use HEPA filters and the like and take special environmental precautions in my house?
A. Yes. While the body is developing tolerance to allergens by increasing doses of immunotherapy, it is advisable to continue avoidance measures such as HEPA filters or dust mite covers to increase the chances of successful immunotherapy.
Q. I have an HMO as medical insurance. Do HMOs pay for this kind of treatment?
A. Most HMOs today consider immunotherapy effective and pay for at least part of the treatment. Please check with your HMO to find out specific policies.
Q. How bad do your allergies need to be before your insurance will pay for it?
A. Most insurance companies will pay for immunotherapy if your primary care doctor refers you to an allergist and the allergist recommends immunotherapy as part of your treatment. Even patients with mild symptoms may be recommended immunotherapy to avoid worsening of symptoms, if they cannot avoid the things they are allergic to, such as pets or specific native trees.
Q. If Immunotherapy has such a good success rate why doesn't everyone do it instead of taking medication and spending a ton of money on allergy control products?
A. The time and commitment involved in starting and undergoing immunotherapy is still seen as an obstacle by many patients looking for a "quick fix". In time , more and more patients realize that the long term benefits of immunotherapy are much better than being on medications for the rest of their life.
Q. Any future new developments in Immunotherapy that I should be aware of? I heard of a cat vaccine that was due to be released and then it seems to have disappeared-any update on that?
A. The promising "catvax" vaccine is still being studied. It is being touted as a fast-acting vaccine that would induce tolerance in allergic patients after only about 6 injections as opposed to the two to three year conventional cat immunotherapy.
With grateful acknowledgement to Drs Spector and Tan in this interview.
Dr Spector's web site together with his partner Dr Tan and bibliographies are at
Recall of Allercare
If you have not heard already, Johnson and Johnson have voluntarily recalled Allercare, their new anti dust mite spray and powder that recently debuted on your supermarket shelves. They recalled it after reports of adverse reactions to the perfume by asthmatics and chemically sensitive people. Well, all we can say is duh..how dumb can you get?
Want a dust free bedroom? Want to get rid of dust mites?
Here are our tips for attaining a dust-less and dust-mite free bedroom.
Clear out your bedroom of all surplus objects. Aim for that "Spartan" bare look. Less objects less dust collects.
Keep your humidity level at less than 50%. A will do the trick in measuring this.
Eliminate all the dust with a good quality such as the or Red Star - with hepa featured in this newsletter. This means using the special onboard tools to get into those hard to reach places such as tops of pictures ,door headers, corners, blinds, lampshades, underneath the bed or furniture. Use the vacuum twice weekly. Do not use a cloth dusting rag it just redistributes the dust and aggravates your allergens.
Use a 'Swiffer' or 'Grab It' to keep down the dust bunnies on hardwood floors in between vacuuming. You will be surprised at how much dust it picks up even on a daily basis.
Take out as much carpets and draperies as you can possibly stand, they are a prime harbinger of dust mites. Just use a little washable cotton rug by your bedside to save your feet from freezing in winter.
Wash your bedclothes weekly in 140¡ã degree water [turn up your water heater setting] it kills dust mites. You can add tannic acid or use one of commercial cleaners containing tannic acid to eliminate the dust mites. Just look on the label for the ingredients.
Use very fine wafer thin filtration material at point of entry to your bedroom for force air heating systems. If you use fabric that is too thick the air will not be able to pass through effectively and your bedroom will be cold.
Have your duct work professionally cleaned every three years. Be careful and choose a certified duct cleaner. Read some of the articles by Bob Baker in our MemberLibrary on this topic. All duct cleaning services are not made equal.
Don't forget to change the filters for your Room Air-conditioner. Do you really want to breathe in mold and dust blown out by a dirty air conditioner?
Change the filters on your furnace once per month. Use the pleated disposable kind such as put out by 3M or better Electrostatic Filters.
Close your closet door. Clothes are collectors of dust and particulates.
Cover your bed with Dust Mite Covers, and vacuum the bedding on a weekly basis. We are in process of doing research on the relative effectiveness of different manufacturers dust mite proofing products. Much to our surprise there is quite a variation in effectiveness between them. You want bedding that is impervious to the mites and just does not allow the dust mites to breed-plain and simple.
Use a Vapor Steam Cleaner on your bedding to assist in killing dust mites between washes. One of the new vapor steam handheld devices like the Hot Shot by Eureka is ideal. It is hot enough to kill dust mites. See our review this month.
Take advantage of the freezing weather. Put pillows, stuffed toys, any thing that could host dust mites into plastic bags and put them out side in the deep freeze. Yes, the frost kills those little bugs.
Use a high quality Hepa Air Filter to filter out allergens. Find one that will do the job at low frequency so that you do not have to live with noise of a filter at high speed.
Several good air cleaners can be found at the Allergy Buyers Club Store.
Electrostatic Stick Cleaners: 'Swiffer' and 'Grab It'
In the last few months, two competing products have appeared, 'Grab It' by Johnson and Johnson and 'The Swiffer' by Proctor and Gamble. Both these products work on the same principal. They use a disposable electrostatically charged disposable cloth which is easily attached to the head of the handle. Then using the stick you move around the head to pick up dust bunnies, dirt and the like from your wood or tile floors. You can also use the cloths by themselves for dusting. We were rather skeptical when we began testing these products and became reluctant enthusiasts! We liked that they are unbelievably light-weight, compact and easy to assemble and use. Top marks for user friendliness. We were suitably chastened at the amount of dust and fine dirt particles they both pick up. In fact one of our testers, a "vacuum cleaner hater" found herself using the 'Grab It' every day. All our testers gave both these products rave reviews but could not discern any particular difference in effectiveness between them. Our panel of testers used these products for both "in between vacuuming cleanups" and in one case for a tester who did not have a really good bare floor attachment to his vacuum for a "post vacuum clean-up". All testers agreed that both the 'Swiffer' and 'Grab It' pick up an "unbelievable amount of stuff ". So the disadvantages? Remember, nether the 'Swiffer' or 'Grab It' are vacuum cleaners and large dirt granules simply get pushed around and not picked up. Also our testers found in a month of usage they tended to use quite a disposable few cloths and the extra cost of about $5 every two weeks or so is a small cost that adds up over time. We were less impressed with them for dusting purposes on furniture- we could see the film of dust left behind , started to sneeze, and all in all, prefer our damp cloth or vacuuming methods for a more complete job. This is not a substitute for vacuuming, but hey for $15, we all gave the 'Grab It' and 'Swiffer' a triple thumbs up.
Both these products are available in your local supermarket or hardware store for an initial cost of around $15 and less than $5 for refills.
Eureka Hot Shot
The Eureka Hot Shot is a handheld vapor steam gun and is a new entry into the market for Eureka.
This machine is light -weight and easy to use. We found it works best with splattered tiling, dirty windows, baked on crud in the microwave, and spills in the refrigerator interior, dirt marks on walls, food spills on countertops. It is also superb for taking wrinkles out of clothes. In all these circumstances, the Hot Shot does an excellent job and lifts off dirt with ultra hot steam and no extra cleaning fluids. We found it cooled down quickly when empty and was easily refilled.