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Humidity Control to Prevent Illness

     As winter weather lingers on, so does the problem of a lack of indoor humidity.  Some of the obvious things it can cause are dry skin, itchy skin, cracked skin, even bleeding and infections. Other things that we can't see are the same things happening to our delicate mucous membranes that filter the air that we breathe.  Dry, cracked mucous membranes allow the passage of bacteria and germs into our respiratory system that normally would be filtered out. Some bacteria thrive at low humidity levels. Without proper humidity, this can lead to a variety of illnesses, especially in the winter when we are most vulnerable. This can also be one of many causes of SBS or 'Sick Building Syndrome', where improper humidity levels cause outbreaks of illnesses in office buildings.   Turning on the furnace, turns down the humidity.  Likewise, turning on a whole house humidifier can be detrimental as well, if you are allergic to molds or dust mites as they thrive in high humidity. While you don't always have control of humidity levels at work, there are simple things you can do at home. 

     The exciting news is there's an easy way to humidify the air you breathe in a beneficial way that negates all the negatives and enhances all the positives.  The secret I am going to share with you lies in the power of essential oils.  Plants period.  The essence of life.  Without them we are nothing.  We don't exist.  And the most powerful of all, when it comes to breathing, is the eucalyptus tree.  Native to Australia, this tree is now found growing in many parts of the world and there are several hundred different varieties.  The precious oil is extracted from the leaves of this tree.

     Eucalyptus oil not only eliminates dust mites, it also create a healing environment for respiratory ailments such a colds, flu, bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, etc.  The particular oil used for this purpose is Eucalyptus Globulus also known as Blue Gum.  Minty oils such as peppermint and spearmint, also containing menthol, can be added to the eucalyptus oil to vary the scent.

     A great way to accomplish all three, eliminate dust mites and germs, increase humidity, and heal respiratory ailments all at once, is to diffuse the oils into the room through steam distillation.   You can do this with an inexpensive mister or diffuser designed for this purpose, or my favorite, a mist fountain. Both of these are available online. Some portable humidifiers have ports for adding essential oils, but be wary of any that heat the oils as this renders them useless.  Heat destroys the medicinal benefits of the oils similar to how cooking vegetables destroys many of the nutrients. Your room might smell good, but you won't gain the added benefits of purifying the air and restoring your health.  At work you might want to keep a spray bottle of the recipe below and just spray a light mist around your desk periodically throughout the day.  The mist fountain below is a great way to diffuse the oils in your home.


     If you diffuse the oils shortly before retiring, you might want to add a few drops of lavender oil, known for its calming effects and relieving tension, to the eucalyptus solution.  Stress symptoms will seem to just disappear.  You will drift off to sleep more easily and get a good nights rest.  For daytime diffusing, you can add a few drops of peppermint or spearmint oil, both containing menthol that acts as a decongestant as well.  Even orange oil goes well with eucalyptus to vary the scent, but these three oil are known to be stimulants and should be used during the day as a pick me up and not upon retiring as they may make it more difficult to fall asleep. It requires several more drops of the orange oil than the minty oils to notice the scent when mixed with the eucalyptus oil.

     Once you have decided on the oils you want to use just follow the manufacturer's instructions for the diffuser.  If you are using a mist fountain, I recommend diluting the oils in a jar filled with 1 cup tap water or distilled water if you have hard water.  Also, make sure to protect the surface around the fountain from overspray. Approximately 30 -35 drops of eucalyptus by itself mixed with 1/2 tsp. of witch hazel or vodka as an emulsifier.  As an option, you can add to this 5 drops or so of peppermint or spearmint, or 10-12 drops of lavender oil.  For the orange oil it may take up to equal proportions or perhaps 20-30 drops depending on your preference. Always make sure to use only pure essential oils, preferably even organic when available, to avoid breathing in toxic chemicals and additives detrimental to your health.  Then fill the bowl with water to the proper level and shake up the jar you mixed up.  Pour it in and turn it on.  In just a few minutes, your room will be filled with mist and smell antiseptic clean and fresh!  Be sure to check the Quick Reminder Chart at the top of the page for helpful hints. 



Cold or Allergy

     Is it a cold?  Is it an allergy?  Today I'll be discussing the symptoms of dust allergies in the hopes of narrowing down some of the possible causes of reactions many people might be having. The list of dust allergy symptoms is surprisingly long and growing. Many people are unaware of the many symptoms that can appear simply from dust irritants and blame their symptoms on a multitude of varying causes.  Perhaps if they were made aware of the many reactions spawned by dust, they could take action more quickly to alleviate their symptoms.                                                        


  • Watery eyes 
  • Itchy eyes
  • Swollen eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Post nasal drip
  • Itchy nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • Sinusitis
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry throat
  • Scratchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Itchy ears
  • Plugged ears
  • Ear infections
  • Headache
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin rash
  • Headache
  • Ear infections
  • Lung infections
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent awakening
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Asthma

     An allergic reaction to dust is caused by our body reacting to protect itself. When you are at rest in your home whether sitting or lying down, there is dust and its inhabitants all around you. When you are allergic and you breathe in these irritating substances, your body is attempting to protect itself from these intruders.  It produces excess mucus in an effort to block the passageway of these irritants. The longer you are in that environment, the more mucus produced and the more severe the allergy symptoms become.

     Many of the symptoms listed above are attributed to the common cold.  If symptoms go away in a week to ten days, it probably was just a cold.  If symptoms linger, or you have ongoing cold or cold symptoms throughout the year, it more than likely is due to allergies, asthma or SBS, 'Sick Building Syndrome'.  If the symptoms occur only during the night and upon awakening, it may be something in your home.  If symptoms occur more during the day or early evening, it could be caused by something in your workplace.  If your allergies are not yet severe you can try to narrow down the culprit yourself.  By taking steps to eliminate as many of the irritants discussed in your environment as possible, you may find that is all that is necessary.  You can accomplish this simply with more frequent cleanings in a specific area and applying some of the natural allergy relief treatment techniques given in previous articles such as Dust Mites and What You Need to Know.  In doing this, you not only eliminate many dust mites and their fecal matter, but also pollens and animal dander that may also have crept into your environment.  If after trying these various techniques, symptoms still remain intermittent, you may want to have an allergy skin test done by an allergist where they will test for a variety of possible allergens including dust mite, pollen, food etc.  They may even want to check for lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance.  If they find you have an allergy, they can then administer allergy shots to slowly desensitize you to the offending allergen or suggest changes in your diet.  Be sure to check the Quick Reminder Chart at the top of the page for helpful hints.

     Happy Breathing!!!


    Kill Dust Mites in Laundry with Eucalyptus Oil

         Today I'll be addressing how to treat your bed linens for the maximum amount of dust mite and pollen elimination with the minimum amount of labor.  The first and most logical step is, of course, to wash your bedding weekly.  Later in the article I'll discuss what to do for those weeks when that's just not possible.

         When laundering your bed sheets always use the hot water setting.  The temperature of the water should be at a minimum of 130 degrees to kill dust mites. You can easily test the temperature of your wash water with a thermometer.  If you don't have a thermometer you can check the temperature of your water with an inexpensive waterproof digital thermometer such as one of these:               

          Simply hold the metal probe under the running water as the washer is filling until the temperature readout remains steady.  If the water temperature is lower than 130 degrees you will need to adjust the setting just slightly on your hot water tank. Make sure you allow enough time for the water in the tank to reach the new temperature before testing your wash water again.  When you have reached the right temperature, you can be sure you are killing the dust mites while washing away any excrements and pollens that might be in the bedding and causing your allergic symptoms.

           Another method to kill dust mites utilizes essential oil. This is a great alternative for items that can't be washed in hot water. You'll not only kill the mites, but your bedding will smell clean and fresh as well.  Simply take a small glass jar and fill it with approximately one cup of tap water.  Add to this 32 drops of pure eucalyptus essential oil and a half a teaspoon of witch hazel or vodka.  This last ingredient is extremely important as it acts as an emulsifier helping the water to mix with the oil and prevent the pure essential oil from damaging the plastic lining of your washer. Essential oils and plastic don't mix.  Over time the oil will eat through plastic.  So just keep a small glass jar handy to mix the oil, water, and emulsifier in when you launder your bedding.  If you like, you can add a small amount of another pure essential oil, such as lavender or orange, to change up the scent.   Lavender oil has been found to have an impact on dust mites but is not as effective as eucalyptus. Be sure to use pure essential oils for their strength or you're just wasting your time. Your clothes may smell good, but you won't kill any mites.  The Aura Cacia essential oils below are of good quality in a medium price range to get you started:

         After your clothes go through the wash cycle, shake your jar up good and pour the contents into the rinse water when the washer is nearly filled.  Alternatively, should you miss the rinse cycle,  just pour several drops of the oils onto a small cloth and toss it into the dryer with the bedding on a high heat setting.  Both of these options will work well with delicate bedding as well.  Just make sure to use the recommended heat setting. Warm or cold water for the wash and delicate or low/no heat for the dryer.  You will still kill the dust mites without shrinking your new cotton blanket or delicate duvet cover. I've also found some natural dryer sheets, fabric softeners, and laundry detergents at a reasonable cost and most have free shipping below:

         And last but not least, here is the simple quick fix remedy I promised at the beginning of the article. Make your own linen spray.  If you just can't find time this week to perform any of the above steps, simply mix up a batch of the recipe used for treating carpets, draperies, and upholstered furniture mentioned in a previous article, Dust Mites and What You Need to Know.  Here's the recipe again.  Mix 32 drops of eucalyptus oil  in a small spray bottle with four ounces of water and 1/2 tsp. of witch hazel or vodka.  Add a few drops of oils of your choice if you like, but I should mention here that orange oil is a pick me up oil and probably a poor choice if you are retiring soon.  Lavender would be a better choice to mix in as it creates a calm and relaxing atmosphere to fall asleep.  Now simply take the spray bottle and lightly spray down your sheets and pillowcases.  Allow a few minutes to dry and voila!  No pesky dust mites will bother you tonight. There should be enough spray in your bottle for several nights or you might want to spray your bedding in the morning when you throw back the sheets.  Be sure to check the Quick Reminder Chart at the top of the page for helpful hints.

    Happy Breathing!!!


    Listen to your Mother

         Most of the time it pays to listen to your mother, but there's a new theory out there about dust mites that a lot of people will be happy to hear about. It's pretty simple too:  Don't make your bed! Every time you make your bed you're tucking those little beasties in for a good sleep.  So this is one time it doesn't pay to listen to your mother.

         Upon arising in the morning, the best thing you can do is to peel back those bed covers exposing the pillows and sheets.  The first thing this does is allow any moisture to evaporate, reducing humidity, which the mites need to survive.  The second thing this does is to expose them to light.  Even though dust mites have no eyes, they are light sensitive and will run and hide from the light.  If you have your bed near a window, exposing the mites to sunlight will kill them.  Once again though, you are only reducing their numbers and not actually eliminating the allergen itself, their waste product.

         So if it seems like you're losing the battle, you're really not.  The more dust mites you eliminate, lowering their overall numbers, the less allergens present.  One female can live as long as 2-3 months and in that short time she can lay up to 100 eggs.  So you can see that even though it's impossible to completely eliminate all of them, taking action now can greatly reduce their populations in the long run. Otherwise, they just continue to reproduce until you are left dealing with huge colonies.

         So peel back those covers and if at all possible, move your bed near a window. Soon you will begin to notice changes in your sleep quality.  Be sure to check the Quick Reminder Chart at the top of the page for  helpful hints.

    Happy Breathing!!!