D&C Fear Concreting

The project, Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House, now has a concrete slab as the foundation for what’s to come. After living in The House of Mouldy Horrors back in 2012, when I got sick, where the slab edges in the three bedrooms, including the main, that ran parallel to the garden and concrete driveway outside was leaking water, drying out to effervescent white in summer to wet patch in winter (the solution was to tar it, which we couldn’t). At night time, the damp night air stunk of soil, and ruined my health, I’m sure; while back at the farm house my health was fine enough to go back to school until I lived in that house with a ‘faulty’  slab. However, this slab is different: its smooth, with neat square edges, perfect lines; it’s solid as a steel-grey rock with a texture smooth-as-a-polished-knife.

Daniel Fear concreter: House slab, garage slab and cottage slab for the 'Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House' project

House slab, garage slab and cottage slab

After the moisture ingress issue with the slab at my last residence, ‘The House of Mouldy Horrors’, back in 2012, the place where my health deteriorated after exposure to mould caused by the quagmire of soggy soil surrounding the slab edges, we knew we had to find a good concreter who could lay us a chemical-free-as-possible slab with no petrochemicals or solvents used on site or on it;  one that would serve as a solid foundation for our blog project, Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House; but most of all, one that wouldn’t expose me to unnecessary chemicals most especially mould!

After shopping around via phone interviews, and gathering four different and varied quotes, I found this great concreting business:

DC Fear Concreting: tradespeople used in the book 'Build an Eco-friendly, Allergy Free House'

Daniel from D&C Fear Constructions Pty. Ltd.  

Location: 58 Lake Avenue, Ocean Grove, on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia.

P: 04 0369 3794

Daniel Fear and his team where not only helpful, respectful and careful in helping me stay safe within the parameters of my medical condition but were active in doing so. You can tell when a tradesperson is going to be helpful straight off the bat: They convey an understanding immediately, often asking questions with the gist of, How Not to Make you Sick. In my mind it’s pretty simple: I tell the dude or dudette that I need to avoid any exposure to petrochemicals, solvents, cleaners and any chemical not tested by us. (I also email or hand over an Allergist’s letter to all people we consider hiring.) After a couple of chats on the phone, we met up at our block and, yes dear readers, he was free of after-shave, fragrance and sprays.

Some people just get ‘it’ when asked, thankfully.

Yes, I know. I base my tradespeople reviews on whether they are wearing chemicals (dispersed onto their person via sprays from deodorants and fragrance—like, for real—I can tell even if it was sprayed on yesterday because it’s not as volatile and, when I breathe it in, it doesn’t sting my eyes not even one quarter as much.). The mantra I always say to all people whom I’ve asked to go fragrance free:

It’s not the smell; it’s the chemicals.

For the slab this wasn’t so important, but when I visited after it was finished, the place didn’t reek of petrochemicals. I was happy.

Also, when I arrived at the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project site on day 4, the last day of the concreting job, our load of hardwood (from Calco) for the house’s frame was just arriving on a big bloody truck, spewing out diesel fumes into the air.

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Not one to trust my boyfriend to take a photo (one in portrait and one in landscape) with correct white balance, a steady hand and sharp focus and from the right bloody angle, I popped on my 3M mask, assessed the wind direction and jumped out of the car to get some shots. (The ones with all the concreting action.) I noticed two things straight up: The jerry-cans of petrol were kept off the property by the gate [tick]; and, as I went to walk near the entrance to the block, Daniel, picking up a petrol can, asked,  “Do you want this moved?”, I said “no” cause I was leaving after getting my shots… (Like about 20 clicks of the camera and I was out of there.) But that’s my point: tradespeople taking our medical condition seriously. What can I say, make it happen.)

I cannot recommend D&C Fear Concreting highly enough for people who have allergies, chemical sensitivities or conditions relating to respiratory symptoms.

Dan and I came back later to check out our slab. Back when I imagined the concept of actually having a slab, I thought we would have a slab picnic but, due to some friends‘ advice, I was just playing it cautious by totally avoiding sitting on it for a few days until it was completely dry.

But here I am, contemplating the end result and feeling like I’m in a dream. Me? In my own house? It’s actually happening.

 

 

Click on of the images below for a slideshow of the action.

Our eco-designer specified for the slab to be 200 mm high. And most of the north-facing windows are large, coming all the way down to the floor so that it can absorb the sun’s heat in winter. Our eaves come out 600 mm so that the higher-in-the-sky summer sun is blocked by them, therefore, allowing the slab to stay cool because the sun is kept of the windows (I’ll blog more on this issue once I get time to post my research online.)

More on Thermal Mass

In rooms with good access to winter sun it is useful to connect the thermal mass to the earth. The most common example is slab-on-ground construction…

A slab-on-ground is preferable to a suspended slab in most climates because it has greater thermal mass due to direct contact with the ground. This is known as earth coupling. Deeper, more stable ground temperatures rise beneath the house because its insulating properties prevent heat loss. The slab assumes this higher temperature which can range from 16° to 19°C.

In summer, the earth has the capacity to ‘wick’ away substantial heat loads. It also provides a cool surface for occupants to radiate heat to (or conduct to, with bare feet). This increases both psychological and physiological comfort.

In winter, the slab maintains thermal comfort at a much higher temperature with no heat input. The addition of passive solar or mechanical heating is then more effective due to the lower temperature increase required to achieve comfortable temperatures.

Use surfaces such as quarry tiles or simply polish the concrete slab. Do not cover areas of the slab exposed to winter sun with carpet, cork, wood or other insulating materials: use rugs instead.

Chemical-based Curing Agents

Daniel also suggested not using a curing agent as they often contain petrochemicals because they’re oil based. I’ve even read about US companies pouring diesel over it to assist in curing correctly. However, even though chemical-based curing agents do guarantee the slab will cure perfectly, they may or may not be suitable for people sensitive to chemicals; it will depend on the individual and their sensitivities.

More from Holcim Australia:

Reasons for Curing:

To sum up the advantages of careful control of moisture and temperature in curing:

  • The strength of concrete increases with age if curing conditions are favourable. Compressive strength of properly cured concrete is 80 to 100 per cent greater than the strength of concrete which has not been cured at all;
  • Properly cured concrete surfaces wear well;
  • Drying, shrinkage, cracking is reduced;
  • Greater watertightness of constructions is assured;

Points to keep in mind when curing:  

  • Start curing operations as soon as possible after concrete has been placed;
  • For proper curing concrete needs moisture;
  • Continuity in curing is a must; alterations of wetting and drying promote the development of cracking;
  • If during curing the concrete is allowed to dry out – as may happen in hot weather – the chemical stops right at the point where the concrete loses its moisture;
  • The ideal curing temperature is 23°C;
  • Cure concrete for at least 7 days;

From Ei Wellspring, Things to Watch Out For:

  • Besides avoiding the concrete additives, there are various other pitfalls.
  • As mentioned some contractors pour diesel fuel [or other chemicals,which may or may not be safe for you to use] over a finished concrete slab to create a nice finish.  This happened for an MCS house.  They were unable to correct the problem in any other way than cover the slab with a heavy membrane and then pour a new slab on top.  This worked well, but cost a lot of money.
  • a barrier will also block any radon gas that may come from the soil, especially in areas with bedrock.  It is best to use multiple overlapping layers.
  • Make sure the slab inside the house is not exposed to the outside, or there will be great heat loss.  Such errors have been seen where the slab under the house extends out on a small patio or walkway.  Such thermal bridging is especially important to avoid when the slab is heated with an in-floor heating system.
  • Insulation used in the foundation must be designed for this use.  Inappropriate insulation may compress or disintegrate over time.  In America, proper insulation boards are rated for “direct burial,” and are generally referred to as “blue boards.”
  • Make sure any gravel trucked in is clean.  It is not unusual for such a load to be contaminated with oil spills or other contaminants.  Make sure it comes directly from a gravel quarry, and inspect each load.
  • Decide in advance what to do with any leftover concrete.  The driver cannot take it back, it has to be dumped or used somewhere on your property.  One option is to spread it on the driveway, where it turns into gravel.

The company, Termimesh, came while the slab was being poured so they could install a special type of mesh, which will protect our house from termites without using poisons; but more on this, as promised, soon.

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Dan the Vegan Eco-Builder Man

Dan is the builder of the house, it’s his actual responsibility to get it right. If this house doesn’t work, we will need to sell it and go back to Mt Macedon Ranges but for now, like ten years or so, we’ll have to live here. We need to get this project done right. Also, even though I buried Ganesh in the backyard for good luck, asking him to bless our digs and remove all obstacles placed in our way, however, I still wanted to follow the Greek tradition of putting a coin in the slab for extra good luck. This didn’t happen because there was just too much action going on at the house during the concreting process; instead, I’ve jammed a 50 cent piece Anzac coin under the side front door part of the hardwood frame (post coming up on the frame soon).

I can tell you about some old-school Macedonian stories related to mythology and luck when it comes to ‘blessing’ a new house that would make your vegan (if you are one) head spin:

But instead, I’ll leave on this note from Latman 100 from the Coin Community:

“I am a builder, and people still to this day request to place coins either in the slab or in some other part of the house. The strangest thing I have ever seen was a goat head placed in the slab of a house we built for a Macedonian family. Something to do with an old tradition.”

But I’ll save the details on this particular mythology for another blog post.

More

EI Wellspring: Building a Concrete Foundation for a Healthy House

Green Home Guide: Is concrete flooring eco-friendly? What’s the best way to finish it—stain, paint, polish?

Toxipedia: Dangers in our Home, Mould and More

The Labyrinth: DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

The Labyrinth: Reece Plumbing

The Labyrinth: KLM Plumbing

The Labyrinth: Modakboard

The Labyrinth: How Long Does it Take to Create a Safe Home

The Labyrinth: Building a House with Ganesh (Yes, I do love mythology.)

Coming up

The Labyrinth: The Steps to ‘How to Get a Low-toxic, Water-tight Slab’

The Labyrinth: The Steps to ‘How to get a Termite Proof Slab with without chemical-irritants with Termimesh’

The Labyrinth: More Research on ‘How to Avoid Slab Moisture Ingress’

The Labyrinth: Passive-Heating and Cooling in Eco-House Design

The Labyrinth: How to Test for Chemical and Natural Compound Tolerance to Building Materials and Products

The Labyrinth: Pristine Carpentry

The Labyrinth: Calco (low-toxic, chemically-irritant wood building supplies)

The Labyrinth: A Hardwood Frame

The Labyrinth: Shoji Doors

The Labyrinth: my up-and-coming book: Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly house

 

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Interview: Part II, ‘New Beginnings—No Turning Back’

Interview with Author of Allergic to Life: My Battle for Courage, Survival and Hope, Kathryn Treat

Firstly, for readers who don’t know of the author Kathryn Treat, she wrote the book, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Courage, Survival and Hope, which was very popular amongst the Allergy and Chemical Sensitivity Set (like the hippies and the science buffs!). She was also a blogger. The type who made you feel like you knew her in real life; the type you could sit down with and a have cuppa and a chat with. Well, that’s how it was for me anyway; as it was with many others.

Kathryn Treat had MCS and mould illness. She is the author of the book, Allergic to Life: my battle for survival, courage and hope. Sadly, she died from a stroke in December 2014

I know of people who changed their chemical usage practices just from making friends with her over the internet. Treat was not only approachable but she always seemed to have the right things to say at just the right moment. We’re not an easy lot, us chronically ill. However, being friends with Treat was like having that perfect aunt, always there with a kind word to pick you up, spur you on.

Here is a prime example of how she impacted one non-chemically sensitive person, Rachel Meeks’ life (for those of you with EHS or who are unable to watch the YouTube clip you can find a summary of the it here on this page (cause we at the Labyrinth are all about inclusion here!).

In part I of ‘New Beginnings—no turning back’, an interview with Kathryn Treat, Author of Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage and Hope, we spoke with Treat about her visits to the Dallas Environmental Health Centre (DEHC) starting in 2002, in Dallas under the care of Dr William Rea; the treatments she found helpful, such as LDA therapy, a chemical free living space, avoidance of chemicals to which she had been tested and deemed sensitive to, B12 injections, an elimination diet, food rotation and avoidance of food allergens, IV supplements of Glutathione, vitamin C and magnesium, acupuncture and saunas; and a non-toxic home built especially for her with materials she’s not reactive to.

In the final parts of this interview (long form style!), we will delve more into the specifics of her non-toxic home and the exact materials used. Then, in future parts we will study how she copes with Christmas and holidays; faith; her use of Tyvek suits; and how she avoids being exposed to fragrances! (I’ve not been well at all for some time. On and off. When I’m on I write a lot; however, I’ve had to learn to choose where to put my energy these days, so completing this interview has been a long slug: 2 years and 2 months so far. So you will have to excuse me and take my long-form journalistic interview in the parts as I offer them up.)

(Please note that, sadly, Kathryn Treat passed away from a stroke on 22nd December 2014. Part II is written in the present tense just as Part I was because, to me, it’s as if she is still with us. Her contributions to the MCS/ES community (and other communities touched by chronic/invisible illnesses) have touched many, and through her book, her blog and the many blogs and websites who featured her interviews, insights, comments and articles, and in the hearts of her family, her friends, readers and followers, she, along with her bravery and strength, live on within us all.

Kathryn Treat was a candle for people with MCS and related conditions, as she was for all who suffer with invisible and chronic illness; she reflected light and truth on our situation and plight.)

(Also, most excitingly: Part I of ‘New Beginnings—No Turning Back’ can be found in AESSRA’s Sensitivity Matters magazine, issue no. 82, December 2014 and on The Labyrinth ~ and finding my way out, here. Membership to AESSRA, including magazine subscription can be found here. I’m also chuffed to say that Treat’s book, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage and Hope, can now be borrowed by mail from the AESSRA library.)

Treat’s Diagnoses

(For those who are unable to read part I or don’t have the time or energy, in brief, a synopsis of the diagnoses observed in 2002 by Dr William Rea from the Environmental Health Centre, Dallas (EHCD) are as follows:

  • Toxic Encephalopathy secondary to mold, mold toxin and chemical exposure (when I was moved from the school with the mold to a new school being painted, etc. while we were trying to set it up for school to start [her sensitivities spread to substances other than mould])
  • Toxic Effects of Petrochemicals and Solvents
  • Toxic Effects of Mold and Mold Toxin
  • Immune Deregulation
  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Food Sensitivity (only safe foods at the time were rabbit, venison, deer, elk, cranberries, acorn squash, eggs, raspberries)
  • Mold Sensitivity
  • Pollen Sensitivity
  • Chemical Sensitivity
  • Chronic Sinusitits
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction
  • Multi-organ system dysfunction
  • Neurotoxicity based on SPECT scan
  • Hyper metabolic and hyper reactive state

Part II, ‘New Beginnings—No Turning Back’

The Path to a Non-toxic House

In the study titled, ‘Perceived Treatment Efficacy for Conventional and Alternative Therapies Reported by People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity’ by Pamela Reed Gibson, published in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), available on Pubmed, the three most highly rated treatments are, “creating a chemical-free living space, chemical avoidance, and prayer.’ With “Both creating a chemical-free living space and chemical avoidance” being rated by 95% of respondents as helpful.

When Treat first came home from the Dallas Environmental Health Centre, the house her loving husband and the father of her two daughters, Rick, hadn’t yet finished building the home especially created and modified to be allergy-free for her. It was at lock up stage only! He had to carry her across the mud outside, over the threshold and into the only room tiled and painted. Rick had made this one room safe: The office were she’s sitting today, at 6 am, US time, still warmly cloaked in her dressing gown, for this transatlantic interview via Skype!

Here, in this small office she lived 24/7 for four months while Rick finished erecting, plastering and painting the rest of the house’s walls, and tiling the floors around her.

Insulated from the outside world, in this pocket of controlled and filtered air, she spent her nights sleeping on a single portable metal cot with blankets folded as a mattress; during the day, she sat reading books, her only human company coming from the chatter emanating from a small radio she’d bought back from her stay in Dallas. And, at times with the radio off, the silence was deafening. “My toilet was a five-gallon plastic bucket. Rick would take it up to the other house and empty it in the toilet. Rick promised that he would work on getting the bathroom fixed as soon as possible. There were no interior doors. Sheets of plastic hung to separate the house from the garage, and my room from the rest of the house.” Would she ever come out of this room? Would her house ever be safe enough for her to spend her days in without the threat of anaphylaxis hanging over her head? Would she ever be able to cook her own meals, possibly even in her own kitchen? In her words: “It sure didn’t feel like it.”

At night, after working full-time as a teacher, Rick came home, dutiful and diligent, he worked on the house until late in the evenings. ‘Most fortunately [months previously] he secured living arrangements, to save on travel time (from work to the new house to home and back again each day), by renting the premises next door. “We didn’t have a lot of time to get this house built.” And, with the budget to build being so tight, because, while back in Dallas, they were spending tens of thousands of dollars on treatment, plus there was the cost of renting the condo she shared with another patient, and additional money spent on air-fares so Rick could fly out from California, so he could visit her, giving her a sense of security in a world abruptly tipped on its axis, she knew that she was lucky to have this cramped little room as her world.

Outside, orbiting like intergalactic planets seemingly far out of reach, were the rooms that were to become her safe home.

An Allergy-free, Safe Home

The pride in Treat’s voice when she talks of the safe, non-toxic home her husband built for her is unmistakeable. “The walls are pale butter; the Tesoro tiles are a lovely golden brown. If I could do it over again, I’d choose different tiles: these have indentations that hold the dirt. I use a commercial scrubber every once in a while just to get them clean.” For chemically sensitive patients, especially those with asthma and respiratory issues or symptoms bought on by exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), tiles are the stock standard item for a chemically-free living space. “It’s important to get porcelain tiles because they’ll keep the colour if they get chipped.” Maintenance and durability are typical concerns for someone living in any owner-built abode; ergo, most other elements of this home are so far from the typical home owner’s concerns as to be totally unimaginable to the average housing consumer:

Building Materials Used

  • Kiln-dried lumber;
  • Ceramic tiles throughout;
  • Formaldehyde free insulation;
  • The inside walls are made from formaldehyde-free sheetrock;
  • Zero Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints: Kelly Moore Eco-Care paints;
  • The outside is Stucco (Portland cement plaster wall) exterior;
  • The heating is an electric heat pump hooked into the central heating—instead of gas.
  • The cabinets are mostly oak (any wood that’s not solid, such as shelving made from chipboard or MDF, is completely sealed and encased in Formica, which is a hard plastic coating (as suggested by Dr Rea)). [For some chemically sensitive people] This stops it from outgassing the chemical irritant, formaldehyde;

What She’d Do Differently:

“There may be a few things I would have done that I didn’t do. But I am doing well here.” However, if they had the chance to build again:

  • The garage would be separate from the house; that way there’d be a breezeway between the two. This would stop car fumes from accidently entering into the home;
  • Whole-house water filtration system (rather than just filters on the showers);
  • A whole-house air filtration system;
  • She’d have all the walls with pipes back up to a closet that gives access to view the pipes;
  • And she’d choose a different location but as they already had the block when she first became ill, the choice to build a safe house on it, right there in sunny California, seemed like the smart thing to do.

She credits many of her home’s attributes to the book, The Healthy House: How to Buy One, How to Build One, How to Cure a “Sick” One, by John Bower (4th edition, November 28, 2000). “I also consulted with Dr. Rea when I had questions.”

Other elements that make this house a safe haven:

A HEPA air purifier;

As far as paints go, “The lighter the colour the less VOCs,” she says in an educative tone showing she’s an old hand at this. “My daughter is also ecologically minded and looks for low VOC paints,” Treat says proudly.

The window frames are made from vinyl. “This stops it from sweating. Dual or double pain windows help also.”

Perhaps other chemically sensitive people can’t tolerate the chemicals in vinyl but, as she was in Dallas while it was being built, by the time she came to live in the house it outgassed enough that the impact on indoor air-quality has never been an issue for her;

The baseboards/skirting boards are solid wood—not bare particleboard, which even ten years later would still be releasing formaldehyde into this much-needed clean living space.

The other problem with particleboard is that it can grow mould in between the particles if it gets wet.

These days, for Treat, the rooms are like bubbles of clean air, encapsulating her, protecting her from the outside world, now, medically deemed so unsafe, too tainted with chemical irritants, and far too polluted for her to be a part of for anymore than a fleeting visit. Treat has become so sensitised to mould that even the teeniest exposure can set her back for weeks. So, it’s a credit to her and her husband’s hard work that in the eleven years since living here, her health has improved immensely; and, as discussed in Part I, so long as she monitors how often and where to she ventures out, her immune system tolerates more foods and more exposures as time goes on.

Part III will discuss Treat’s innovative and successful use of Tyveks suits to protect her health and from mould contamination.

How did Kathryn Treat impact on your life?

More Love

Part I: New Beginnings—No Turning Back

Review: Allergic to Life: My Battle for Courage, Survival and Hope

Trailer: Allergic to Life: My Battle for Courage, Survival and Hope

Sonda MCS Chatter: MCS SISTER— KATHRYN TREAT & HER NEW BOOK/ “ALLERGIC TO LIFE”

Interview with Treat @ Do I Look Sick: Allergic to Life for Real

Book Review: Allergic to Life: My Battle for Courage, Survival and Hope

The Labyrinth: Tribute to Kathryn Treat

Brilliant Video Tribute from the blog, Do I Look Sick: #Pour1Out4MCS

The Labyrinth: In Loving Memory to Kathryn Treat

Kathryn Treat’s Book, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Courage, Survival and Hope, on Amazon

Join AESSRA and borrow it from their library (by mail!)

Kathryn Treat’s Blog: Allergic to Life My Battle

Jennie Sherwin: Kathryn C. Treat: Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Author, and Loving Friend. RIP

Goodreads: Your illness doesn’t define you –your strength & courage does!

Goodreads: Treat’s Author Page

Musings of a Dysautonomiac: Allergic to Life: Interview With Author Kathryn Treat

Kathryn Treat: Musings and Morsels from an Allergic Foodie (1-22-15)

Rave Reviews: Kathryn Treat ‘Book Giveaway’ Treasure Chest

 

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Nebraska Football Coach Builds Safe House for Wife, Dee

The Journal Star has reported that Nebraska football coach Mike Riley is building his wife a safe home free from chemical irritants that physically impact on her health:

‘”My wife (Dee) is really having trouble with the chemical sensitivity,” he said. “We moved stuff in there (the new house). But she can’t live there. It burns. It starts out with a rash, sore throat, headache …

“Every time she was in town and went back there to the house, it was bad. There’s nothing to it except for that. So, we’ve got another plan, which I’m kind of excited about. We have a couple possibilities for the short term downtown.”‘

After living in a house in Corvallis, Oregon State, they used chemicals that impacted on his wife, Dee’s health, “and started this whole process.”

‘After staying downtown in a condominium or apartment for a period, he said, the next stage would be to build a new home from scratch “with the correct material. That’s going to be the key.”

For now, the coach’s headquarters remain at the Embassy Suites downtown.’

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More

You can read more about this story, here over at The Journal Star

 

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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