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Enjoy the latest trend in swimming pools

(BPT) – It was supposed to be a community swimming pool, but many people stayed away because they couldn’t tolerate the biting, nose-curdling odor of chlorine. Others experienced breathing and skin problems.

So the Evergreen Commons senior center in Holland, Michigan, converted its 65,000-gallon chlorine pool into a saltwater pool. People who had stayed away are now coming back, getting exercise and therapy, while socializing with others.

The senior center is hardly alone. Across the country, traditional chlorine pools are being converted into saltwater pools, sometimes called saline pools.

Swimmers noticed the difference right away after the switch, making their pool experience much more enjoyable. The new system also meant softer water without harsh chemicals that sometimes required a shower to wash off.

Homeowners and pool managers have many motivations for converting pools from chlorine to salt, including:

* Simplified, more convenient maintenance. Saltwater pool owners don’t have to buy, transport, store and handle hazardous chlorine chemicals. This saves time and money.

* Water that’s gentle on skin, eyes, nose and hair. Saltwater pools have approximately one-tenth the salinity of ocean water and about one-third the salinity of human tears, with no unpleasant chlorine smell.

* A more environmentally friendly approach. Routine pool maintenance doesn’t involve the handling and storage of manufactured chlorine and lessens the need for other potentially hazardous chemicals.

How do they work?

Saltwater pools use a generator to convert the salt into mild chlorine that keeps the pool free of harmful bacteria. This chlorine is added to the water at a constant rate, displacing the bad smell and burning irritation we normally associate with chlorine and maintaining the right amount. Once the chlorine sanitizes the pool it converts back to salt. The process continues, over and over again, conserving the salt and keeping sanitizer levels balanced.

The technology for a saltwater pool was first developed in Australia in the 1960s and today more than 80 percent of all pools Down Under use this system. In the United States, saltwater pools first began to see use in the 1980s and have grown exponentially in popularity. According to data published in Pool & Spa News, today there are more than 1.4 million saltwater pools in operation nationwide and an estimated 75 percent of all new in-ground pools are saltwater, compared with only 15 percent in 2002.

The other good news for homeowners and pool managers is that pool salt is far cheaper than traditional chlorine. This is a big reason why so many hotels and water parks in the United States have already made the switch. The initial construction and installation of an electrolytic converter is very small and easily made up in maintenance savings. Even converting an existing chlorine pool to saltwater pool can pay off quickly.

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5 baby formula myths debunked

(BPT) – The MythBusters on TV’s Discovery channel tackled hundreds — if not thousands — of myths in their 19 seasons on the air, but many questions still surround one topic never covered: infant feeding. Baby feeding has many pervasive myths, especially about infant formula. Here are five of those myths debunked by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, family physician and co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year:

Myth 1: Breast is best.

Fact: It depends on the mother and her baby. Baby formulas are a completely acceptable, doctor-approved and time-tested option when feeding baby. Breastfeeding is hard. It seems like it should be natural and easy, but so often it isn’t. A recent study conducted by Perrigo Nutritionals found more than half of moms experience issues when it comes to breastfeeding baby with low breast milk supply being the top concern. Additionally, while only 18 percent of new moms expect to introduce infant formula to baby during the first three days of life, in reality 45 percent relied on infant formula during those first days. If you experience breastfeeding challenges, look to formula as an ally — it can be used as a supplement while breastfeeding to provide some relief or used exclusively depending on mom and baby’s needs. Also, know that you can find help and support. Consider talking with a friend who has nursed her babies, your pediatrician, a lactation consultant or a local La Leche League.

Myth 2: You have to sterilize your baby’s bottles.

Fact: You do not need to sterilize your baby’s bottles. This is another time saver for you! You should sterilize new bottles and nipples before you use them for the first time. Simply put them in boiling water for five minutes. After that first time, however, you probably don’t need to sterilize them again.

Instead, you can run bottles and nipples through the dishwasher. Or if you’re “old school,” wash them in hot, soapy water. Rinse them carefully to remove any soap residue.

Myth 3: Babies prefer warm formula.

Fact: Not necessarily. It’s perfectly fine to feed your baby formula at room temperature (as long as it’s freshly prepared), or even a little cool from the refrigerator. Your baby is most likely to prefer his or her formula at a consistent temperature. In other words, if you start warming it you’ll probably have to continue warming it.

Here’s an easy way to warm your baby’s bottle: Set the filled bottle in a container of warm water and let it stand for a few minutes. Check the temperature of the formula on the inside of your wrist before feeding it to your baby. It should feel lukewarm, not hot.

Myth 4: Measuring formula isn’t a big deal — just “eyeball it.”

Fact: The instructions for preparing your baby’s formula are important. Follow the directions on the label carefully. If you put too little water in your baby’s formula, it can give baby dehydration or diarrhea. If you put too much water in the formula, you’re watering it down and your baby isn’t getting enough nutrients. It’s critical to measure carefully each and every time.

Myth 5: Brand-name formula is best.

Fact: Nationally advertised, brand-name formula and store-brand formula are practically identical but have different effects on your family budget! Did you know all infant formulas sold in the United States must meet the same FDA standards and offer complete nutrition for baby? That means store-brand formula is nutritionally comparable to nationally advertised brands. In fact, store-brand formula is clinically proven to support baby’s growth and development and proven to be just as well tolerated by your baby as those other brands.

So, what’s the main difference? Store-brand formulas cost less because they don’t spend millions of dollars on marketing. Think about all the ads you see on TV and all the samples that get handed out in doctors’ offices. In the case of those big brands, those marketing costs are passed on to you in the form of a higher price tag on each container of formula.

Once you get into the groove of feeding your baby, it will all feel like second nature. And then it will almost be time to give up the bottle!

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Top tips for making back to school a success

(BPT) – Summer days are getting shorter. Summer fun is winding down for the season. Bedtimes are starting earlier. And parents seem to be oddly excited.

Back to school is right around the corner.

For most kids, the thought of going back to school can be a drag. But it doesn’t have to be.

Marley Dias, 12-year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, knows a thing or two about balancing extracurricular activities and back-to-school readiness.

According to Marley, preparing for back to school is the key to success. “Tweens know, going back to school can be stressful and to conquer it with a smile takes guts,” said Dias. She offers these seven simple tips for parents to help make a smooth transition back to school.

1. Get Back to a Routine

A healthy routine is essential to getting your body clock back on schedule. A week before school starts, the family should wake up early and eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. For that week, everyone should try to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

2. Power Your Inner Potential

Seventy percent of the immune system is located in your gut. I take a daily probiotic like Renew Life Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic to stay healthy and operate at my best. Probiotics help keep my gut healthy, which improves my sleep, mood and memory, all important aspects to being a good student, especially during the first few weeks when you still feel sluggish from summer.

3. Reconnect with Friends

Your kids’ friends have been away at camp, on vacation or visiting relatives all summer long. Chatting with friends gets kids excited about the new school year and helps avoid the back-to-school jitters.

4. Set Goals

Having your kids set goals helps them attack the school year with purpose. Challenge them to improve at a subject, try a new sport or make a new friend. Ask them to write down their social and academic goals; you can’t get anywhere without a plan!

5. Shop!

Indulge in a new outfit or cool locker supplies for your kids. Buy those fun items, but also the functional ones that last throughout the year.

6. Getting Organized at Home

Getting organized now helps them tackle all of those upcoming assignments. Help them review old work to jog their memory. Plan outfits the night before. Pre-pack lunches and snacks. Post all assignments and activities in a visible spot in the house. And lastly, set up a home homework space. Kids need a dedicated place to focus.

7. Pick a Place to Just Breathe

Pick a peaceful spot at home where kids and parents can practice deep breathing and relaxation. The school year is a hectic time. Take a moment to push pause on all electronics. This quiet moment will help each member of the family prep their mind and body for everything the school year brings.

Getting back into a routine after summer takes guts. Make sure yours are up for it. To help keep your complex digestive system thriving and restore good bacteria, visit www.RenewLife.com. #beinghumantakesguts

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5 things parents need to know about HPV

(BPT) – Being a parent means looking out for your kids. When they were small it meant making sure they wore a helmet, crossed the street carefully and wore sunscreen. As they get older, the health challenges they face change. As they become adolescents, you can’t always be with them, so you warn against things like the dangers of alcohol and drugs and sharing too much on social media. But what about human papillomavirus (HPV) — a virus that can cause certain cancers and diseases? Learning about health risks your children may be exposed to as adolescents or young adults that can affect them later in life is the first step toward helping to protect them.

You may have heard about HPV, but you may not be aware of the impact it may have. As your children become adolescents it’s more important than ever to be their health advocate and learn about potential future health concerns, including HPV.

Here are five HPV facts for parents:

1. HPV is more common than you may think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and there are approximately 14 million new HPV infections in the United States each year. Half of these infections occur in people ages 15-24. For most, HPV clears on its own. But for others who don’t clear certain types, HPV can cause significant consequences in both males and females.

2. When HPV does not clear, it can cause certain pre-cancers, cancers and other diseases. These can develop very slowly and may not even be diagnosed until years later. There’s no way to predict who will or won’t clear the virus.

3. You may have only heard of HPV as a cause of cervical cancer in women, but there are other HPV-related diseases that can affect males, as well as females. Certain types of HPV cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar pre-cancers and cancers in females and other HPV types cause genital warts and anal cancer in males and females.

4. HPV often has no visible signs or symptoms, so many people are not even aware that they have it. This means people can pass on HPV without knowing it. It may take only one sexual encounter to be infected with HPV. HPV can be transmitted through experimentation that involves genital contact of any kind — intercourse is not necessary but is the most common.

5. You may think it’s too soon to worry about how HPV could affect your son or daughter, but the best time to get the facts about HPV is before they may be exposed.

As a parent you never stop looking out for your kids, and the more we learn about health risks for our children, the more we can do to help protect them as they grow up. Take action now, while you are still managing your adolescent’s health care. Speak with your child’s doctor for more information and be sure to ask about ways to help prevent HPV-related cancers and diseases, including vaccination.

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Fighting head lice can start with a conversation with your doctor

(BPT) – “Your child has head lice” is news no mother wants to receive. Not only can this common condition affect the child at home and at school, but it can also throw a family’s life off balance for days or even weeks.

Results of the new “Facts of Lice” online survey of 1,000 millennial moms (ages 18-35) and 350 pediatric health care providers (HCPs) suggest that some millennial moms may be receiving mixed messages from various sources about managing head lice. The “Facts of Lice” survey was conducted by ORC International on behalf of Arbor Pharmaceuticals between March 28 – April 10, 2017. Respondents were members of an online panel that agreed to participate in online surveys and polls.

Nearly all of the HCPs surveyed (95 percent) said that at least one parent had reported treatment failure using an over-the-counter (OTC) head lice treatment in the past year. Still, the majority (51 percent) of HCPs surveyed continue to recommend OTC treatment as a first-line option for their patients.

Considering a report stated that some parents may try OTC treatment up to five times before successfully eliminating head lice, the time and money commitment can become significant. Approximately 68 percent of millennial moms surveyed who had experienced head lice in their households reported they had failed to treat it successfully.

While head lice are not dangerous and do not carry any diseases, the survey explored the social and emotional impact the condition can have. Almost all (97 percent) millennial moms surveyed say they worry about the consequences of head lice on their children and households, including lost time at school (58 percent), inconvenience of an infestation (49 percent), fear of their child being bullied (45 percent), personal anxiety (44 percent), criticism from other parents (39 percent), ruined clothing or property (27 percent) and their own lost time at work (24 percent). Furthermore, 77 percent of moms surveyed say that their child was negatively affected, either socially, mentally, and/or physically, by having head lice.

The “Facts of Lice” survey findings highlight an opportunity for more effective conversations between parents and HCPs about head lice management. To address these findings, Arbor Pharmaceuticals developed educational resources to arm moms with tools to encourage conversations with their child’s doctor and promote understanding of how to get a head lice infestation under control and combat associated misinformation and stigma.

If you have received the news from your child’s school that your child has head lice, or you received a note saying he or she has been exposed and you suspect an infestation, it’s important to reach out to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to provide you with advice for treating head lice as quickly as possible. Some important questions to ask include:

1. What is the most effective way to control head lice?

2. What head lice treatments do you recommend?

3. Does my child need to stay home from school?

4. What can I do to eliminate head lice from my home?

5. How can I help so my child doesn’t feel embarrassed or isolated?

More head lice tools and information, including more questions to ask your doctor, can be found at FactsofLice.com.

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Is your child protected from preventable illnesses at school?

(BPT) – Fall is an exciting time for kids — seeing old friends, getting to know new classmates, learning new skills and exploring classrooms. But with all this fun and interaction, it’s important to remember one of the best ways to keep your child safe and healthy is to make sure he or she is up to date on their vaccinations. Vaccines have made many once-common serious childhood diseases rare today. They are safe, effective and they save lives.

“It’s critical to make sure that you and your children receive vaccinations according to the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control,” says John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Vaccines are important not only for school-age children, but for babies and young children, pregnant women, teens and pre-teens, adults and seniors.”

How exactly do vaccines work? According to the patient education website familydoctor.org, “Vaccines contain weakened versions of a virus or versions that look like a virus (called antigens). This means the antigens cannot produce the signs or symptoms of the disease, but they do stimulate the immune system to create antibodies. These antibodies help protect you if you are exposed to the virus in the future.”

Much like how an athlete trains to prepare for competition, vaccines train your immune system to respond in case the body is exposed to the virus. If it is, it knows exactly how to fight it off. Vaccines help you stay healthy, and if you do get sick, it might be less severe or for less time when compared to others who have not been immunized.

The CDC lists recommended immunizations for the prevention of 17 diseases to protect people from birth through old age. All states require children to be vaccinated against certain communicable diseases in order to attend school.

Information about recommended immunization schedules for people of all ages is available at familydoctor.org. On aafp.org, you can find an interactive map showing vaccine-specific coverage levels for each state.

If anyone in your family is behind on their vaccinations, it’s easy to catch up. Speak with your family physician about creating a plan. You might even be able to schedule vaccine-only visits, meaning you won’t even need an exam.

Concerned about costs? Vaccines are typically covered by health insurance, so it’s likely you won’t have to pay anything. If you don’t have health insurance, reach out to your state public health department. Many offer assistance programs that provide vaccines at a reduced cost.

Visit familydoctor.org for health information the whole family can use.

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Fighting the morning clock? 9 no-fail ways to get out the door on time

(BPT) – As the sun shines through the curtains, you hit the snooze button again. Suddenly you bolt up, realizing you’re running late. You skip breakfast, grab your bag and rush out the door. Stress levels skyrocket and your day has barely begun.

The race against the clock at the start of the day is a common problem. Mornings shouldn’t be difficult and certainly not something you dread. To get out the door on time and with a grin on your face, consider these nine no-fail tips.

Bedtimes aren’t just for kids: A great morning starts the night before. A regular bedtime is as important for adults as it is for children. Go to bed with the goal of getting seven to nine hours of sleep, as is recommended for adults by the National Sleep Foundation.

Use the night prior to your advantage: Mornings flow smoothly when you do a lot of prep work the evening before. That means select outfits, pack bags and backpacks, and organize any paperwork before you hit the hay.

Stock the fridge for health and convenience: It’s always smart to have delicious and nutritious ingredients in your fridge like fresh fruits, veggies and eggs. Eggs are especially versatile and packed with nutrition. Look for eggs with added nutritional benefits like Eggland’s Best eggs. In a hurry? Try Eggland’s Best Hard-Cooked Peeled Eggs for a ready-to-eat lunch or snack.

Meal prep on Sunday: Another fridge-friendly tip is to do Sunday prep for the week. For example, chop up veggie spears or fruits and place in individual containers for easy grab-and-go snack options to pair with your hard-cooked eggs.

Learn to love the alarm: Rather than just setting one alarm for waking up, try setting several to keep your morning routine on track. For example, set one for when it’s time for breakfast and another as a five-minute warning for departure.

Eliminate distractions: The fewer distractions you have, the better your chances of meeting the morning clock. That means resist the urge to check your smartphone or have a rule that the TV remains off until all morning tasks are complete.

Check it and forget it: It can be highly effective to make a specific list with morning to-do’s for you and your family members. As each task is complete, you get the satisfaction of marking it off your list, plus it keeps the morning moving quickly.

Adjust your attitude: A positive attitude doesn’t only start your day out on the right foot, it can also help you stay focused so when you’re racing against the clock, you win every time (and with a smile on your face).

Don’t forgo breakfast: The most important meal of the day doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Make-ahead breakfasts and easy recipes are your key to a delicious morning without running late.

These delicious Make Ahead Breakfast Bowls will fuel your family throughout the day with superior nutrition. By choosing Eggland’s Best eggs, you get six times more vitamin D, 25 percent less saturated fat, more than double the omega-3s and vitamin B12, and 10 times more vitamin E than ordinary eggs.

Make Ahead Breakfast Bowls

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes

1 green pepper, seeded then chopped into 1-inch chunks

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon seasoned salt

salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3 green onions, chopped

toppings: tortilla chips, salsa, avocado

6 individual-sized containers with lids

PREPARATION

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. On a large baking sheet, place potatoes, peppers and onions in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoned salt and ground black pepper. Toss until evenly coated.

3. Roast for about 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and tender, stirring and rotating pan halfway through cooking.

4. Meanwhile, crack Eggland’s Best eggs into a large bowl, then season with salt and pepper and whisk until smooth.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then spray with nonstick spray and add eggs.

6. Scramble until the eggs are just barely cooked through and still slightly glossy, then scoop onto a plate and set aside.

7. Divide the potatoes and scrambled eggs evenly between the containers, then set aside to cool.

8. Once cool, sprinkle with cheese and green onions, then cover and refrigerate. Freeze any portions that aren’t eaten within three days.

9. To reheat from frozen: microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, then stir and continue microwaving until food is reheated, stirring between intervals. Top with optional toppings, then serve.

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Focusing on Family Health: August is National Immunization Awareness Month

(BPT) – National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), held each year in August, is a great time to review your family’s vaccination records. NIAM was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them and their family members.

Vaccination is considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements of the last two centuries. Over time, successful vaccination campaigns have contributed to the elimination (or near-elimination) of some diseases in the US.

Eating well, staying active and getting enough sleep are all great ways to help live a healthy lifestyle. But keeping up-to-date with recommended vaccines is an important part of doing everything you can to help protect your family’s health.

August is an ideal point in the year to consider seasonal health check-ups, to address the upcoming flu season and back to school time.

Flu season occurs in the winter; but flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May.

Today vaccines can help to protect against 14 diseases before age two, but it is also important to know that vaccines are not just recommended for infants. There are vaccines recommended for school-age children, from preschoolers to college students. Making sure that children receive all their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things you can do as a parent to help protect your children.

In the US, most young children receive many of the recommended vaccines, but there is room to improve vaccination rates among all groups, including adolescents and adults.

It’s important to help make sure that everyone in your family gets their recommended shots, at the recommended time.

To learn more, talk to your healthcare provider about vaccines that may be recommended for you and your family, and visit www.vaccinesandyou.com.

This information was provided by Merck

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Mangos bring families together around the world

(BPT) – Ayesha Curry was raised by great women who instilled in her a passion for cooking. This passion has helped Ayesha both launch her career and prioritize spending time with her family in the kitchen. But even as a celebrity chef, author and foodie, Ayesha sometimes struggles to think of new, wholesome and delicious meals to bring to her table. When she finds herself needing a little food inspiration, Ayesha turns to the experiences and flavors of her childhood.

Mango love runs deep

Ayesha grew up with a Jamaican grandmother who had mango trees in her backyard, so eating and cooking with the fruit reminds her of home. A lot of people don’t know this, but mango is the world’s most popular fruit and iconic in many cuisines across the globe. While its sweetness and versatility make it a perfect addition to any favorite dish, mango is also delicious on its own and is often simply paired with the spices of the country.

In Ayesha’s home, not only does everyone love mango for its incredible flavor, but because it’s a superfruit. At 100 calories per cup, mangos are packed with vitamins and nutrients, and are a good source of fiber, making them a perfect food for any family.

Make it with mango!

When Ayesha is in the mood for something special and with a little cultural flare, she whips up her Jerk-Rubbed Chicken Skewers and Mango Salsa. Jerk chicken is a family-favorite recipe for Ayesha, and adding the sweet flavor of mango gives it a delicious twist.

Jerk-Rubbed Chicken Skewers with Mango Salsa

Servings: 4-6 skewers

Ingredients:

Mango Salsa

2 cups mango, chopped

1/4 cup red onion

1/4 cup cilantro

1/2 tbs lime juice

1 tsp jalapeno, finely diced

1/4 tsp salt and pepper

Jerk Chicken Rub & Skewers

3 cloves minced garlic

3 tbs olive oil

1 shallot, finely minced

1 tbs fresh thyme leaves, finely minced

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground clove

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 pound chicken breast, cubed

Skewers, soaked in water

Instructions:

Mango Salsa

Combine all ingredients. Let sit and allow flavors to meld while you prepare the chicken.

Jerk Chicken Rub & Skewers

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Coat cubed chicken well with the rub. Marinate for 30 minutes or more. Skewer 4-6 pieces of chicken per stick. Cook on a grill pan at medium high heat. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Cook for about 15 minutes or until juices run clear. Place the chicken on or off the skewer and spoon the Mango Salsa on top.

Get your hands on a perfect mango

Mangos are available year-round, so you can always get your hands on a perfect mango. If you’d like to make mango your go-to ingredient, here are some tips and tricks Ayesha shares with family and friends:

  • Selection. To find a ripe mango, just squeeze gently. A ripe mango will be slightly soft like a peach or avocado.
  • Ripening. Keep unripe mangos at room temperature. Once ripe, mangos can be moved to the refrigerator to slow down ripening for several days.
  • Cutting. To cut a mango, simply slice off the sides of the fruit, avoiding the large seed in the center. Once you have these two sides, you can slice or dice as needed. Then, simply scoop it out of the skin. You can also cut around the seed to get two extra slices of mango and let your kids gnaw on the seed!

Mangos at the grocery store

While there are many mango varieties to covet, Ayesha’s kids love Honey mangos because they’re super sweet and creamy! Here’s a quick look at the most common mango varieties you’ll find in U.S. grocery stores:

Honey. Sweet, creamy and vibrant yellow. Small wrinkles appear when fully ripe. Peak availability is March – June.

Francis. Rich, spicy and sweet, with yellow skin and green overtones. Peak availability is April – June.

Haden. Rich in flavor with fine fibers, often bright red with green and yellow overtones. Peak availability is March – May.

Keitt. Sweet and fruity, with juicy flesh, limited fibers and green skin. Peak availability is July – September.

Kent. Sweet and rich, dark green mangos with red blush. Peak availability is December – February and June – August.

Tommy Atkins. Mild and sweet, these dark red mangos are the most widely grown variety coming into the U.S. Peak availability is March – July and September – October.

Who will you share the mango love with today?

Learn More

Visit www.mango.org for additional information on mango nutrition, selection tips, cutting methods and much more.

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Allergens and indoor air quality: 4 steps to a healthier home

(BPT) – When at home, you’re probably relaxing, playing with the kids or tackling chores. What you aren’t likely doing is thinking about the air you’re breathing. Unfortunately, the reality is poor indoor air quality in residential spaces is a major problem.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission points to a growing body of scientific evidence that the air within homes can be more polluted than the outdoor air in large, industrialized cities. In fact, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) studies found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be two to five times higher inside homes than outside, regardless if the home is in rural or industrial areas.

While you can’t control the allergens and pollutants lurking outside, there are many ways to take action inside the home to improve your indoor air quality. From installing BEAM central vacuum systems to implementing smart moisture mitigation strategies, follow these four steps and breathe easier at home:

Step 1: Eliminate dust mites

Dust mites can be prevalent, especially in bedroom spaces. Wash all sheets, blankets, pillowcases and bed covers in hot water that is at least 130 degrees F. to kill dust mites and remove allergens, notes the Mayo Clinic. If bedding can’t be washed in hot water, put items in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at a temperature above 130 degrees F.

To further prevent mites in sleeping spaces, use dust-proof or allergen-blocking covers on mattresses, box springs and pillows. If you have kids, don’t forget to wash stuffed animals regularly in order to sanitize.

Step 2: Vacuum smarter

One of the easiest things you can do to improve indoor air quality is to vacuum thoroughly and regularly on all levels. However, traditional vacuums are heavy and difficult to move to different floors. Furthermore, they can kick up more dust into the air than they are removing. Due to these concerns, many homeowners are considering the benefits of central vacuum systems.

For example, BEAM central vacuums remove air, dirt and dust vacuumed from the home, whereas conventional vacuums may filter dirt and dust but recirculate the same air via the exhaust back into the home. BEAM Central vacuum maintenance is easy because the units have a self-cleaning filter that helps improve air quality during the vacuuming process.

How do central vacuums work? These systems have one permanent, hidden power unit with inlets in walls throughout the home that attach to power hoses and accessories. BEAM central vacuum systems are engineered with motors that provide powerful suction for a deeper clean; however, with the power unit located away from the living area, the quiet hush of airflow is all you will hear.

Step 3: Freshen air wisely

Open windows aren’t always the best way to bring in fresh air. When pollen levels are high, the spores can come into a home and stick to every surface. On high-allergen days, refresh air and cool the home with fans or the air conditioner, and clean preferably with a central vacuum to maintain high indoor air quality.

As an additional line of defense against dust mite debris and allergens, you should use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter with your central furnace and air conditioning unit, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. If that’s too costly, the EPA says filters with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) between 7 and 13 are likely to be nearly as effective as true HEPA filters at controlling most airborne indoor particles. No matter which you use, try to change the filter every three months.

Step 4: Mitigate moisture

Mold thrives in dark, damp climates, so it’s important to eliminate places for growth. To start, be aware of moisture levels throughout the home. Always use the bathroom exhaust fan to inhibit moisture buildup. Fix leaky faucets as quickly as possible and stay on top of maintenance for appliances like the refrigerator and air conditioner.

Additionally, consider using a dehumidifier to decrease the amount of moisture inside the home. This can be particularly important during rainy seasons or in basement or cellar spaces, if your home has them.

You can breathe easy with these four easy steps to better indoor air quality. To learn more about a healthy, clean home, visit www.buybeam.com.

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