9 Spots Where Allergy Triggers Hide
You may think you’ve got allergy and asthma triggers under control in your own home. But do you really? Allergic Living helps root out some crafty culprits that have your household wheezing and sneezing:
1. Faux Christmas Trees
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas tree in many living rooms. And along with the pine comes the perennial debate about which is worse for allergies, the real or the fake tree.
Dr. Eric Schenkel, director of Valley Allergy and Asthma Treatment Center in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, cuts down the myth that pollen-producers are always to blame. “I find more problems develop with artificial trees because they have been kept up in an attic filled with dust, and that bothers people more.”
Schenkel says pine pollen is not as allergenic as most people think, although fresh-cut trees can introduce mold into the house. To minimize the spores, shake out the live tree or blast it outside with a leaf blower. Keep its stay in your home to a minimum; one study suggests a maximum of seven days for those sensitive to mold.
2. Hot Houses
Dry sinuses and cold-induced asthma may prompt you to hibernate, but Dr. Schenkel advises his patients not to sweat it. “Dust mites are non-existent in areas of low humidity. But everywhere else in the country, you close the house up, crank the heat, and dust mite levels go really high. They thrive if the humidity is above 50 percent in your house, as does mold.” For more information on dust mites allergy see this article.
You can purchase a hygrometer to monitor indoor humidity. If you’re harboring a tropical climate, consider a dehumidifier to keep the moisture levels below 35 percent during the frosty months and 50 percent for the remainder of the year. As for asthma symptoms to cold air, the good doctor says to “bundle up and stay hydrated.”
3. Mite-y Plush Toys
Sure you encased the mattresses in barrier bedding, but then you tucked little junior in with that cute stuffed lion (aka the dust mite colony). Those snuggly animals are a magnet for mites.
To eradicate the allergen army, you can wash stuffed animals in hot water, followed by a high temperature dry, but that may cause the toys to lose their fluff.
A good alternative? Freeze the toys in a plastic bag for 24 hours; freezing also kills dust mites. You can then wash them on the gentle cycle with warm or cold water, and let them air fluff in the dryer.
4. Too Cool Laundry
Some washing machines have heat settings that can be adjusted manually, but others feed the water straight from the pipes. If you need to turn up your hot water heater for a sanitizing clean, do use caution if you have young children. A temperature that high can scald little hands.You’re washing the sheets regularly in hot water, but the sniffling still ensues when your head hits the pillow. Question: Is the water actually hot? In a South Korean study, cotton sheets that were laundered at a standard 104 degrees F only shed 6.5 percent of their dust mites. However, a wash at 140 degrees F killed off 100 percent of the mites.
Scented candles add ambiance to our homes, but comforting aroma comes at an irritating price. Candles, air fresheners, and even incense can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air that increase asthma risk and can elicit eye, skin, and nasal inflammation.
In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, 19 percent of the participants reported having breathing difficulties or other health issues when exposed to air fresheners.
To limit your VOC exposure, try other types of mood lighting and natural home fragrances, like fresh baked cookies and allergy-friendly plants. For clean-air plants, see this article.
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