Between 35 and 40 million Americans suffer from indoor or outdoor allergies, and this spring they might be in for more misery than usual. The mild winter failed to kill off as many allergens as it normally does. What’s worse, spring allergy triggers tend to come on suddenly, taking allergy suffers off guard if they don’t prepare early.
Fortunately, Dr. Suchetha Kinhal, an allergist with Michigan Allergy, Sinus & Asthma Specialists of West Bloomfield, has spring cleaning tips for you to follow now so you can prevent or control spring allergies.
Spring cleaning tips to prevent allergy flare-ups:
- Clean or replace filters on the humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air conditioning unit and
furnace. HEPA filters are ideal.
- Clean the outside and inside of windows, windowsills and screens using bleach
- Eliminate any damp areas and puddles of water around the exterior of your home
- Clean up all piles of leaves and clean out the rain gutters since mold can grow in these areas
- Wash or take winter clothing to the dry cleaners before you store them away for the spring
- Vacuum mattresses and furniture (do this throughout the year as well)
- Check that your clothes dryer is properly vented to the outside to prevent moisture accumulation
- Check your pillows. Replace them every 2-3 years and cover them with hypoallergenic encasings.
- Have area rugs professionally cleaned and wash smaller rugs in bathrooms, etc. or if they aren’t washable, replace them with ones that are. Make sure they are low shag and not too thick.
- Check that your doors and windows fit tightly in their frames
Whether you’re spring cleaning or cleaning any other time of year, Dr. Kinhal also suggests following these general cleaning tips:
- Avoid air drying items such as rugs, clothes and sheets outside
- For bleach cleaning, use a mixture of 5% bleach with water and detergent
- Wear a dust mask
- Wash clothing, linens and fabrics with water that reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill dust mites
In addition, these tips can be followed to prevent allergies throughout the year:
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- If you have pets, clean off their fur when they come in from outside because they will bring in pollen with them.
- Pets aren’t the only ones that bring in pollen — people should shower after they’ve spend some time outdoors too.
- Pay attention to the pollen counts on the news or in the paper. If the count is high, limit outdoor activities to late afternoon or evening when allergens are at their lowest. Or, stick to indoor activities and use the air conditioning instead of leaving the windows open.
- Keep no more than 10 plants in your home.
- Keep the humidity in your home below 50% to prevent growth of dust mites.
- Don’t use room fans because they stir up dust.
- Store unused stuffed animals in seal-able freezer bags to control and prevent dust mites.
- Be sure to begin taking your allergy medication before allergy season begins.
When is it time to see an allergy doctor?
If you think you’re suffering from allergies, often the first step is to try over the counter medications, saline nose sprays and nasal rinses. Be sure to avoid nasal decongestant nose sprays and never take more than the recommended dosages of any medication. However, it may be time to see a doctor if:
- you’ve tried several over the counter medicines and they don’t seem to be working, or if you’re experiencing adverse reactions from them
- your symptoms are disruptive and are affecting your quality of life
- your symptoms develop into asthma or sinusitis
An allergist will give you a proper evaluation of your symptoms, review your history, attempt to give you a diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate medications and treatments. He or she will also help you to understand your triggers and how to prevent them.
Learn more about gardening with allergies from professional gardener, author and educator Janet Macunovich. At her upcoming free seminar, she’ll tell you how to create an allergy-friendly garden and how to minimize allergic reactions. Learn more here.