For most people, spring is a time to celebrate warm air and fresh growth. For others, it marks a time when it is dangerous to set foot outdoors for fear of breathing in pollen and other allergens that go mostly undisturbed all winter. But the truth is, most common allergens are building up in our homes, so the only way to reduce coughing and sneezing is to clean up.
The four most common allergy and asthma triggers are:
About 15 per cent of the population reacts to animal dander, dead skin flakes that can get trapped in carpets, furniture, bedding and curtains. Some people also react to fur or litter boxes.
2. Dust and dust mites
Eighty per cent of asthmatic children are allergic to dust mites. These miniscule critters feed on human skin, but it's actually their droppings that cause reactions.
3. Mould and mildew
These enemies are fuzzy growths that thrive in moist places like the kitchen or bathroom. Mould forms on organic matter, and mildew grows on fabrics, so repair leaks and keep everything in your house clean and dry.
Most people with pollen allergies try to stay inside during peak seasons, but pollen can gather inside, too. It gets trapped in clothes and comes in through the window and sticks to all surfaces.
The best way to avoid reacting to these allergens is to minimize or prevent their buildup (or eliminate it, where possible).
Try some of the following housekeeping tips to keep your family comfortable:
• Vacuum and dust regularly.
• Blinds are dust magnets: keep them clean or consider switching to curtains.
• Keep window frames, sills and screens clean and look out for condensation, mould and mildew.
• Keep your furnace filter fresh by replacing or cleaning it once a month.
• Clean the dust from your computer tower once or twice a year. For tips on proper care of your desktop computer, go to bleepingcomputer.com.
• Purchase air filters or purifiers for allergic people's bedrooms.
• Clean sheets regularly and replace pillows every few years.
• Keep your closet door closed and keep loose items in plastic storage bins.
• Eliminate clutter and dust collectors from tabletops, shelves and dressers.
• Vacuum both sides of mattresses every few months.
• Use rugs and mats at doorways to trap dirt immediately, but if necessary, eliminate carpet elsewhere in your home.
• Regularly brush and bathe your pets to minimize dander and stray fur.
• Keep pet beds and toys clean with regular washing.
• Sponge down or squeegee your shower walls after use and keep the curtain or door open.
• Regularly clean your kitchen with an antibacterial cleaner designed to target mould and mildew; this includes wiping out your fridge and keeping the crisper drawers clean and dry.
• Regularly wash soft, machine-washable toys and wipe down those with hard surfaces.
• If someone is allergic to a pet, keep Fluffy or Fido out of that person's room and off furniture.
• Use scent-free cleaning products.
• Open windows while cleaning to minimize your inhalation of products.
Unfortunately, allergens won't disappear after one thorough cleaning. To keep your family symptom-free, it is necessary to keep up a regular cleaning schedule.