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From almost the day she was born, our daughter seemed to easily react to things. Exposure to certain soap, lotion or food in particular caused her to wheeze or her skin to break out. We had our carpets cleaned one time, for example, and the soles of her feet developed hives after she walked across the newly cleaned carpets, a reaction to the cleaning products. As she grew, we became more aware of what her triggers were, how to avoid them and how to help or treat her. We affectionately called her our “canary in the mine”, as we knew that if she didn’t react to something, we had probably found a nontoxic solution to a given situation.

Having a family member that experiences allergic reactions has heightened my sense of safe and unsafe products around us. I’ve learned that an allergic reaction can happen at any time in life, whether as slight discomfort or full blown sickness. You may not be born with specific sensitivities; your body may be able to protect you for many years, especially if exposure is subtle and in minor increments over time. However, intolerance can build up and finally your system can overreact or overload.

Symptoms are a telltale sign of how your immune system reacts to an allergen; think of it as an automatic defense mechanism. It may be something harmless Dandelion(such as dust) but your body is naturally trying to protect you and kicks into high gear. For example, if the allergen is something you breathe in, your eyes, nose and throat are often affected. You may notice a rash or possibly asthma symptoms flare when you come into contact with or touch something, indoors or out. As we’re surrounded by all kinds of products and chemicals in our life today, finding the cause can take time, symptoms may escalate for some, making it almost impossible to sleep, breathe or live a normal life.

You’ve probably heard this statistic…..most people spend 90% + of their time indoors. We spend so much time indoors; it is the number one place we are under attack by various substances that didn’t affect previous generations. As Interior Designers we are aware of well documented cases that demonstrate while our buildings have become better insulated and more energy efficient, unless there is good ventilation, with multiple fresh air exchanges and filtration in place 24/7, we are literally trapped indoors with manmade products.

This is one of the many reasons Associates III is so passionate about helping create a healthy home environment, particularly for those with chemical sensitivities. A neutral zone is an important step in helping someone with chronic symptoms. Letting their bodies rest and allowing them to stop reacting is a key to creating a safe and nurturing space for healing to occur. By gradually exposing the family member to small quantities of specific materials, we can help identify and eliminate offensive products from their home or work environment. There are some general rules we follow to help make a safe and healthy home for all, whether they suffer ill health or not. We’ll share some of these with you over the coming weeks.

— Debbie Hindman