The Dangers of Radon in the Home

Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas that has no odor or taste. The presence of radon occurs naturally in the earth. If radon enters your home, the consequences to your health and that of your family can be severe. In the U.S., radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is also believed that one in every 15 U.S. homes has dangerous levels of radon.

How Radon gets into Your Home

Radon comes from the earth’s soil. Accordingly, radon enters buildings through lower levels and subterranean structures. Here are the ways radon can enter your home:

  • Cracks or holes in the foundation, floors and walls
  • Construction joints
  • Openings near service pipes
  • The water supply

Detecting Radon

The Detection of radon is a very easy process. Radon test kits can be found at your local home improvement stores and are easy to perform. You can also contact your state radon office if you’d prefer that the test be conducted by a professional.

There are two types of test kits, short-term and long-term. A short-term test is conducted for 3 months or less. A long-term test can be performed for up to a year. The reason for the difference in test duration is the fact that radon levels have a tendency to fluctuate. A long-term test will give a more accurate idea of overall radon levels because it tests over a longer period of time. To be effective, both types of tests need to be positioned in the lowest level of the house.

When to Test for Radon

Here are certain events throughout the lifetime of your home that warrant a radon test:

  • The purchasing of a new house
  • Finishing the basement
  • Renovating your home
  • Selling your house

Beyond these occasions, it is also recommended that you test your home for radon every 1-2 years.

Any amount of radon in the home is unsafe. If radon is detected in your home, a radon remediation professional should be contacted. You can visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html to locate a qualified contractor in your area. You can also visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/radontest.html for assistance in finding a radon test kit.

Is there a local contractor you would recommend? Please share in the comments below.

Have a Safe Halloween

For kids, Halloween is a fun and thrilling holiday. The candy and costumes alone are enough to rank it among their favorite days of the year. Along with all the preparation that goes into picking the right costume and planning Halloween-inspired games, it is important to remember certain safety precautions to take to ensure this weekend goes off without a hitch. Here are some tips that will help make your Halloween a safe one.

Make sure costumes are safe for trick-or-treating. When choosing a Halloween costume for your child, it is important to consider certain safety aspects. If face paint is required, test it on the skin ahead of time to make sure it does not cause a reaction. If you choose to go with a mask, make sure it fits correctly. This will help with your child’s comfort as well as vision. Accessories such as wands, knives, swords and axes should be as soft, flexible and short as possible to avoid injury from tripping and poking. Once the perfect costume is picked, apply reflective tape to your child’s costume and candy bag to increase visibility.

Remember trick-or-treating safety. When trick-or-treating, your child should be accompanied by an adult. Always use flashlights or glow sticks when trekking from house to house. Kids are generally very excited on Halloween and may not always be aware of their surroundings. Accordingly, traffic safety rules should be followed.

Examine candy before eating. Before your kids dig in to all that delicious Halloween candy, examine everything in their bags to make sure nothing has been tampered with. Choking hazards or opened treats should be discarded. Anything received while trick-or-treating that is obviously homemade should also be thrown away.

Prepare for trick-or-treaters. If you are expecting trick-or-treaters at your home this Saturday night, ensure the walk up to your door is clear of leaves or anything that could cause someone to trip. This week, check all outside lights to make sure they are in working order. Jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween luminaries that contain candles should always be monitored and kept away from foot traffic and flammable materials.

Halloween offers plenty of fun for the entire family to enjoy. Have an entertaining and safe Halloween!
If you have more Halloween safety tips, please share!

Malnutrition: America’s Hidden Hunger

When we think of hunger, images of starving, emaciated children come to mind. Although famine is much of a thing of the past, hunger is still a very real issue for many children in the United States, and one aspect of hunger is particularly dangerous: malnutrition.

85% of Americans aren’t getting their daily dose of vitamins and minerals, and it’s costing not just those individuals, but society as a whole. As rates of obesity and heart disease continue to climb and hospitals continue to spend more and more time treating preventable diseases, we need to take a serious look at our diets to ensure that we are getting everything we need.

Malnutrition occurs when there is a micronutrient deficiency in our diet (not enough vitamins and minerals are being consumed). Thankfully, malnutrition is relatively easy to diagnose, and here are some of the primary symptoms caused by malnutrition:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weight Loss.
  • Long-term malnutrition can cause physical and mental disability. It weakens your immune system and increases the risk of developing disease.

The issue is particularly dire for newborns and babies as they are growing quickly and are undergoing furious development in their cognitive, physical and motor skills. A malnutrition deficiency at this stage is particularly dangerous since there is no catching back up and fixing the issue later in life. Delays in development (mental and physical) will stay with them for life.

Treatment is straightforward: ensure you are getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. To supplement your diet, take a multivitamin and give your children one as well (they will probably prefer the gummy version!). Eat more fruits and vegetables and try to stay away from foods containing empty calories such as alcohol and junk food.

The key to eating healthy is to maintain a balanced diet that encompasses the four major food groups. These four groups are fruits, vegetables, grains and protein foods. The grains that you want most in your diet are whole grains. This is because whole grains provide you with iron and B vitamins. Sources of whole grains include brown rice, whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread and oatmeal. Foods that are high in protein include poultry, eggs, seafood, meat and nuts.

Malnutrition is an easily preventable problem that is affecting millions of Americans and people around the world. By supplementing our diet and ensuring that our meals are well balanced, we give our children the best opportunity to develop into happy and healthy people like their parents.

As always, consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important not to stray too far from a balanced diet. Do you have healthy takes on some of your favorite holiday fare? Please share in the comments below!

Fall Fun in Denver

Fall in the Denver area can be a magical time for the entire family. From a health perspective, it is always a good idea to get outside, breathe in the fresh air and have fun! From pumpkin farms to corn mazes and haunted houses, there is an abundance of opportunities to get some exercise and make lasting memories for years to come. Below is a list of some of our favorite places for children and adults to enjoy this fall.

Pumpkin farms. Picking pumpkins is all about family fun. Enjoy enormous amounts of fun picking out those perfect pumpkins for this year’s Jack O’ Lanterns!

  • Flat Acres Farm is located at 11321 Dransfeldt Road in Parker and is open through Halloween. Don’t miss the hayrides and petting zoo!
  • Anderson Farms is located at 6728 County Road in Erie and is open through the first of November. Enjoy a rich family atmosphere with plenty for the kids to do.

Corn mazes. Get lost in nonstop fun at these area corn mazes!

  • Corn Maze at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the 1st of November. Aside from corn mazes of different shapes and sizes, you can also enjoy pony rides, hayrides and giant pillow jumping!
  • Haunted Field of Screams, located at 10270 Riverdale Road, is open every Thurs-Sat from now until the end of October. Get ready for hair-raising thrills as you test your nerves by exploring the Haunted Field of Screams, Dead Man’s Night Maze or Zombie Paintball Massacre. For added chills, you can experience all three!

Haunted houses. Prepare to be thrilled and terrified at these heart-stopping destinations!

  • The 13th Floor Haunted House is located at 4120 Brighton Blvd. and is open until November 14th. Visit the 13th Floor Haunted House and discover the eerie truth behind the legend of the 13th floor!
  • The Asylum is open until November 1st at 6100 E. 39th and features three terrifying attractions. This year’s attractions are Primitive Fear: Patient Alpha, Post Mortem: The Escape and The Abandoned.

Other Halloween-themed attractions around town. Here are some less scary events that may be more suitable for younger children.

  • The Trick or Treat Train, at the Colorado Railroad Museum, is open from 10am to 4pm on Halloween. Take this historic locomotive ride while trick-or-treating through family-friendly Railroad Halloween Town!
  • Boo at the Zoo is located at the Denver Zoo and is open from 9am-5pm on Oct. 24, 25, 31 and Nov. 1. Boo at the Zoo features trick-or-treating, animal exhibitions and entertainment the whole family will enjoy!

Do you have any favorite fall attractions to add to this list? Please share in the comments below!

How to improve your air quality indoors

Clean air is an essential aspect of our health. Yet many of us live in areas and homes where air quality is relatively poor. The effects can be felt throughout our lives, from nausea and nosebleeds to increased rates of cancer from second hand smoke, poor air quality is bad for our family’s health. Here are a few simple tips to improve the quality of your air indoors:

Secondhand smoke. Not smoking indoors is vital to ensuring your air quality stays pristine. Cigarettes are hazardous to our health, and when we smoke indoors, around others, we are also exposing them to the same pollutants and chemicals inhaled, and to the risk of cancer. Whereas when we are outside, the wind and climate circulates air, and plants and nature help to clean it up, indoors this smoke has nowhere to go and we will continually be inhaling the same pollutants over and over. In addition, this is the one pollutant this is not helped by any of the tips below.

Keep some houseplants. Houseplants can have a significant impact on improving indoor air quality. Houseplants act as a filter, wherein they attract and trap indoor pollutants and particles from all over your house. The great thing about plants is that they are very attractive décor that can fit seamlessly into anywhere in your house. Engish Ivy and Peace Lily’s are two more popular plants, removing toxins like Carbon Monoxide and formaldehyde from the air.

There are dozens of types indoor houseplants, for beginners and experts alike, with each fulfilling different roles in improving our air quality. Check out our article on keeping houseplants.

Turn on the AC. We all want to save a few bucks on the energy bill, but our health is more important in the long run. Opening our windows can invite poor quality air outside to our living spaces. You may think you are bringing in “fresh air”, but in reality this air can carries pollutants, allergens, and harmful particles that dirty our more clean and filtered air. This is most important when it is an Ozone alert day, or when the things your family may be allergic to are “high” on the allergy alert index.

Clean your air filters. Over time air filters can be come bogged down and dirty through years of hard work. Checking them regularly (once a month during the hottest and coldest months) and replacing them when they become too dirty will not only improve the air quality inside of your home but will also save you money. The US Department of Energy estimates that changing your dirty air filter can improve the efficiency of your HVAC equipment by 5-15%, saving you money on top of keeping you healthy.

Keep your house clean. Surprise surprise, keeping your house clean and relatively dust free will go far in helping minimize indoor pollutants. Make sure you target areas that aren’t often used, such as the tops of fans, because they could be harboring significant amounts of dust particles.

Use safe cleaning products. One of the biggest threats to indoor air quality are the cleaning products we use. Certain chemicals can cause allergic reactions like rashes and irritation, and in some cases are poisonous. Look for products that advertise green, non-toxic, biodegradable, VOC-free, solvent-free, and petroleum-free ingredients (WebMD).

If it’s in the air we will breathe it. Because we spend most of our time indoor, we want to ensure that the air quality reflects our own personal health. It’s a serious issue, and one that shouldn’t be pushed to the side because it affects everyone living in our home.

Fall Home Maintenance

Even though summer temperatures are still blazing, those winter chills will soon be on their way. Now is the time to start thinking about fall home maintenance. Here is a list of some minor tasks you can perform around the house to prevent any expensive mishaps and unwanted dangers in the coming winter.

Put away garden hoses and disable sprinklers. To prevent costly damages from early freeze snaps in the beginning of the fall, make sure your garden hoses are removed from all outdoor faucets and make sure there is no residual water. Any remaining water can freeze and crack faucets and pipes. Drain and store hoses indoors for the winter. If you have a sprinkler system, turn off the main valve to cut off the water and open the drain valves to let the water flow out. Remember to empty all sprinkler heads of any water.

Seal cracks. Sealing cracks is a simple and inexpensive way to avoid high heating costs. Simply inspect the exterior of your home for cracks in the foundation, in the areas around windows and doors and near spots where wires and pipes enter the house. If cracks are found in these areas, use caulk to fill them.

Check your roof and clear the gutters. To inspect your roof safely, consider contacting a certified professional. Some telltale signs of damage that you can spot from the ground include rusted flashing and shingles that are missing, warped or cracked. Gutters should be cleared of leaves and other debris. Sagging gutters are a safety hazard and might be a result of water being trapped. Damaged gutters should be replaced.

Get your furnace ready. Be sure to get your furnace inspected by a licensed professional. Furnace filters should be replaced every two months. If your furnace is performing poorly or unpredictably, it is likely time for an inspection.

Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. This is a good time to make sure all the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your house are in working order and have fresh batteries so your family is kept safe this winter.

Don’t let the coming weather changes catch you off guard! Follow these simple tips and enjoy the many delights of autumn! Do you have more home maintenance tips? Please share in the comments below!

5 Basics for Back-to-School

Now that summer is winding down, this is the perfect time to start preparing your kids for the return of school. Because there are a lot of details to keep track of, this can be a very stressful and chaotic time. However, remembering a few of the basics will help you get this school year off to a great start!

Take your kids to the doctor. Be sure to schedule your children’s medical appointments prior to the beginning of the new school year. These include medical checkups, eye exams, dental appointments and hearing tests. Remember that your child’s medical records and vaccinations should all be up to date at the start of every school year.

Appropriate bedtimes. Your children likely have a much more liberal sleep schedule during the summer months. If that is the case, try to establish an earlier bedtime one or two weeks before school starts. If you have trouble accomplishing this, consider dimming the lights an hour or so prior to the designated bedtime or giving them a hot bath to calm their bodies down.

Meal schedules. Along with sleep schedules, this is also the time to adjust your kids’ eating schedules to support the levels of energy they will need throughout the school day. The regularity of breakfast, lunch and dinner should be reintroduced and upheld. Depending on your schedule, it might be easier to prepare school lunches the night before. Another option to help ease this transition is to prepare and freeze some easy dinners ahead of time.

School supplies. Stock up on school supplies early! Save your receipts to prepare for the possibility that some teachers may prefer students to use particular items for their class. Look for backpacks that are sturdy enough to handle the workload and regular wear and tear. When buying clothes, be sure to review your school’s dress code. After the supplies are purchased, appoint specific spots in the house for lunch boxes, backpacks and other supplies. This will cut down on the unwanted clutter that can occur during the school year.

Proper study area. Provide your child with a specific space in the home to do homework. This spot should be quiet, uncluttered and separate from household distractions. Setting time schedules for doing homework might also be helpful. The intent in doing all of this is to instill a sense of routine as well as the importance of doing schoolwork.

Hopefully, after reading these tips, getting your kids ready doesn’t seem so daunting. Remembering these basics will aid you in getting this school year going strong! Do you have more back-to-school tips? Please share in the comments below.

What You Need To Know About Hiking Your First 14er

The State of Colorado has 54 individual 14,000’ mountains, more than any other state. We take pride that there is almost nowhere along the Front Range where we can’t see one of these towering peaks. If you’ve never hiked a 14er, or been to the top, now is a great time to cross this adventure off your bucket list.

Hiking a 14er is no easy task. Most require six to eight on the trail, good levels of fitness, caution and preparation when venturing into this extreme terrain. Arrive to the trailhead early and leave plenty of time to reach the summit before noon! You want to be well away from the peak when/if thunderstorms roll in around midday. June through August is the best time to climb these mountains as trails are largely devoid of snow. The greatest threat when hiking is exposure to the elements and in the summer months the threat comes from afternoon thunderstorms. A lightning strike on Mount Bierstadt recently hospitalized 3 hikers.

Preparation is of vital importance when taking on one of these peaks. Here are a few basic items to pack:

Sunscreen. There’s nothing like a sunburn to erase the memories of a great accomplishment – like climbing to the top of a mountain. As we discussed in our last blog, skin care is vital to your personal health.

Water! If you remember anything, remember this: bring plenty of water. The majority of unnecessary injuries that occur on these slopes is due to dehydration. Aim for at least half a gallon (two Nalgene bottles) and ensure you are already hydrated when you reach the trail.

Light Jacket. For every 1000’ gain in elevation, the average temperature drops 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. It might be warm and toasty in Denver, but at the top of that 14,000’ peak the temperature will be much lower. You’re going to want a light jacket at the top.

Hiking Boots. Leave the running shoes at home; they lack the proper support you need when hoofing up a high alpine trail on variable terrain. Wearing a pair of proper hiking boots will lower your chance of rolling an ankle and provide better traction when trudging up a mountain slope.

Munchies. Trail mix, Cliff bars, nature valley granola bars all make for great trail snacks. When you reach the summit, or need some extra energy for the climb, you’ll want a tasty treat.

When you have all the required gear, you need to find is a route. Here are some of the best 14ers for beginners, including a couple mountains you can get to the top of even if you can’t walk to the top.

Mount Evans (elevation: 14,265’)

This is the crown jewel above Denver, Colorado. It’s the closest 14er to Denver and also is one of the most accessible. Mount Evans wilderness area is a short 30 min drive outside of Denver to Idaho Springs. A $6 entrance fee is all you need to access the numerous trails in the area including summit trails. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take the drive up Mount Evans on the highest paved road in the United States!

Pikes Peak (elevation: 14, 114’)

This is the mountain that inspired America the Beautiful. It’s the most famous mountain in Colorado. It’s also one of the most trafficked mountains in our states with a road and cog rail (train) reaching to the top, where there’s also a gift shop. Perhaps not the best for those looking for a more wild adventure, but there’s something comforting in the fact that at the top you can enjoy fresh fudge.

Mount Bierstadt (elevation: 14,064’)

Trail Roundtrip Length: 7 miles

Another 14er near Denver. Located just out of Georgetown at the top of Guanella Pass. Seven miles round trip makes this peak a relatively short trek, however the trail travels over 3000 vertical feet from trailhead to peak, meaning it is steep!

Grays Peak (elevation: 14,278’) and Torrey’s Peak (elevation: 14,275’)

Trail Roundtrip Length: 8.5 miles

If you want to cross two peaks off your list, then Grays and Torrey’s are perhaps the two easiest 14ers to hike in one day. If you are hiking with young children, it’s probably best to stick to just one of the two (Grays Peak) but if you get an early enough start you can easily cross off both of these peaks.

Quandary Peak (elevation: 14,265’)

Trail Roundtrip Length: 6.75 miles

Thanks to its location and easy access, located at Hoosier Pass between Breckenridge and Fairplay, this peak gets plenty of traffic. It’s a relatively easy climb and like many of these hikes can be done in half a day, making it the perfect early morning hike.

Hiking a 14er is one of the most rewarding outdoor activities in all of Colorado. Use this guide to help you set up your next trek, and before you know it you will become a regular peak bagger, perhaps joining the ranks of the few who’ve climbed every single 14er in the state.

For those who are unable to make it to the mountains, there is a program called flat 14ers that converts activity like walking, swimming, and hiking into steps that can then be converted into reaching the summit of a 14er.

Where to see the best fireworks in Aurora and Denver

Fourth of July weekend is the highlight of the summer. We spend the day with friends and families at barbecues and picnics, eating hot dogs and hamburgers, all in the name of Freedom. The day ends with a bang, as the night skies are lit up across the nation by fireworks. We have compiled a list of some of the top firework shows in the State, including some that are close to home, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Freedom may not be free, but you can catch some local firework shows that are close to home without spending a dollar.

  • City of Aurora. This Saturday at 9:30pm the City of Aurora will be hosting its annual firework show at the Aurora Municipal Center. Fireworks start at 8pm, and will be accompanied by live music and food.
  • City of Boulder hosts their firework show at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field. Gates open at 8pm and fireworks start at 9:40pm. Event includes free music and a guest appearance from Ralphie the Buffalo.
  • City of Denver is having its firework show at Civic Center Park. Hosted by Anadarko, the event will feature a concert and a light show. The program begins at 8pm.

If you like your fireworks accompanied by live sporting events, you also have several options.

  • The Colorado Rapids host the Vancouver White Caps this Saturday in one of the most exciting and quickly growing leagues in the US, the event will follow with a firework show at dusk. They are claiming to be the largest public firework show in all of Colorado; guess there’s only one way to find out.
  • If soccer isn’t your sport, how about a lacrosse game between your Denver Outlaws and the Boston Cannons? The game begins at 7pm at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
  • The firework show put on by the Colorado Rockies is well known, and perhaps one of the finest fireworks shows in the Denver area. Unfortunately the Rockies will be on a road trip for this Fourth, so the firework show will be put on hold until July 10th. Get your tickets while you still can, because this is a show you don’t want to miss.

If you want to catch some great music with your fireworks, there are a couple bands rolling around this weekend.

  • Zac Brown Band brings their Jekyll + Hyde Tour to Coors Field on July 3rd.
  • Blues Traveler will play at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison. If you haven’t seen a show at Red Rocks yet, you are missing out.

You may be tempted to try and make your own firework show, and it’s easy to see why – fireworks are fun. But they can be dangerous too, and cause burns and other harm if not used correctly. Our dry climate isn’t favorable to fireworks either, so it’s best to leave the fireworks to the professionals.

The Fourth of July is one of our favorite holidays of the year. A time to celebrate the founding of our great Nation, and enjoy all the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today. Have a great Fourth of July and stay safe!

food allergies intolerance

What you need to know about food allergies

Food allergies affect more than 15 million Americans. From childhood to adulthood, allergies can cause serious health complications and significantly affect those living with them. Now, thanks to advances in medical technology we know more about food allergies and intolerances than ever before.

You may have noticed an allergic response to food yourself. A certain type of food that doesn’t sit well in your stomach, or a slight rash when coming in contact with certain substances – symptoms of food allergies vary in severity. It is important that you understand how to identify symptoms, particularly those of greater severity. Some of the most common food allergy symptoms include:

  • Tingly/itchy mouth
  • Rash, hives, eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

In rare cases, the body will have a severe allergic reaction to exposure to an allergen called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a constriction of the airwaves, swollen throat, difficulty breathing, rapid pulse, shock as a result of a severe drop in blood pressure, dizziness/lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness. Emergency treatment is essential if you are experiencing anaphylaxis. People with severe food allergies are often required to carry an ephedrine pen with them to use in case they undergo anaphylaxis.

What causes food allergies? Like pollen and other seasonal allergies, the immune system mistakes the allergen as something harmful, and quickly undergoes a response to fight off these invaders. Food allergies may pass down from generation to generation, and many children that suffer from food allergies eventually outgrow them. The most common food allergens include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat

Food intolerances are a condition similar to food allergies where the body undergoes a response or reaction when exposed to a certain type of food. Some examples of food intolerances include: absence of enzyme to digest a food (lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance), food poisoning, sensitivity to food additives (food coloring, artificial sweeteners), and celiac disease. Although these conditions may elicit a response similar to that of an allergic reaction, these conditions tend to occur from the bodies lack of ability to handle a certain type of protein or enzyme.

The best treatment for both food allergies and intolerances is to simply avoid the trigger food entirely. If you think you may have a food allergy or intolerance, stay away from that food and see a health specialist. In the meantime try and avoid the most common food allergens like wheat, nuts, milk and soy. There are numerous tests that can be performed which can specify which foods you are allergic too, as well as recommendations for treatment you will receive.

It has never been a better time to have food allergies; there are many alternatives for your favorite foods. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and allergen-free foods are available at most local grocery stores, but make sure you know how to read a label.

Food allergies affect millions of Americans and people throughout the world.
Thanks to advances in medical technology, people living with food allergies and food intolerances now have a better chance for proper diagnosis and more alternatives when going out to eat. By correctly identifying food allergies and intolerances and making the proper lifestyle adjustments you can be better on your way to living a happy and healthy lifestyle.