For the millions of Americans that suffer from allergies, terms like “allergens” and “reactions” may evoke stress and anxiety. The fact of the matter is, we live in a world teeming with bacteria, microorganisms, and allergens that can wreak havoc on our delicate systems if we don’t take steps to clean our living spaces. Read on to see what can be done in your environment, as well as steps you can take to minimize allergen exposure when you are out in the big wide world.
How do allergies develop?
If you were lucky enough to skate through your childhood without itchy and watery eyes, you are not out of the woods yet. Allergies can develop at any time; the are your immune system responding in “hyper drive” to ward off a substance that it has identified as threatening or irritating to the body. Substances like pollen, mold, and animal dander can cause a histamine response involving nasal passages, sinuses, airways, skin and even the digestive system. Depending on the severity of the allergy, one can experience severe consequences and even anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition.
What are some of the most common allergens?
Some of the most common allergens present in our homes include:
- Food products
- Animal dander
- Dust Mites
- Insect stings
Hundreds of other substances are known to cause allergic responses in the body, and knowing what triggers an allergic response will be a critical part of minimizing your discomfort and reducing your symptoms. If you are now looking around your home in horror, not to worry. There are some things you can do to clean up your environment and reduce the risk of developing an allergy. Follow these suggestions to reduce your exposure to allergens:
1. Reduce the number of dust mites living in your home
While it may not be possible to completely eliminate the presence of dust mites in your home (there are millions), you can regularly clean and disinfect surfaces where they might be taking up residence. Consider these steps to reduce your exposure:
- Choose wood or hard floors instead of carpet
- Choose leather or upholstered furniture rather than fabric
- Clean soft toys, cushions, and other fabrics regularly either by vacuuming or washing in hot water
- Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses and pillows
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
- Regularly clean and dust surfaces to remove surface dust and debris
- Implement the use of a high-quality air purifier inside your home
Spend most of your cleaning time in areas that you spend a great deal of time in, such as your bedroom and living room, both known to have a heavy fabric presence.
2. Clean up after your pets
Contrary to popular belief, it is not pet fur that causes an allergic reaction, but rather the flakes of dead skin, saliva, and dried urine that get sloughed off your furry family member daily. Consider giving your pet some outside time to run this debris off, and while they are out for their daily exercise, put these cleaning measures to work.
- Put pets outside regularly
- Do not allow pets on bedding or in bedrooms
- Wash and groom your pet at least once weekly
- Wash all fabrics that your pet regularly sits or sleeps on
- Use an air filter with filter specific to pet dander
- Increase ventilation by installing fans or opening windows
Dusting and vacuuming may exacerbate your pet dander problem, so wear a mask when performing these cleaning procedures, letting the “dust” settle once more before you take in your newly cleaned home.
3. Eliminate mold and mildew issues
Tiny particles of mold and mildew are present in the air all around us, and indoor air quality can be affected by the percentage of saturation present. Do your best to reduce these harmful substances in your home by performing the following actions:
- Keep your home dry and well ventilated
- Remove indoor potted plants
- Thoroughly dry clothes before putting them away
- Deal with condensation promptly
- Avoid basements and other areas known to collect and trap moisture
- Use fans and air purifiers to remove spores from the air
It is an excellent idea to get your home professionally cleaned annually to help remove the harmful buildup of allergens, spores, dust, and debris that could be overtaxing your immune system. Many services provide chemical-free cleaning that is safe and non-toxic. Check out local vendors in your area to see what might be available to you.
4. Identify food allergies
Knowing which foods may trigger you and what your expected reaction might be are keys to reducing your risk of uncomfortable food allergy flare-ups. Keep a food diary to target certain foods that may cause dry, irritated throat, rash, and other symptoms of a histamine reaction. Read food labels and communicate with restaurant staff when going out to avoid ingesting an ingredient that doesn’t agree with you. Most importantly, if you do identify food as an “allergen” or “trigger” food, stay away from all products containing this food, replacing them with foods that don’t require medical intervention once ingested.
5. Go green when you clean
Many of the chemicals and substances that we use to clean are laden with poisonous allergens that can build up inside our homes, causing irritation and uncomfortable histamine response upon exposure. Seek out green cleansers and non-toxic materials that will do the job just as effectively without adding to your discomfort.
6. Know your outside “triggers”
If grass, trees, and pollen are triggers for you, then spring might not be a great time to take a hike without some antihistamine medication in your backpack. Knowing that you have a severe allergy to bee stings will be essential to keeping yourself out of the emergency room after romping in a field of wildflowers. Knowing your outside triggers will be an essential part of you being able to enjoy nature without having to worry about experiencing severe medical consequences.
Keep allergens in check all year round
By employing the preceding strategies and making regular appointments with a qualified allergist, you can keep both indoor and outdoor allergens at bay while enjoying fewer allergy flare-ups. While it may not be possible to completely eliminate your exposure to allergens, taking action to proactively reduce your exposure to them will allow you to live your healthiest and best life.