Whether you’re dealing with diaper rash or treating a cut or scrape, there’s an ointment or cream formulated to help. Topical remedies create a barrier on the skin that prevents moisture loss, but whether you are better off using an ointment or a cream depends on the condition. What’s the difference?
- An ointment generally consists of 80% oils and 20% water, and allows for slower delivery of active ingredients since there is less evaporation. Active ingredients may include medications or herbal infusions.
- A cream is closer to 50% oils and 50% water. They are more often used to soften and smooth skin, but may also include medications.
- Some natural products are labeled as a salve (short for “salvations”), which just means an ointment or cream with calming, healing effects that’s applied to wounds or sores.
Keep the following points in mind when selecting and using ointments and creams:
- Make sure you read labels carefully and follow instructions.
- Self-treatment is only for minor conditions. For more serious injuries or illnesses, get to the doctor, urgent care clinic, or emergency room as soon as possible.
- Do not exceed recommended dosage amounts.
- Regularly check expiration dates on the creams and ointments and restock your medicine cabinet as needed.
What they are: Antibiotic and pain-relieving ointments and creams are a combination of antibiotics and analgesics, or pain-relieving ingredients, easily applied to the skin.
Why to buy: To prevent infection and provide immediate topical pain relief for minor cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, antibiotic and pain-relieving ointments and creams are a good choice.
Things to consider: Use caution when applying ointments to skin that is close to clothing as they may stain, or find formulas that claim to be greaseless and non-staining. If over-the-counter aids don’t help and you suspect an infection, talk with your doctor. Many cuts, scrapes, mild sprains, and strains can be treated at home, but puncture wounds are a different story. These injuries introduce bacteria deep into body tissues and require professional medical care to avoid serious complications. Treat animal bites first at home, but follow up with your doctor, even if the bite seems minor. Animals in general, and cats in particular, may have dangerous bacteria and viruses in their mouths, which can lead to serious, and even life-threatening infections.
What they are: Anti-inflammatory ointments and creams are low doses of anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, trolamine salicylate, and menthol, which can be easily applied to the skin. Some also contain Aloe vera for added soothing.
Why to buy: Anti-inflammatory ointments and creams may reduce swelling and inflammation, offering relief from arthritis pain and minor muscle aches.
Things to consider: If you’re sensitive to smells, choose unscented ointments and creams. Do not use aspirin-containing ointments on children or teens with a fever, due to risk of Reye’s syndrome. Any injury that results in major swelling, misshapen joints or bones, or severe bruising requires medical attention.
What they are: Ointments for dry, cracked or irritated skin contain petrolatum and other soothing ingredients to help restore smooth, healthy skin and temporarily protect minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.
Why to buy: These ointments offer effective healing, soothing, and moisturizing for eczema, chapped lips, and severely dry, cracked skin. They can also protect skin from the harsh, drying effects of wind and cold weather.
Things to consider: Talk with your doctor if conditions worsen or symptoms last more than a week, or clear up and occur again within a few days. Do not use on deep or puncture wounds, animal bites, or serious burns. For sensitive skin, look for fragrance-free options.
What they are: Eye ointments are sterile lubricating ointments that soothe and moisturize dry, irritated eyes, and relieve the burning, itching, and discomfort associated with a sty. For optimal results, most ointments are applied to the inside of the lower eyelid before bedtime and contain mineral oil and white petrolatum as active ingredients.
Why to buy: If you suffer from severe dry eyes, applying lubricating ointments at bedtime may soothe and moisturize. For relief from corneal edema—inflammation of the cornea due to infection, ocular diseases, surgery, or prolonged use of contact lenses—try sodium chloride hypertonicity ophthalmic ointments, available in various strengths.
Things to consider: Over-the-counter eye ointments are designed to treat symptoms and are not a cure for infection. If you think you have an eye infection, see your doctor.
What they are: Diaper creams and ointments offer gentle, easy-to apply treatments for painful diaper rash and other minor skin irritations. Most contain zinc oxide and dimethicone, proven skin protectants. Some also contain petrolatum, lanolin, plus soothing ingredients like Aloe vera, lavender, and chamomile.
Why to buy: Diaper ointments and creams soothe and heal your baby’s delicate skin. Diaper rash ointments protect the skin from chafing and minor irritations, plus they seal out wetness to help prevent diaper rash.
Things to consider: If your baby has sensitive skin, look for fragrance-free creams. Many diaper rash ointments may also be used on other parts of the body, including chafed, chapped, or cracked skin and lips.
What they are: Antifungal ointments and creams contain a variety of medicated treatments for athlete’s foot and other fungal infections of the skin. Active ingredients include tolnaftate, undecylenic acid, and zinc undecylenate.
Why to buy: Antifungals can fight the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, ring worm, and jock itch and provide immediate relief for itchy, scaly skin. Daily use of the appropriate ointment or cream may also prevent recurrence of athlete's foot.
Things to consider: If you don’t see improvement in a few weeks with over-the-counter medications, call your doctor. As part of treating and preventing athlete's foot, clean and dry your feet thoroughly and wear clean socks every day. Unless specified, these products are not effective on the scalp or nails. Do not use on children under two years of age unless directed by a doctor.
If you suffer from nasal and sinus problems, you’re not alone. About 30 million American adults suffer at least one bout of sinusitis—inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses—each year. Fortunately, a wide range of products is available to manage nasal and sinus irritations, and this guide will help you find a nasal spray product to fit your health needs, lifestyle, and budget. Keep the following in mind as you choose a nasal spray:
- Many minor nasal and sinus problems can be treated at home with over-the counter products. However, call your doctor if you experience persistent and severe sinus pain, if you have a fever lasting more than a day, if you experience tooth and dental pain, or if you have yellow, green, or bloody nasal discharge. These symptoms may signal a more serious health problem.
- If you are managing a health condition, consider your medications when selecting a nasal spray. Consult your doctor or pharmacist about your safest options.
- Use over-the-counter and prescription nasal sprays according to package directions and compare ingredients to avoid accidentally taking two medications together that contain the same active ingredients.
- Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays work best when taken occasionally, for a few days at a time. When taken long-term, these medications can lose their effectiveness and may even worsen symptoms.
What they are: Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays contain oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline, or naphazoline, which are medications that open up nasal passages by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose.
Why to buy: These products offer quick relief from nasal and sinus congestion, they are available at any pharmacy, and they are relatively inexpensive.
Things to consider: Decongestant nasal sprays should not be taken for more than five days at a time. Use for more than a few days can lead to a worsening of symptoms, a condition called rebound effect or rhinitis medicamentosa. Do not use these products without consulting your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heart beats, thyroid problems, diabetes, glaucoma or increased pressure in the eye, an enlarged prostate or difficulty urinating, liver disease, kidney disease, or are taking a MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) medication.
What they are: Saline nasal sprays are a mild salt water solution used to flush out the sinuses and rinse away mucus, allergens, and other debris that can irritate the nasal lining and sinuses. Saline rinses using a neti pot or other irrigation systems are another alternative.
Why to buy: These products may be helpful for people with seasonal allergies, dry nasal passages, or thick mucus due to a cold or sinus infection. Rinsing away allergens, bacteria, and other irritants may lessen symptoms.
Things to consider: Saline nasal sprays are available over the counter and are safe and easy to use. If you are trying to limit your use of decongestant nasal sprays to avoid rebound effect, saline sprays may be a good option.
What they are: Natural and homeopathic nasal sprays often use a saline solution as a base and contain added natural ingredients, such as capsaicin to ease pain and inflammation, nettle for allergies, peppermint to clear sinuses, feverfew for headaches, and zinc for colds.
Why to buy: Some of the individual ingredients in natural nasal sprays are research-proven to help specific symptoms when taken orally or applied topically, such as nettle for allergies, feverfew for headaches, and capsaicin for pain. Most are not well studied for use in nasal sprays, but are generally considered safe when used as directed. They may provide more relief than saline spray alone.
Things to consider: Most of the herbs and other ingredients in natural nasal sprays have a good track record of safety, but zinc nasal sprays have caused permanent loss of smell in some people and all of these substances may potentially interact with medications. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist if these products are safe for you, especially if you regularly use other over-the-counter or prescription medications.
What they are: Antihistamine nasal sprays are available by prescription only and contain medications which lessen nasal and sinus allergy symptoms.
Why to buy: If you have seasonal allergies or hay fever that cause significant discomfort and that are not well managed with other medications or lifestyle changes, an antihistamine nasal spray may be a good option.
Things to consider: These products alleviate nasal and sinus symptoms related to allergies. They will not lessen symptoms of a cold or other non-allergy symptoms. Antihistamine nasal sprays can cause drowsiness, fatigue, and nosebleeds in a small percentage of people who use them.
What they are: Corticosteroid nasal sprays are available by prescription only and contain medications to lessen sinus inflammation and pain due to a variety of causes.
Why to buy: Corticosteroid nasal sprays often are used to manage nasal and sinus symptoms due to allergies, but can reduce inflammation due to other causes as well. If you have chronic sinusitis, these products may be a good option for you.
Things to consider: Symptoms often return when corticosteroid nasal sprays are stopped, so they may be prescribed for years. To date, no studies have identified health risks linked to long-term use. Corticosteroid nasal sprays can cause burning, dryness, irritation and itching in the nose and throat, nosebleeds, runny nose, headaches or upset stomach in some people.
People use air humidifiers for a variety of reasons, such as to soothe dry sinuses, to relieve symptoms of a cold or sinus infection, and to minimize dry skin and chapped lips during dry winter months. As you choose an air humidifier, keep the following in mind:
- Health insurance may cover the cost, or you may be able to use a health savings account to pay for a humidifier, especially if needed for a specific health condition such as asthma. Call your insurance provider to find out before your purchase.
- Consider your intended use to help you select the best model for your needs. How big is the room you want to humidify? Is noise an issue?
- A unit that is easy to clean may help minimize the risk of mold problems.
- Some manufacturers overestimate the square footage covered by a given model; if in doubt, you may want to try a larger unit.
- Inquire about limitations on use. For example, some humidifiers will not operate properly with very hard or very soft water.
- Consider additional costs of using the product, such as replacement filters, distilled water, or cleaning solutions.
- Evaluate capacity and operating time, which will depend upon the size of the water reservoir.
- Consider extras you may or may not want, such as automatic shut off, timer features, and 360-degree dispersal of humidified air.
- Ask about the warranty and which components are covered.
What they are: Evaporative humidifiers work by drawing dry air into the unit and then over a moistened wick or other material. The moistened air is dispersed back into the room.
Why to buy: This type of machine has the capacity to humidify large areas. Evaporative models are the least expensive type of humidifier to purchase and operate, and they don’t require expensive filters.
Things to consider: Evaporative units tend to be noisier, require more frequent cleaning than other humidifiers, and cannot raise humidity above 40% to 50%. Wicks may need to be replaced periodically, though wicks tend to be less expensive than the filters required in other models.
What they are: Ultrasonic humidifiers use a thin, rapidly vibrating metal plate or diaphragm to create tiny water particles, which generates a mist. The mist is pushed into the room with a fan. Some units have the option of heating the water before it hits the vibrating plate.
Why to buy: Ultrasonic models are quiet and easy to clean, and warm mist can raise humidity faster than cold mist or evaporative humidifiers. A warm mist option may be preferable in cold climates. There is no limit to the amount of humidity that can be added to the air.
Things to consider: These units are more expensive than evaporative humidifiers, and most require replacement filters and demineralization cassettes, which increase operation costs. Ultrasonic models humidify a smaller area than similarly sized evaporative humidifiers, and must be placed several feet off the floor for optimal functioning.
- Your immune system is constantly working to keep you healthy and strong. Sometimes it needs a little help—especially during back-to-school and winter seasons when germs run wild. Give your immune system some support with these simple but effective tips and products. And always drink plenty of fluids—staying hydrated is a key ingredient to staying healthy.
What they are: The best offense is a good defense. Immunity-supporting products are formulated and packaged to support immune function at times when your system is under threat. Most commonly, these products contain vitamin C or zinc, and come in a variety of forms that make it easy to take at the earliest sign of cold symptoms, or other common infections that strike when you’re feeling run down.
Why use them: Studies have shown the positive health and immune benefits of taking vitamin C and zinc, especially at the first signs of sickness, and these types of nutritional products are safe and easy to take. They’re available in a variety of formulas such as chewables, quick-dissolving tablets, nasal sprays (except zinc nasal sprays, which have been associated with loss of smell), lozenges, and effervescent drink powders you add to cold or hot water.
Things to consider: Before adding supplements to your diet, make sure you consult your doctor and do your homework.
What they are: Similar to adult products, but formulated in lower, kid-friendly dosages to best support their kid-size immune systems.
Why use them: A safe and easy way to boost their defenses, children’s immune products are usually available as gummies or chewables in a variety of fun flavors, making it easier to get your little ones to take their vitamins.
Things to consider: Look for supplements formulated for your child’s age range. If your child has never taken supplements before, it is best to talk with their pediatrician first, especially if they’re taking medications.
What they are: To keep your immune system strong, probiotics like acidophilus support healthy digestion and naturally boost your body’s defenses.
Why use them: Research suggests probiotics may help prevent colds and can help to balance the good bacteria in your digestive system to keep it on track.
Things to consider: Not all probiotic formulas have the same effects on the body, and some products contain more “friendly bacteria" than others. Refrigerated probiotic products, including those that are added to yogurts and other foods, are often a good bet, as the colony-forming units are likely to be preserved. However, probiotic powders are also available in capsules and packets.
What they are:These beverages often include a mix of vitamins and minerals for overall vitality, such as B-complex and vitamin C.
Why use them: Vitamin-enhanced waters and drinks have not been well studied, but as long as they are not laden with sugar, they may provide some extra vitamins—and at the very least they can help you stay hydrated.
Things to consider: Pay attention and read labels so you don’t get more than you bargained for, as many may also include sugar and stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, and ginseng. And make note of how many servings are in the container, as calories from enhanced beverages can add up fast—or try one of the low- or no-calorie varieties.
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to substances called allergens, such as pollen, pet hair and dander, dust, mold, and more. Fortunately, a range of products is available to manage common allergy symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sinus headaches, and itchy eyes. This guide will help you find the right products to meet your health needs, lifestyle, and budget. Keep the following in mind as you choose allergy medicines:
- Most minor and seasonal allergies can be treated at home with over-the-counter products, but call your doctor if you experience persistent and severe sinus pain, fever, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the lips, mouth, or throat. These symptoms may signal a more serious health problem.
- Use over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications according to package directions and pay attention to listed side effects. Some allergy medications cause extreme drowsiness, making every day activities such as driving unsafe.
- If you are already managing a health condition, consider your medications before selecting a product. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if unsure about whether any particular allergy medication is safe for you.
- Compare ingredients to avoid accidentally taking two medications together that contain the same active ingredients, and check with your doctor about which products are okay to take together and how best to avoid mixing drugs that should not be combined.
What they are: Antihistamine medications block the effects of histamines, a substance produced by the body as part of an allergic reaction, which causes several of the most common allergy symptoms.
Why to buy: Antihistamine pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops offer relief from allergies that are not well managed with other medications or lifestyle changes. Liquid products take effect more quickly, while nasal sprays and eye drops offer a way to target allergy symptoms affecting only the eyes or sinuses. Antihistamine pills, liquids, and eye drops may be purchased over the counter; antihistamine nasal sprays are available by prescription only. Newer generation antihistamines, such as loratadine, do not cause drowsiness in most people.
Things to consider: Antihistamines will not lessen symptoms of a cold or other nonallergy conditions. Antihistamine pills, liquids, and nasal sprays can cause drowsiness and dry mouth. Nasal sprays also may cause fatigue and nosebleeds in a small percentage of people who use them, and zinc nasal sprays have caused permanent loss of smell in some people. Antihistamines may need to be used continuously during the allergy season to treat seasonal allergies. Do not use antihistamines if you take MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) medication and do not take antihistamines in combination with other drugs that cause drowsiness, such as sleep aids, alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers.
What they are: Decongestants open up nasal passages by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the nose. They are available over the counter as pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops.
Why to buy: Decongestants offer quick relief from nasal and sinus congestion. They are available at any pharmacy and are relatively inexpensive.
Things to consider: Decongestant nasal sprays should not be taken for more than five days at a time. Longer-term use can lead to a worsening of symptoms, a condition called rebound effect, or rhinitis medicamentosa. Oral decongestants should be used occasionally, for a maximum of a few days at a time, for best effect. When taken long-term, these medications can lose their effectiveness and may even worsen symptoms. Do not use decongestants without consulting your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or irregular heart beats, thyroid problems, diabetes, glaucoma or increased pressure in the eye, an enlarged prostate or difficulty urinating, liver disease, kidney disease, or are taking a MAOI medication.
What they are: Antihistamine and decongestant combination pills and liquids contain both of these medications in one product.
Why to buy: Combination products offer the convenience of addressing the widest variety of allergy symptoms with a single product.
Things to consider: The same cautions that apply to antihistamines and decongestants individually apply to products that contain both of these medications. If you only have congestion, stick to a decongestant. If your allergy symptoms are relieved with antihistamines alone, you do not need a combination product. Doctors recommend taking the fewest medications, at the lowest dose that relieves your symptoms.
What they are: Corticosteroids, which lessen inflammation, come as pills, nasal sprays, inhalers, and eye drops, and are available by prescription only. Prescription nasal sprays and inhalers are most commonly used to manage allergies.
Why to buy: Corticosteroid nasal sprays address nasal and sinus symptoms due to allergies, but can reduce inflammation due to other causes as well. Inhalers are used for cough or breathing difficulties. If you have chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, or asthma that are related to or worsened by allergies, these products may be a good option for you.
Things to consider: Symptoms often return when corticosteroid nasal sprays and inhalers are stopped, so they may be prescribed for years. To date, no studies have identified health risks linked to long-term nasal spray use, but inhaled corticosteroids may lead to decreased bone density. If you use inhaled corticosteroids long-term, ask your doctor if you should take calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays can cause burning, dryness, irritation and itching in the nose and throat, nosebleeds, runny nose, headaches, or upset stomach in some people. Corticosteroids in any form may not be appropriate for people with glaucoma.
If you or someone in your family has sensitive eyes or suffers from allergies that affect the eyes, try some of these tips and products to find relief, especially in the height of allergy season. Treat your eyes with care to protect them from serious infections and other conditions that can affect comfort and vision. To that end, keep the following tips in mind:
- Only use products meant for eyes in your eyes.
- Some products are meant for around the eye but not in the eye: be sure to read instructions and use products as directed.
- Remember that some irritations can be infections, so seek medical care if a condition doesn’t improve after a few hours or days, depending on your discomfort.
- Don’t rub itchy or tearing eyes: you may have something inside your lid that could scratch your cornea.
- Do not share eye products with others.
What they are: Eyelid cleansing wipes are small, disposable cloth cleansing pads with soothing cleansers .
Why to buy: Eyelid cleansing wipes can be useful tools for combating seasonal allergies and pollen. They gently and easily remove dirt, allergens, and other irritants from your around eyelids and eyelashes. If you have an eye infection , consider using eyelid cleansing wipes for cleaning and soothing.
Things to consider: Eye infections should first be treated by a doctor. If you have sensitive skin, read ingredients carefully . Direct contact with your eyes may cause irritation.
What they are: Eye cleansers, creams, and gels contain skin treatments infused with beneficial natural ingredients and antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C, Aloe vera, green tea, and cucumber.
Why to buy: Eye cleansers, creams, and gels help ease tired eyes, reduce puffiness, and nourish the skin around your eyes.
Things to consider: While most eye cleansers are natural and gentle, avoid direct contact with your eyes . Look for products that are hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested if you have sensitive skin.
What they are: Medicated eye drops and saline eye drops are used to treat dry, itchy, red eyes caused by allergies, medications, or the common cold. Most eye drops come in a liquid that imitates the feel of real tears. For persistent dry eyes, try drops made of gels, which claim to provide better, longer lasting relief. If you wear contact lenses, select specially formulated eye drops that are gentler and won’t interfere with your lenses.
Why to buy: Eye drops offer immediate relief from dry eyes—artificial tears lubricate and soothe, saline eye drops cleanse and moisturize. To soothe itchy, watery eyes and reduce redness, try (with your doctor’s recommendation) eye drops with antihistamines or other medications.
Things to consider: Over-the-counter eye drops are meant for short-term relief. Some contain preservatives and other chemicals that may irritate the eyes if used for long periods. Eye drops designed to reduce redness may also cause dryness, so be careful not to overuse them. Remember, eye drops are meant for use by one person as droppers are easily contaminated. Avoid touching the dropper—especially with fingers or the surface of your eye. Check expiration dates regularly and replace when needed.
What they are: Disposable premoistened gel pads contain nourishing, soothing ingredients for your eyes and skin. For added cooling comfort, store your gel pads in the refrigerator.
Why to buy: Gel pads offer a quick, convenient at-home spa treatment to sooth and enhance the delicate skin around your eyes. If you need to reduce puffiness and dark circles, look for gel pads with chamomile, cucumber, and Aloe vera—all naturally soothing and hydrating ingredients. Some manufacturers claim refreshing and rejuvenating results from products containing vitamin C, citrus, or Ginkgo biloba.
Things to consider: If you have sensitive skin, only purchase products that are hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested. It is recommended that gel pads be used several times a week for best results.
People use air purifiers to reduce exposure to dust and other allergy-causing substances (allergens) and to ensure cleaner indoor air for people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma. In fact, in houses that are tightly sealed to increase energy efficiency, indoor air may be more polluted than outdoor air. As you choose an air purifier, keep the following mind:
- Health insurance may cover the cost, or you may be able to use a health savings account to pay for an air purifier, especially if needed for a specific health condition such as allergies, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Call to find out before your purchase.
- Consider your intended use to help you select the best model for your needs: How big is the room in which you’ll use the purifier? Is noise an issue? Do you want to remove particulate matter such as dust, smoke, pollen, molds, pet dander, and bacteria? Or gaseous and volatile pollutants such as household odors, aerosols, gas cooking exhaust, pesticides and off-gases from adhesives, paints, furniture, carpeting, and cleaning products?
- Some manufacturers overestimate the square footage covered by a given model; if in doubt, you may want to purchase a larger unit.
- Consider additional costs of using the product, such as replacement filters or pre-filters.
- Consider extras you may or may not want, such as automatic shut off, timer features, and 360-degree dispersal of cleaned air.
- Ask about the warranty and which components are covered. Many air purifiers cost hundreds of dollars and a better warranty may be worth extra cost up front.
What they are: HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters remove nearly 100% of particles down to 0.3 microns in size, which includes pollen, mold, fungus, pet dander, dust, bacteria, and dust mites.
Why to buy: HEPA filter purifiers are less expensive than other types and do a great job of removing a wide variety of common allergens.
Things to consider: You must change the filter in a HEPA air purifier regularly for optimal functioning and filters can be expensive. HEPA units do not remove viruses, smoke, or volatile and gaseous pollutants. The size and shape of a HEPA filter affects function. When a filter has more surface area, which can be created with pleats and folds, particulate removal is more effective. Differences in filter construction may account for price differences in HEPA air purifiers.
What they are: Activated carbon contains millions of microscopic pores and holes, which can trap gases, smoke, volatile chemicals, fumes, and odors. These filters generally do not operate in stand-alone units, but instead are combined with other purifiers, such as HEPA filters.
Why to buy: When added to HEPA purifiers, activated carbon filters will remove gaseous, odorous, and volatile air pollutants not captured in the HEPA unit. Activated carbon filters are inexpensive and increase the range of pollutants and allergens removed from the air.
Things to consider: As stand-alone units, activated carbon filters are not as effective as other air purifiers.
What they are: Antibacterial air purifiers may combine a HEPA filter with a UV lamp, which kills bacteria and mold, or may use a HEPA filter that has been treated with an antimicrobial compound.
Why to buy: These units provide two benefits—removing particulate pollutants and destroying microbes and mold. If combined with a charcoal filter, gaseous and volatile air pollutants also are removed. These units may be helpful for people with asthma or severe allergies.
Things to consider: Antibacterial air purifiers are the most expensive models. The HEPA component will require periodic filter replacements. If a unit with a UV lamp is purchased, the UV lamp may require replacing at some point, and UV lamps are expensive. Antimicrobial filter replacements may cost more than conventional HEPA filters.
What they are: All three of these models work by adding a positive charge to dust, pet dander, mold, and other particulates in the air. These charged particles stick to a nearby surface, removing them from the air. A plate or filter captures the charged particles in electrostatic and charged-media models. Ion-generating models add a charge to particulate pollutants, which stick to any nearby surface, such as a wall or furniture. Ion generators are come in tabletop, portable, and ceiling mounted units.
Why to buy: Like mechanical filters, electronic air cleaners can be installed in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Only units that do not produce ozone are recommended.
Things to consider: Although electronic air cleaners remove small particles, they do not remove gases or odors. These units often generate ozone, which is a lung irritant and can worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. Ozone can compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. Ion-generating filters may cause dark spots on nearby objects, as they work by causing particles in the air to adhere to solid surfaces. Some electrostatic filters produce ozone and some do not. In these units, the charged particles accumulate on a series of flat plates called a collector that is oppositely charged; cleaning collector plates is essential to maintaining adequate performance.
Severe allergies require special medical care and attention. Signs and symptoms of allergic reactions range from mild to severe and may include wheezing, vomiting, hives, and digestive problems. Some allergens can cause anaphylaxis—a severe, life-threatening reaction, which requires treatment with an adrenaline (epinephrine) shot and a trip to the emergency room. In some emergencies, the allergic person may not always be able to speak or communicate, and may even be completely unresponsive. If an emergency occurs, medical identification can inform medical personnel about the allergy so they can take faster, more effective action on your behalf.
What they are: Medical identification is usually an engraved bracelet or necklace that presents a concise overview of your conditions, allergies, and medicines. It will alert a doctor or paramedic before starting treatment. Informing medical personnel about your unique medical conditions and needs greatly aids prehospital care and helps ensure accurate and appropriate treatment.
Why to buy: In an emergency, when you might not be able to speak for yourself, a medical identification bracelet or necklace speaks for you. Symptoms of common ailments can easily be misdiagnosed. Medical identification helps ensure prompt diagnosis, which is critical for effective treatment.
Things to consider: Medical identification should be visible and recognizable. Don’t get something that will be easily confused with other jewelry. It should say you have a specific allergy and (if you carry an EpiPen) where you keep your EpiPen. Be sure to also carry an identification card that includes your name, emergency contact phone number, your doctor’s phone number, and any medications (including doses) you're taking. First responders may not look in your personal belongings for an identification card with your medical information, so wearing a visible identification is more likely to protect you than only carrying a card.