May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and the official kickoff of spring and summertime wheezing and sneezing. While you may not be able to control the outdoor environment, you can take control of the inside of your home and greatly reduce and eliminate asthma and allergy triggers.
Robin Wilson, an ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and author of Clean Design: Wellness for Your Lifestyle, identifies the top 10 allergy and asthma triggers in homes and recommends how to do away with them:
- Tobacco smoke: Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home because even second-hand smoke can cause swelling and mucus production in the airways of the lungs. If visitors to your home must smoke, send them outdoors.
- Pet Dander: Keep pets out of bedrooms and off upholstered furniture. Bathe pets at least once a week, and always wash your hands and launder clothing after playing with your pet.
- Mold: Even those who don’t suffer from allergies and asthma can suffer adverse health risks when mold is present. Lower your home’s humidity to help mold from flourishing; ventilate well by using exhaust fans in the bathrooms, kitchen and other damp areas; manage moisture in the basement and monitor your home after a storm strikes.
- Pollen: More people are allergic to pollen than anything else. Do not dry your clothes on outdoor clothesline, bathe before going to bed to rinse pollen off your body, place the clothes you wore in a covered laundry hamper outside your bedroom, wash your pillow cover frequently and remove your shoes when you enter your home.
- Dust: There is no way to keep dust out of your home, but you can significantly eliminate it. Clean your home and wipe down surfaces frequently. Use an air purifier. The true HEPA filter effectively captures 99.97% of microscopic airborne particles that pass through the filter to keep the air as clean as possible.
- Clothing: You may not think of your clothes as a source of indoor air pollution, but chemicals in dry-cleaned clothing can contain perchloroethylene (perk) which has been linked to cancer in animals and is believed to be a human carcinogen. If your dry-cleaned clothes hang in your closet for a while, they can release perk into the air.
- Cleaning supplies: Store household cleaning products away from children, in well-ventilated areas and be sure containers are tightly closed to help prevent fumes from leaking out. Buy small containers and discard after using rather than storing them for months or years.
- Vermin: In addition to being unsanitary, cockroaches, mice rats, and other vermin leave behind droppings that are major triggers for asthma and allergies. To protect your home, keep it free of crumbs, drips and other food waste, and repair holes in walls, cracks in floors, tears in window screens and other entry points to your home.
- Odors: Although they seem harmless, scented products – soaps, shampoos, perfumes, lotions, deodorant and even nail polish – can be a big symptom trigger of allergies and asthma. Additionally, manage your use of air fresheners, avoiding plug-in fragrance boxes and scented candles.
- Wood smoke: Fireplaces can be a beautiful focal point in a room. Unfortunately, using them to burn wood is not a great idea for allergy and asthma sufferers. Beautify your fireplace without fire. Choose a dramatic mantle and over-mantle décor like a large mirror, photograph or painting. Arrange birch logs with white bark on the fireplace grate, and create a still life inside the fireplace opening with pottery, vases, sculptures or plants.