The Healthy Abode: Clean Up Your House’s Act
By Tracy Morris
Your home should be your haven. However, a lot of the things we do to make it so might actually be working against our health. Green-up and clean up your everyday living space to create your healthy home, and you’ll be enriching your quality of life.
We spoke to two different individuals with related perspectives on the definition of house cleaning. Follow their advice to transform your home into an oasis of health.
Avoid Allergies by Spring Cleaning Throughout the Year
Eric T. Sandberg, MD, is an allergist with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston and an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Sandberg says his job as an allergist is focused on helping people find relief by controlling their symptoms, whether or not they go through allergy testing procedures.
Not everyone who has allergy symptoms is truly “allergic”; but ask anyone who is “merely irritated” by allergens, and you’ll learn that the misery is the same.
“Some people with allergies will need injectable medication,” he assures, “but there are others — inhalers and oral meds — that provide relief for either allergy or simple irritation, too. Our goal is a patient who feels well, sleeps well, and performs well at school and work.”
An important step for anyone to take is to reduce exposure to the allergens that plague you.
“The most common situation we see is dust mite allergies,” says Sandberg. People more commonly talk about being allergic to dust, but it’s actually the microscopic mites who live in and make up dust that are the troublemakers.
Other very common household allergens are mold, pet dander, and cockroaches.
Cockroaches? Turns out that roach droppings are comprised of a protein that is a component of dust. One needn’t have a houseful of the creatures, either, to have unseen droppings that add to your allergy problems.
Tips to Reduce Exposure to Common Household Allergens
- Focus on the bedroom. Use dust mite-proof covers on the entire bed and everything that’s on it. You’ll find the covers at your usual shopping spots or online at special allergy product stores. There are even mite-proof covers for futons.
- Wash your sheets weekly in very hot water.
- Reduce all clutter in the bedroom — from those stacks of books on your nightstand to the knickknacks on your dresser.
- If you have carpet, consider different flooring that won’t harbor dust mites.
- Eliminate sources of dampness wherever possible.
- Interestingly, Dr. Sandberg says, indoor mold allergy isn’t as common as people claim. “The real culprit is the exposure we have to outdoor mold, which is an unavoidable, invisible airborne allergen.”
- Accordingly, use air conditioning to lower indoor humidity and so that you can keep your windows closed.
- If you know you’re allergic to animal dander, but you just can’t resist furry friends, you can cut back the amount of contact you have with their “very stick and long-lasting” (per Dr. Sandberg) dander.
- Keep them outside.
- If they’re inside, keep them in one area of the house only.
- Whatever you do, keep them out of the bedroom at all times.
- In addition to cats (the most common animal allergen) and dogs, allergy symptoms can stem from little rodents like mice, hamsters, and gerbils, birds, horses, and rabbits.
- Keep your dust at bay and you’re on the way to eliminating roach protein.
- Invest in heavy-duty pest control if necessary.
A couple of intriguing final points from Dr. Sandberg on de-allergenizing your home:
Go ahead and stick with the cheapest standard air conditioner filters, but be sure to change them at least monthly. The more expensive types not only cost more to purchase, they cause the A/C unit to work much harder, resulting in strain on the system — the cost of which might far outweigh your air-related allergy symptoms.
The “hygiene hypothesis” proposes that increases in the occurrences of allergies may be related to our cleanliness overkill, particularly in homes with infants. This unproven but highly regarded theory connects children who have had little allergen exposure early in life to the development of allergies later.
As Dr. Sandberg says, “The answer may be a relatively scruffy lifestyle.”
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