Spring Cleaning with Allergies & Asthma
Your Guide to Keeping Tidy and Healthy
Spring cleaning can be more than just a daunting chore for people with allergies and asthma. Dust, pet hair, and fumes from cleaning supplies can leave you reaching for the tissues instead of the broom. But spring cleaning can also help you avoid allergy symptoms.
“Thoroughly cleaning your home can help eliminate allergens and keep new ones from easily entering,” says allergist James Sublett, MD, ACAAI president-elect and past chair of the ACAAI Indoor Environment Committee. “Allergy season can last all year for those sensitive to indoor allergens, but it can worsen in the spring months when pollen becomes an issue. It’s important to remove allergens from the home so you can lead a healthy and active lifestyle.”
To help eliminate spring-cleaning confusion – and symptoms – here are some useful tips for removing allergens in the home while avoiding accidentally letting more in.
A Fresh Breeze Won’t Please
The first sign of balmy temperatures might give you an urge to open your windows to let in fresh scents. But this can also lead to unwanted pollen particles entering the home and making you sneeze long after your spring cleaning is complete. Before you reach for the air fresheners and candles to get your fresh-scent fix, be aware that chemicals found in these items can spur asthma attacks. Your best option is to opt for natural aromas from the oven, or you could try an organic air freshener.
Cleaning the entire house from top to bottom may take
... but you can get a head start by changing your air filters every three months.
Bathrooms, basements, and tiled areas can be especially prone to mold. The key to reducing mold is moisture control. Be sure to use bathroom fans, and clean up any standing water immediately. Scrub any visible mold from surfaces with detergent and water, and completely dry the area. You can also help ward off mold by keeping humidity in the home below 60 percent and cleaning gutters regularly.
Love Your Pet, Not Its Dander
After spending many days indoors during the winter, fur, saliva, and dander from your family pet are likely elevated throughout your home. Remove pet allergens by vacuuming frequently and washing upholstery, including your pet’s bed. Additionally, you should keep your pet out of your bedroom at all times to ensure you can sleep symptom-free.
Whole-House Deep Cleaning
Cleaning the entire house from top to bottom may take days, but you can get a head start by changing your air filters every three months and using filters with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of 11 or 12. Also be sure to vacuum regularly to get rid of dust mites. Use a cyclonic vacuum, which spins dust and dirt away from the floor, or a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Wash bedding and stuffed animals weekly.
Don’t Neglect the Great Outdoors
As the grass turns green and flowers bud, it’s hard to restrict your spring cleaning routine to the indoors. It’s best to avoid being outdoors when pollen counts are highest (midday and afternoon hours). Remember to take your allergy medication before you go outside. When mowing and gardening, wear gloves and an N95 particulate pollen mask. Avoid touching your eyes, and wash your hands, hair, and clothing once you go back indoors.
Even when you reduce the number of allergens in your home, allergy symptoms can still be bothersome. If you have seasonal and perennial allergies, you should make an appointment with a board-certified allergist, who can identify your allergy triggers and develop a treatment plan to eliminate your symptoms.
For more information about seasonal allergies, and to locate an allergist, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, March/April 2014.