How Michael Jackson and Duct Tape Saved Me

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I have developed allergies over the last several years. They include all the regular symptoms like sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and runny nose, but I’ve learned that it also includes what I thought were colds and the flu (I think it even triggers attacks of bronchitis and sinusitis in some people). My doctor even thought my last bout was the flu but the test was negative — it was a severe allergic reaction, probably to tree pollen.

The "cure" for allergies is steroid shots or pills which can work just fine, but they can also be worse than the allergies themselves. The medical profession’s best "defense" against allergies is steroid sprays and daily pills such as Allegra or Claritin. These work fine for minor allergies, but can be virtually powerless against severe allergies. You can also take allergy shots, but these are somewhat expensive and you have to take the shots weekly (they don’t hurt) for years with no guarantee of success or a permanent cure.

Then there is the 3M Company, the old Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company that is now most famous for its Post-it notepads. It turns out that their product line (55,000+ products) actually has some great products that are better, cheaper, and more accessible than those offered by the medical establishment. At the very least they help reduce the impact of many common allergies.

Here is where Michael Jackson comes in. You may remember that during his trial that one of the bizarre things he did was to wear a facemask. Many people thought he was trying to hide his face from the media’s cameras or to hide his plastic surgery. Actually, it turns out that he had allergies and he was using the mask to filter pollen from the air he was breathing.

3M 8000 N95 Particulate Respirator

It turns out that you can buy a pollen-quality mask for less than a dollar and they last a long time. I wear them when I work in the yard during the worst of the pollen season. It really works well after you become accustomed to wearing the mask.

The next little invention actually brings together two 3M products with a twenty inch box fan. The first is the Filtrate filter which is designed for forced-air heating and cooling systems in your home. These are much more expensive than typical filters, but I think they are worth it. You will need to buy either a Red (1000-good), Green (1100-better), or Purple (1250-best) model. They are designed to last for three months on average.

You may not have a forced-air system, and even if you did, those systems usually do not operate enough during allergy season — especially spring and fall — to remove enough pollen and mold spores to be of much use. That is why you buy the 20-inch by 20-inch version of the filter and attach it to the box fan.

How do you attach it? Well, you don’t have to be a Southerner to know the answer to that one. You simple lay the box fan down (front side down) and place the filter on the back of the fan with the air-flow direction arrow facing downward and "duct tape" the filter to the fan trying to produce an airtight seal so that as much air gets drawn in though the filter as possible. I’ve dubbed this contraption the 3M/MT.

I keep one of these 3M/MT allergen eliminators in the bedroom area of the house for use at night and one in my office for use during the day. They are lightweight and easy to move around. I change the filter every two months because I leave them running eight to twelve hours a day on low speed. In addition to reducing pollen and mold spores the 3M/MT reduces dust, animal dander, and typical household smells like fried catfish.

Amazing! Who would have thought that Duct Tape could "fix" allergies?

It turns out that just about the only thing that Duct Tape can’t fix is the problems of government intervention.

Mark Thornton [send him mail] is an economist who lives in Auburn, Alabama. He is author of The Economics of Prohibition, is a senior fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and is the Book Review Editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is co-author of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War and is the editor of The Quotable Mises (available soon).

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