Allergy season is upon us. We can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, until that familiar tingling in the nose sets in. For those who also suffer from severe allergies and/or asthma, this is a particularly difficult and dangerous time of the year. In some cases, allergies to spring’s pollens and dust can turn into allergic rhinitis, sinus infection, and for asthmatics serious breathing trouble. You don’t have to seal yourself into a bubble, however, to avoid the discomfort of spring allergies. Keep things clean and fresh and be surprised at the difference it makes.
Allergy-proof Your Cleaning Products
Before you dive into your spring-cleaning, it’s important to look at what you use to clean first. This might surprise you, but your cleaning products could actually be causing your allergic reaction more than seasonal allergies. Studies show that perfumes can trigger allergies in some people and are definitely bad news for asthmatics, so dump the air fresheners, scented detergents, furniture polish, everything, and opt for natural, unscented cleaners instead.
Scent isn’t the only thing that might be irritating to you and your family. Certain ingredients that were once thought as fantastic for cleaning are also detrimental to those suffering from seasonal allergies and asthmatics. Even if you do have unscented cleaners, check the labels for ammonia, bleach, calcium hypochlorite, chlorine, D-limonene, formaldehyde, sodium hypochlorite, and sodium lauryl sulphate. Don’t be surprised if your cleaning products fail to list the ingredients, and if they do, turn them in during your city’s next hazardous waste collection.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are plenty of simple, affordable, and natural cleaning options out there that will clean, sanitize, and freshen your home without harsh allergy-inducing chemicals. If you don’t want to purchase natural cleaners, make your own using ingredients such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemons, olive oil, salt, and white vinegar.
Clean Your Allergies Away
Once you’ve removed the irritants from your cleaning supplies, it’s time to clean. As you know, pollens and dust multiply exponentially in the spring and summer months. This is in part due to everything blooming and in part due to your doors and windows being open. Cleaning tasks that could have been put on hold in the winter cannot be set aside in spring, particularly if you are suffering from allergies. It’s time to roll your sleeves up, put on a mask if cleaning exacerbates your allergies, and follow these tips:
- Start outside. It does you no good to clean the inside of your home from top to bottom if dirt and pollen is going to be tracked in from the outside, particularly if you have carpeting to trap the irritants. Keep your driveway, walkways, front porch, and patios swept clean to avoid additional dust being tracked or blown into your house.
- Reduce your clutter. Speaking of dust, there is no better dust trap than a ton of knick-knacks, bookshelves full of books, boxes everywhere, magazines, newspapers, piles of clothes… I could go on. If your house is cluttered, it’s dusty, not to mention a lot harder to clean. Reduce your clutter to avoid dust traps. You don’t want the dust and you definitely don’t want the mites.
- Replace mattress covers and pillowcases. Speaking of dust mites, replace your mattress covers and pillowcases with dust-proof covering. It’s also wise to replace your bedding with hypoallergenic, natural options to ensure that your allergies are not being triggered at night during your sleep. The same goes for your blankets and comforters.
- Wash them weekly. Aside from protecting your mattress and pillows from dust mites, you should also wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in your washing machine’s hot cycle, and your blankets and comforters monthly. Use unscented, hypoallergenic, biodegradable laundry detergent and soften your bedding naturally with white vinegar or baking soda.
- Don’t dry outside. It admittedly saves energy to avoid using your dryer and air-dry your laundry, but as your linens and clothing are sun drying, they are also picking up pollen from the air. When your allergies kick up, dry everything in the dryer using the lowest heat setting possible to save energy, and skip dryer sheets – those are all kinds of trouble, including causing allergic reactions.
- Trap the dust. Speaking of the dust and pollen outside, you need to trap the dust and pollen inside while cleaning; otherwise, it’ll just be released into the air and settle onto your floors, furniture, and décor. Use damp clothes to wipe everything down instead of dry dusting, and make sure your vacuum has a good HEPA filter that traps dust instead of kicking it into the air.
- Watch for mold. Keep your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and any other area in your home where there is moisture as dry and clean as possible to avoid mold growth. Mold is a primary allergen and can be extremely hazardous to everyone’s health, particularly if you or a family member suffers from asthma. Air out damp environments and keep them clean.
- Do this weekly. You might be able to clean your house bi-monthly or monthly in the winter, but you won’t be able to in the spring and summer. Perform all of the steps above weekly to ensure that you are keeping dust and pollen down to a minimum, and vacuum at least twice a week; if you notice the house becoming dirty prior to your weekly schedule, clean earlier to avoid unnecessary irritation.
If you find after practicing these cleaning tips that your allergies aren’t getting any better, you may have to take drastic steps, such as redoing your flooring, curtains, and blinds to avoid allergy triggers like carpeting and heavy drapes that cannot be washed regularly. You might also have to keep your doors and windows shut and run your air-conditioning instead of allowing fresh, yet pollen-laden, air inside. I hope you don’t have to do this, because a beautiful spring day needs to come into your home. Either way, ease your seasonal allergies by keeping everything clean and dust-free.