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.

Avoid Colorado Tick Fever

Enjoyment of the outdoors is one of the many pleasures that come with living in Colorado. As any Coloradan will proudly boast, the summer months bring countless ways to appreciate the various wonders of nature. Such activities include hiking, biking, camping, fishing and boating. Unfortunately, all of this summer fun also comes with some hazards. One in particular is the presence of ticks. Due to Colorado’s high elevation, ticks are quite common.

Although Lyme disease – transmitted from ticks – is not a problem in the state, Colorado tick fever is a tick-borne illness that is very prevalent. The disease comes from the Rocky Mountain Wood tick and is most common between April and July. It is important to know what measures to take to safeguard your family from this viral infection. Knowing where to find Rocky Mountain Wood ticks, how to avoid being bitten by them and having the ability to spot the symptoms early can make a world of difference. Here are a few tips to remember when spending time outdoors this summer.

Know where to look. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of animals. They can be found in areas where they are most likely to come across possible hosts. These are usually grassy, well-traveled spots near fields and wooded areas.

Get covered. When spending time camping, hiking and biking in wooded places, be sure to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. It is also recommended to wear shoes that completely cover your feet while minimizing any exposed skin around the ankles. In addition, wearing clothing that predominately features lighter colors will make ticks easier to locate and remove.

Use repellent. DEET and Permethrin are two popular tick repellents. Spraying either one of these on clothing has been known to be effective. Keep in mind that repellents should not be sprayed near the eyes and mouth. In particular, Permethrin should not be applied to the skin.

Remove ticks effectively. If a tick is found in the skin, be sure to use dull tweezers to gently remove it. It is important not to crush the tick while pulling it out. Crushing the tick could result in infection if parts of it are left in the skin.

Know the symptoms. Be able to spot the signs of Colorado tick fever. Symptoms that accompany a tick bite include sudden chills and high fever, aching muscles, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and a faint rash. If these symptoms do not subside within a week, contact your physician.

With some preparation and diligence, the risk of contracting Colorado tick fever can be greatly lowered. By continuing to be aware of your surroundings, you can ensure your family’s enjoyment of the great Colorado outdoors without enduring such setbacks as Colorado tick fever.

Eye Health

6 Tips for Healthy Eyes

Sight is one of our most important senses. Colorado is exposed to high amounts of UV rays due to our high altitude. Whether outside in the sun or at home/work glued to a screen, they are subject to far more stress than ever before. Thankfully, there are ways we can keep them seeing clear well into the future. Here are some tips to protect your eyes, for the entire family:

Get your eyes tested once a year. Seeing an optometrist is a way to ensure your vision is healthy. Optometrists examine your eyes to make sure everything is running smoothly, looking for diseases and any changes in your vision. They can recommend solutions, such as glasses, contacts, or corrective surgery (LASIK) to improve your eyesight as well.

Wear sunglasses when outside. The sun provides one of the heaviest pressures on our eyes; in Colorado at such high elevations it is even more significant. Not only do sunglasses keep the sun out of your eyes, but they also remove UV rays that cause irreparable damage. Make sure you buy 100% UV protection sunglasses, to keep those damaging rays out. When buying, glasses that say they’re prescription ready are definitely 100% UV protected.

Wear a hat. Hats keep your eyes shaded from the sun. When combined with sunglasses, this duo will greatly lift the burden off your eyes when you are outdoors. If you are going to be outdoors for long periods of time, then wearing a hat should be a must for every member of your family.

Use reading glasses. Whether you are reading a book or on the computer surfing the web, reading glasses make it easier on your eyes. Reading glasses allow you to focus on smaller details, like words on a page or screen, meaning your eyes don’t have to work as hard.

Wear eye protection when necessary. If you are doing yard work, such as mowing the yard or woodworking, make sure you wear eye protection. Dirt and dust, as well as foreign objects, can get into your eyes and cause serious damage.

If you get something in your eyes wash, don’t rub, them. During allergy season, pollen can get into our eyes and cause itchiness. It’s important to refrain from rubbing them as our eyes are fragile and rubbing can cause abrasions that damage the surface of the eye. If something gets into your eye, instead of rubbing, try washing it in the sink by allowing cool water to slowly flow over your eye.

Our eyes are one of the most important assets of our bodies. By taking the necessary steps to keep them protected, we can ensure that we give ourselves the best chance to see into the future. What strategies do you use to make sure every member of your family’s eyes stay protected? Share with us below.

Stay Active All Summer Long…Despite the Heat!

Colorado is a great place for outdoor exercise in the summer. From marathons to more casual activities, the local terrain and climate provide ideal excursions. However, whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting outdoor hobbies like running or hiking, the summer heat can make getting your miles in challenging. Here are some tips to help deal with the summer conditions so you can continue going at your full potential all summer long:

Wear the right clothes. Equip yourself with accessories and clothes that do the most to protect you from the sun and heat. Clothing that is light in color and loose is always your best bet. The light colors reflect the rays of the sun at the same time that the looseness helps you catch any breeze that comes your way. To guard your eyes and skin from the sun, wear a hat and sunglasses. Of course, sunscreen is always a must!

Know when and where to workout. Generally, the hottest part of the day is 12pm to 3pm. To avoid the most oppressive heat, try to be out in the morning or evening. Where possible, seek out shady areas. If the heat reaches dangerous levels, call off the day’s run, hike, game or workout.

Stay Hydrated. Maintain a regular intake of liquids throughout your activity. A combination of water and sports drink will give you optimal fuel and electrolyte levels. The recommended amount of fluid is no less than 8oz. every hour. For longer periods of time or to keep your hands free, use a CamelBak or hydration belt to carry the fluids you need. 

Don’t push too hard. As the summer gets into its hottest stretch, remember that your body needs about two weeks to adjust. Take it easy during this time. Let your body acclimate gradually. Pushing too hard will do more harm than good. When running, think about switching to power walking every 4 to 8 minutes. This will help to keep you from overheating as your body adapts.

As always make sure that you talk with your doctor before you begin in any intense physical regime. We all want get in shape, but there are plenty of alternatives if our body isn’t ready for the physical stress of running.

Even though it’s the end of July, we still have many weeks of heat left. Don’t let it do you in! Follow these tips and prove that you are up to the challenge!

Camping Tips To Improve Your Experience

For Colorado families, camping is a beloved way to enjoy the state’s many outdoor benefits. Like all outdoor activities, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind in order to stay safe while you’re having fun. Here are some important safety tips:

Safety supplies. While preparing for your camping trip, include the following items to help stay safe and comfortable:

  • Map of area
  • Compass or GPS
  • Cell phone
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Sunscreen

Besides the above items, a first-aid kit is also good to have with you while camping. Your first-aid kit should include the following:

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • A cold pack
  • Supplies for splinting
  • Dressings for large wounds
  • Band-Aids
  • Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Neosporin
  • Benadryl
  • Ibuprofen
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Antiseptic soap

Finding and Setting Up Your campsite. Before deciding on a site, scan the area for any hints of use by wildlife. Some key signs to look for are animal tracks and droppings, wasp nests in the ground, and scratches on the trees. Also be wary of spots with abundant berry growth. These areas might attract bears.

Campfire Safety. When looking for places to build a campfire, fire safety must always be considered. Be sure to abide by the rules of your specific camping area. For instance, do not start a fire if your campground does not allow campfires. Also, be aware of hazardous conditions. If conditions in your area are extremely dry, do not attempt to start a fire.

When building a new fire pit or fire ring, place it at least fifteen feet away from flammable objects like bushes, trees and tents. Avoid branches that hang too low in the direct vicinity of the fire. The pit itself needs to be about a foot deep. Take out all grass, sticks and leaves within a 10-foot diameter area and construct a circle of rocks around the pit or ring.

Use small, dry pieces of wood for your fire and only use wood from dead trees. Place a shovel and a bucket of water close to the fire for emergencies. Ensure your fire remains at a controllable size and never leave it alone.

When you are ready to put your fire out, pour enough water on it to make sure every ember is drenched. Use dirt if water is not available. After stirring it all in, check to see that everything is cold before leaving or going to sleep.

Poisonous plants. When camping, it is a good idea to make sure your family members are familiar with which plants to stay away from. The most common are poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak. Unknown plants should be avoided. Remember to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. If contact with a poisonous plant is suspected, wash the area as soon as possible and apply hydrocortisone cream to suppress any itching.

Once safety is assured, the fun camping memories can be made. Remember these safety tips and have a great camping trip!

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.

Protect Your Skin This Summer

A mile above sea level, over 300 days of sunshine per year, and tons of outdoor activities means us Coloradans are catching more rays than the average American. However, all this time spent outdoors means we are putting a lot more stress on our skin. According to the CDC, Colorado has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the United States. The skin is the largest organ on the human body, and also one of the most susceptible to our outdoor lifestyle, so we must take the time to protect it.

Sun can have major and long lasting effects on people who don’t protect their skin. Taking the necessary steps will help you avoid these dangerous conditions:

  • Skin Cancer. According to American Academy of Dermatology, one in every five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Although most forms of skin cancer are easy to treat when caught early, other forms like melanoma are extremely aggressive and have been known to cause death.
    • According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, everyone should conduct a monthly head to toe self-examination of their skin to find any new or growing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. When caught early, skin cancer has high cure rates.
  • We all get older, there’s no preventing that, but how you take care of your skin will go a long way helping you look and feel younger. Unprotected skin can develop wrinkles, dryness, and age spots, so keep it protected.

Preventing skin damage comes down to only a few basic ideas methods:

  • Wear sunscreen. It’s all about personal preference, so find a brand or SPF you like and that will do a lot more for you as long as you wear it. Apply to your skin 30 minutes before going out, and reapply every two hours you are outside. Look for water resistant formulas to ensure that sweat and water don’t remove it. Also look for broad-spectrum protection, as a sunscreen should block all forms of light, even if it isn’t visible.
  • Understanding SPF ratings. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunscreen SPF is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce sunburns on unprotected skin. So an SPF 10, on a personal who would turn red after only 10 minutes, will last 100 minutes before they should reapply.
  • Cover up. If you are outside in nature, covering up will ensure that your skin comes into minimal contact with irritants such as poison ivy and grass Also, covering up will keep those pesky bugs off you and the sun off your skin. Wear a hat, preferably broad rim, and sunglasses – the sun damages your eyes too. Make sure you use high quality lenses, easiest way to tell is if they’re prescription ready.

Younger children are more susceptible to damage from the sun’s rays. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that children will get 80% of their total lifetime exposure from the sun before they turn 18. Every sunburn a child gets, doubles the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Make sure they wear sunscreen, sunglasses and lip protection.

Spending time outdoors is our reward for living in Colorado. Make sure you cover up and protect yourself and your family when you are outdoors to avoid unnecessary damage from the sun and keep you outdoors enjoying the great summer weather.

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!