It’s finally spring, even though many of us felt it would never happen. Some dread the outdoors in spring and summer. Pollen allergies can wreak some havoc.
But there are also allergens in our homes at any time of the year, with spring and summer increasing the hazards that we find in our carpets, furnishings and throughout the house.
An allergen is something that causes an allergic reaction. In our homes, this can mean dust, mites, spores, molds and deposits made by insects. So take a good look around your house and see what can be done to reduce or eliminate allergens that cause so much discomfort.
Carpets and furnishings need to be vacuumed regularly to get rid of mites, dust and dirt that cause sneezing, runny noses and upper respiratory discomfort. Vacuum all rugs and carpets weekly and dust frequently.
Wash sheets and bedding at least bi-weekly if not weekly (vacuum mattresses once a month) and ensure that the wash is hot. Vacuum window treatments and keep fans clean, as they can quickly spread dust and dirt.
Opening windows on low pollen days will circulate clean air. Use air conditioning as little as possible. Air conditioners and furnaces need to be kept in good order.
Avoid clutter and too many knickknacks and fake plants, as they can be excessive dust collectors. Eliminate what you don’t need, and keep what you do need well dusted.
This goes for newspapers, book shelves and the like. While a home should have plenty of character, cleanliness is important for allergen elimination.
Groupon and other coupon services have great deals for household cleaning. Natural cleaners like lemons, limes, borax, vinegar and baking soda are good for people with allergies and better for the environment.
Mold is dangerous. Homes need to be checked for mold, and damp areas need to be treated. When it comes to potentially wet places like bathrooms and basements, Health.com has a warning.
“Moist bathroom or basement walls love to breed mold. Wipe them down with a chlorine-bleach solution (1 ounce bleach to 1 quart H2O) to keep fungus at bay. In the fall, mold also moves indoors via wet leaves on shoes and damp firewood. Store wood in a separate dry space, like the garage, and keep the yard leaf-free.”
Our beloved pets can also be very challenging contributors to the household allergen problem due to the dander they emit, but they are such an important part of our lives that finding a way through is vital. There are lots of ways to deal with Fido's and Fluffy’s fur.
A good daily or weekly brushing is great for dogs and cats and they generally like it (even cats!) so bring them outside and brush away. This will remove a shocking amount of loose fur.
Make sure they are free from fleas, and examine them for ticks regularly. Animals' fleas can spread like wildfire throughout your home.
If you're thinking about what type of pet to get, consider adopting a short-haired cat or non-shedding dog if allergies are known. There’s nothing worse than having to give a pet up due to allergies.
Dogs and cats like to be brushed and cleaned, just like their humans!
The Humane Society has more advice. They advise using HEPA cleaners that suck away dander and dust, rather than pushing it around the house.
They also recommend that the bedroom become a pet-free zone, even though it’s hard to be away from our furry friends overnight. Encourage them to sleep in their own beds, and keep those beds clean.
If allergies are more serious but you don’t want to lose your pet, the Humane Society has some suggestions.
“Additional treatments for allergies to pets include immunotherapy (allergy shots), steroidal and antihistamine nose sprays and antihistamine pills. It is important to find an allergist who understands your commitment to living with your pet. A combination of approaches—medical control of symptoms, good house cleaning methods, and immunotherapy—is most likely to succeed in allowing an allergic person to live with pets.”
Healthy housekeeping habits as well as vigilance against household toxins can help keep your allergies at bay. A thorough cleaning can be a bit daunting but once the home is in order, you need as little as 20 minutes a day for upkeep.
Stay sane this spring/summer and enjoy spending time in your home with your loved ones, including those all important four-legged friends.
Health.com. How to Stop Allergies at Home. Web. Retrieved April 10th, 2015.
The Humane Society. Resources. How to Live with Allergies and Pets. Web. Retrieved April 10th, 2015.
Reviewed April 14, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith