Friday, November 20, 2015

How Clean Is the Air in Your Home?

As a parent of a child with allergies and asthma, air quality is on my mind frequently. When it comes to clean air and allergies, I mainly worry about the outdoors as we are currently living in the South where there seems to be pollen in the air at all times of the year. What I sometimes forget to consider is the air inside of my own home. Thanks to Modernize for this very helpful guest post!

How Clean Is the Air in Your Home?

Via Modernize

Everywhere we turn, it seems like allergies and sickness are on the rise. Sensitivities to food, plants, and chemicals are rampant, and it’s no wonder why. With all of the toxins in our very homes, we are all vulnerable to a gamut of symptoms that affect our daily lives. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. This indoor air pollution can exacerbate countless short and long-term health problems, including respiratory problems, watery eyes, colds, and headaches—and it can even trigger asthma attacks, worsening an individual’s condition.

For anyone ready to take action against indoor pollutants, Modernize discusses the sources of toxins in your home and how you can stop your kids’ exposure to these harmful chemicals.

The Culprits: Harsh Cleaning Supplies and Hygiene Products

Cleaning supplies and even some hygiene products aren’t always required to list every single ingredient they contain—and even if they did, we might not all have a grasp on what the ingredients are or the harm they can do. In fact, fragrances are considered trade secrets, and the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a bottle could mean pretty much anything. Many cleaning supplies are associated with asthma and respiratory problems, while skin irritations can often be traced back to seemingly harmless hygiene products. Bleach, ammonia, fragrances, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are just a few of the harmful or potentially harmful chemicals contained in cleaners, air fresheners, detergents, and personal grooming products.

The Solution:

Remember that “green” doesn’t always mean healthy. Any company can slap a “natural” label on a bottle. Research the ingredients that are best avoided and closely review all the products your family uses and buys. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you find brands you trust, it will be worth the trouble. Look for cleaning products without VOCs, fragrances, bleach, ammonia, and flammable ingredients. As you shop for shampoos and soaps to be used on the skin, make sure to look for sulfate, fragrance, and paraben-free products. Avoid DEAs, MEAs, and TEAs, which are hormone disrupting chemicals found in personal hygiene products more often than not.

Remember, you can always make your own cleaning supplies and hygiene products. If your family members have problems with asthma, skin irritations, or frequent ailments of any kind, it’s certainly worth a shot. Vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, lemon, and olive oil are wonderful ingredients for effective homemade cleaners. Make sure to follow trusted recipes, as not all these substances should be mixed.

The Culprit: Paint and Sealants

Those darn VOCs are everywhere. Traditional paints, sealants, and even fabric treatments emit VOCs for a long time after they are applied to the walls or furnishings in your house. This is especially dangerous when it comes to painting entire rooms in your house.

The Solution:

Look for water-based eco-paints without VOCs. Back in the day, these didn’t used to go on as smoothly as paints with harmful chemicals, since the harmful chemicals were what allowed for the smooth texture. But more and more natural paints are mastering the look without sacrificing your health. If you really want to go the extra mile, make sure to buy carpet, rugs, and furniture that you trust hasn’t been treated with toxic chemicals.

The Culprit: Poor Ventilation and Dirty Air Ducts

Weather-stripping and tightening up your home can sure save on energy costs. But it also reduces proper ventilation, which essentially turns your home into a chemical stew (not to be dramatic). Meanwhile, dirty air ducts can be a source of mold, fungi, dust, and other pollutants.

The Solution:

Open windows as much as possible. This will keep the contaminated air moving out and the fresh air moving in. Change your filters when needed, and be sure to get your ducts professionally cleaned (if not done correctly, it may only stir up the pollutants instead of getting rid of them). If you have pollen allergies, however, keeping your windows closed when the pollen count is high may be necessary, so check your local pollen counts, as well as the filters in your air conditioning system.

The Culprit: Tracked-in Chemicals

Our shoes come into contact with all manner of offensive chemicals daily, from oils in the street to heavy-duty public bathroom floor cleaner to pesticides.

The Solution:

Even if it makes you seem a little uptight, asks your kids, spouse, and guests to take off their shoes at the door. If your kids seem to have trouble following this rule, install cubbies where they can place backpacks, coats, and shoes as soon as they walk in the door.

The Culprit: Carbon Monoxide

All of your fuel-burning appliances have the potential to emit harmful gases. While some are detectable, others may not be. And by the time you detect them, the damage may already be done.

The Solution: Carbon Monoxide Detector

Install a carbon monoxide detector to ease your mind and secure your family’s safety from this deadly gas. Make sure to get all of your fuel-burning appliances inspected by a professional to prevent dangerous gas leaks in your home. You can also get your home tested for radon, an odorless and invisible gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Other Solutions

Once you become aware of all of hazards within your very home, it’s hard not to feel somewhat paranoid and conspired against. But once you have faced the realities and come up with solutions that work for you and your family, you will feel at peace and in control. Even if you don’t tackle of the solutions listed above, consider getting an indoor air quality test and installing portable high-efficiency air particulate filters in the bedrooms of your home.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free: Fantastic NEW children's book about food allergies

A review of   Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free: A fantastic NEW children's book about food allergies!


A Positive and Encouraging Book for Young Children with Special Diets

As a mother of a child with multiple food allergies, and other dietary restrictions, I am always on the search for children's books about food allergies.  I look for books with relatable characters, and encouraging messages.  I have seen how a good children's food allergy book goes a long way to help my child understand her medical condition and the social aspects of her restricted diet in a positive way.  I was thrilled to find Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free, written by Rebecca Champlin and illustrated by Lauren Champlin, as it is a wonderful example of a positive, and encouraging book for kids with food allergies, or special medical diets.

Celebrate the Foods Your Child Can Eat!

Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free is a sweet tale about a goat that finds out that he has food allergies.  He discovers that he can't eat all of the same things that his friends eat, but by eating the right foods for his body, he feels so much better. Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free focuses on celebrating the foods that your child can eat and encourages them to take care of their bodies by eating those foods.  I love the empowering message in this book, that it is cool to eat the right foods for your body, even if they are different foods from what others eat.

A Gentle Conversation Starter for Your Child

This book is a lovingly crafted tale that can gently start the discussion with your child about why they have to eat a certain diet that may be different from what their friends eat.  One of the most difficult aspects for me in raising a child with a restricted diet due to food allergies, or celiac disease has been the social aspect. Seeing friends eat differently can be confusing, and hurt feelings can arise at birthday parties and other social gatherings where sticking to the foods that are best for your body can be more difficult. Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free can help your child see those challenging social times in a positive way.  Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free can be used as a conversation starter to help your child through the times where they may want to eat the treats others are eating, and may not understand why they can not.

Keeping the focus on the positives of sticking to the foods that are best for your body can be tough at times. Gus the Goat Goes Gluten Free is a big help as it encourages your child to celebrate what they can eat, and empower them to take care of their bodies.

You can purchase this adorable book, and discover more about the author and illustrator by clicking on this link .

Friday, May 22, 2015

Food Allergies Can Cause Emotional Pain, How You Can Help

My daughter does a great job taking her own treats with her and dealing with it, but sometimes it gets to her. Food allergies can make anyone feel excluded and sad sometimes, especially in school.

Being prepared with a safe treat box has helped my daughter, as has preparing for not being able to take part in every snack or treat at school, family parties, play-dates, sleepovers, and social gatherings.

For ideas on how to include all of the children during class celebrations, check out my food free treats and craft ideas on Pinterest

Also take a look at the books, and information for Elementary teachers that I have collected here:

Being prepared goes a long way!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Keeping Kids Calm While Waiting in the Doctor's Office


Most parents would agree that the most difficult part of routine doctor's office visits is the wait. Add in one or two siblings and the wait gets even harder. Many Doctor's offices have TVs games, or coloring tables, and some have a fish tank or two, but after the first visit or two, even the fish tank can be ho-hum.

As a parent of a child with asthma, and allergies (currently going through weekly or bi-weekly allergy shots) sometimes it feels like the allergist's office is our second home, and my two kids sometimes make themselves a little too comfortable.  Becoming possessive of the office's toys, or telling someone that they must move as they are in their favorite spot are not cute, no matter how cute I think my kids are. To prevent this I do my best to keep them occupied by bringing along a goody bag of distractions.

Our favorite things to bring to the doctor's office:

Toy Cars- one for play, and one for sharing.
Two small dolls or stuffed animals.
Coloring Books- and a small baggie of crayons.
Small Puzzles- Puzzle apps are great for this!
Brain Teasers- Rubik's Cube is a good one, or printable word brain teasers are great.
Color wonder water painting book with magic painting pen- no water or brushes necessary.
Books- Read to self book for my 8 year old, and picture books for the 4 year old.
Phone or tablet etc. with games- Make sure to pack the headphones!
*Gum- I know this is a questionable item as it can end up stuck underneath the chair, or in the hair, but it beats food, and keeps my little ones entertained. I promise I make sure it is thrown away responsibly!
* Dum-dums, or other small suckers for shots- I read that sucking on something sweet lessens the pain. I know it's also a questionable choice!

Items NOT to bring:

Food- Someone may have severe food allergies, plus kids leave crumbs everywhere.
Juice- You don't want to stain the chairs or have sticky fingers and clothes.
Anything that makes noise unless it comes with headphones.
Large containers of water- You know a spill is inevitable with a heavy bottle.

Where did I come up with the list of items not to bring you ask?  Well, not too long ago, I was in the waiting room with juice stains down my shirt looking like a fool as I tried to figure out how to turn the blasting volume down on my son's Leap Pad while at the same time brushing sticky cracker crumbs off of the chair while tipping over my ridiculously full and open camping water bottle. Wouldn't want you to recreate the scene!

I try to keep the goodie bag fresh and entertaining by rotating the items in the bag, and finding new kids learning/game apps for my iPad.

We will be in the allergist's office 1-2 times a week for the foreseeable future. If you have any tips on how to stay entertained in the doctors waiting room. Please share!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book about Allergy Shots for Kids

Book About Allergy Shots for Kids 

I have a new project in the works that I am super excited about! I am writing and illustrating a book for kids about allergy shots!  My daughter was terrified when we first started talking to her about allergy shots. She told us that she would never agree to them! She was afraid of the shots, and a lot of the fear about allergy shots came from not knowing what to expect. I found that by explaining all of the benefits of the allergy shots, and walking her through the process, that she was better able to accept it, and felt prepared, and in control of the situation. She is now doing very well with them! 

In researching ways to help her understand the process, and overcome her fears, I searched for a book for kids about allergy shots, and could not find one. So, I decided to write one! Telling my daughter the story, and explaining allergy shots to her in simplified terms helped her so much that I was inspired to create a book to share with you! I hope that it will help ease your child's fears, and provide an understanding of why allergy shots are important and beneficial. 

Here are a few sketches from the book. I will be posting as I go to keep me on task as this will be my first book, and any opinions, tips, or comments from your or your kids about what you/they would like to see included are welcome! 


Sketch for introducing the character:

Initial sketch of the main character Elliott:

Added color!


Checking the Skin Prick Test:



Little sister thinks this is great fun!

Hanging out with friends in the springtime:

Sketch for the allergy testing:


Up all night with seasonal allergies:

Sketch for the shot:
It's not so bad!

Sketch for the 20-30 min after shots wait in the office:

 adding color