My Home: Breathing Easy Inside
The dog days of summer typically force a retreat to the air-conditioned cool of the great indoors — a move that should refocus attention on indoor air quality, according to Dr. DeVon Preston, an allergist and clinical immunologist at Cleveland Clinic Lakewood Family Health Center.
“It can often be worse than outdoor air quality, mainly because of the collection of different irritants, allergens and pollutants in the home,” he says. The list includes garden-variety pollen and dust, as well as microscopic dust mites and their feces, animal dander, cleaning products and insecticides.
To keep them at a minimum:
Have HVAC duct systems cleaned. “You may only need to do it once if you have a high-efficiency filtration system attached to your HVAC system,” Preston says. Otherwise, have it done every five to 10 years. Replace HVAC filters as recommended by the manufacturer or service professional.
For those using window and wall air conditioners, Preston advises checking that units are draining properly and cleaning or replacing filters regularly — he did it every three months when he used them.
Clean. Dust and vacuum at least once a week. Preston dusts blinds and ceiling fan blades and vacuums drapes once a month and vacuums walls every few months. Remove mold or mildew from nonporous surfaces with bleach or fungicide and eliminate the cause. “If you can’t clean it off [from porous surfaces], then you probably need to remove it, put up some new drywall or new plaster and then cover that with an antimold type of paint,” he says.
Ventilate spaces while using cleaning products and pesticides. “If it smells strong, you’re going to need to open the windows, or else you’re going to feel the negative effects” — dizziness, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and skin irritation, he says.
Consider an air purification system. Preston says a portable unit with a high-efficiency particulate air filter is a good option. He advises against units with ionic filters. “They literally create these ions,” he explains. “What that does is forces allergens to stick on things” rather than remove them from the air.
My Health: Coping with Scary School News
New teachers, new classmates, a return to lessons and homework — they can make the most well-adjusted children anxious about going back to school. But this year, they may have another reason to dread it: recalling news of the May shooting at Ross Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Carolyn Ievers Landis, a clinical psychologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, says that while many children won’t be affected by learning about such a tragedy, others will. She offers the following advice for helping them deal with it.
Limit media exposure. Landis observes that the constant coverage of a shooting and subsequent developments can make it seem like the event is happening over and over again. She recommends providing age-appropriate answers to children’s questions and discussing their fears, perhaps even initiating a conversation by saying, “Hey, have you heard of this? Do you want to talk about it?” “They’re going to hear about it from friends,” she acknowledges. “But they should not be inundated.”
Reassure. Point out that such tragedies are, in fact, rare. Prepare children just starting school by letting them know that they may be asked to participate in live-shooter drills. Matter-of-factly put them in the context of all of the other things they do to stay safe, from participating in home fire and tornado drills to sitting in car seats or wearing seatbelts. Adults should check their own responses to events. “They will take our lead,” Landis says.
Watch for signs of stress. “Not all children are aware of why they’re feeling the way they are,” Landis says. “I find that particularly true for younger boys. They feel a sense of worry, dread or unease, but they don’t necessarily have the thoughts that explain why.” They may, however, complain of headaches or stomachaches, sleep more or less, eat more or less or throw tantrums. “If things are really affecting their quality of life, that’s when you probably need to talk to your pediatrician,” she says.
My Earth: Environmentally Friendly Furnishings
Common sense dictates that buying quality products is an
friendly way to furnish a home. Terese Antle, a buyer for Sedlak Interiors in Solon, points out that a case good can be refinished or an upholstered piece can be recovered.
“It’s going to last decades or a lifetime, depending on the piece and how it’s used,” she says. “So it doesn’t go into a landfill.”
Some furnishings, however, are definitely greener than others. She suggests shopping for the following:
Case goods. Opt for chests, tables, etc., made of solid hardwoods such as maple, cherry and oak harvested from sustainably managed forests rather than much-less-durable plywood or medium-density fiberboard — a material Antle says is made by mixing wood pulp with chemicals and glues.
“When you’re using solid wood, you’re obviously not using those chemicals and glues that can be harmful to the environment,” she says.
Upholstered pieces. “A lot of the manufacturers today are using soy-based foam,” Antle observes. She adds that tests have shown foam with a soy-based content of up to 70% are as durable as their petroleum-based counterparts. Look for spring units made from recycled metals and wrapped in fibers made from recycled plastic. Solid wood frames provide the “good bones” needed for longevity.
Antle notes that, like buying quality, buying American is generally greener. Air-quality standards are higher in the U.S. than in many other countries, which Antle says affects how finishes are made and applied to case goods, for example. It is easier to confirm sources of hardwoods harvested in the U.S. Companies such as Century, Lee Industries and Stickley manufacture their goods with domestically sourced materials.
“They’re being made and delivered often within just several hundred miles from where [the furniture is] being produced,” she says — a fact that reduces the environmental impact of shipping.
My Food: Blue Point Grille Chef Fires Up a Diverse Menu
Brian Moses’ grilling repertoire extends beyond the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and ribs. The executive chef at Blue Point Grille in Downtown Cleveland — a Fort Worth, Texas, native who spent the last 15 years in the state capital of Austin — uses his large, wood-fired smoker grill at home to prepare everything from appetizers to desserts. His summer favorites include:
Eggplant. Moses places a whole 1.5- to 2.5-pound eggplant directly on the coals, then turns it every five or 10 minutes while he’s grilling the main course. “It takes roughly 45 minutes,” he says of the process. While the blackened skin is hard and tough to the point of being inedible, the meat inside is squishy soft, with a smoky flavor. “You just cut the eggplant open lengthwise, squeeze in a little lemon, put in a little roasted garlic and salt, and mix it up in the skin,” he says. “It’s an automatic dip or a sauce, ready to go.”
Watermelon. Moses cuts the melon into 2-inch-thick planks, lightly brushes each side with olive oil to prevent sticking, sprinkles them with a tiny pinch of salt and a little sugar, then grills each side for a minute or two. “You really just want to caramelize the outer layer,” he says. The result is served chilled, cut from the rind into chunks and tossed with fresh mint and a little feta cheese. “It makes a good little salad or a fresh dessert for a hot day,” he says.
Pineapple. Moses prepares and grills a peeled-and-cored fresh pineapple the same way he does a watermelon. The pineapple, however, is plated warm or chilled sans mint and cheese. It’s especially good as a side with pork. “Pork really likes something sweet,” he says. “It balances all of the smoky flavor.”