With the hot and humid weather of summer, the symptoms of allergies are in full swing for many. As an ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and author of Clean Design: Wellness for Your Lifestyle, I want to help you keep those symptoms to a minimum. Here are eight things to keep in mind:
- Fruit is not always your friend. Many of our favorite fruits, from apples and bananas to peaches and plums, can cause symptoms similar to grass or tree pollen reactions. If you are sensitive, place the fruit in the microwave for 10 seconds to deactivate the proteins, and never eat the peel.
- Cleaner is not always better. In general, the old saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is true. However, a little exposure to dirt and germs is actually a good thing, because it strengthens the immune system. When cleaning, always use a non-toxic cleaner, and remove excess books, magazines and other clutter from your sleeping area to reduce dust buildup.
Watch for mold in the dishwasher and refrigerator pan which can build up quickly and with very little warning.
- A vintage pillow equals heavy symptoms. If your pillow is older than three years and has not been washed, it weighs more now than when you bought it and is loaded with dust mites that are next to your face while you sleep. Get a new one. Use hypoallergenic pillows rather than down, and put on a zippered pillow protector that you wash weekly for a double barrier. Wash your pillow twice a year and replace pillows every three years.
- There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Poodles, Labradoodles and Yorkshire terriers are all considered hypoallergenic because they don’t shed hair, but there’s no scientific proof that these breeds produce lower amounts of Can f 1, the most common dog allergen. Avoid exposure to pets, never allow them on the bed and always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after playing with an animal.
- Tear out the carpet. Tile and hardwood floors are a much better choice, but must be vacuumed or cleaned on a regular basis to eliminate dirt and dust. Shake out and vacuum area rugs on a regular basis, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. You can also use a HEPA air purifier to keep your home’s air as clean and safe as possible. The true HEPA filter captures up to 99.97 percent of microscopic airborne particles such as dust, pollen and pet dander that pass through the filters (that is as small as 0.3 microns — 250 times smaller than the width of a human hair).
- Watch out for indoor mold. Mold is a huge trigger for allergies and asthma, and it’s more prevalent than you realize. Watch for mold in the dishwasher and refrigerator pan which can build up quickly and with very little warning; on your air conditioning system and on any wood, paper or cotton materials that sit in water for too long.
- Freeze stuffed toys. Your child or grandchild’s favorite stuffed animals can harbor dust mites, which can trigger allergies and asthma. Freeze all stuffed toys for 24 hours in a Ziploc bag to prevent buildup at least once a month.
- Keep the outside world from coming in. Always take off your shoes before returning indoors and keep all outdoor tools and toys in a garage or shed. If not, you will be dragging the outdoor dirt and pollen into your living area, and provoking allergies and asthma.