(ARA) – For all the joys spring brings, you can find some not-so-fun harbingers as well – like sneezing, sniffling and itchy, watery eyes. When spring cleaning season arrives, allergy season does, too.
More than half of Americans test positive when exposed to one or more allergens, according to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And more than half of all homes in the U.S. have at least six detectable allergens in the air, such as cat and dog dander, dust mites, pollen or mold spores. As the weather warms, more allergens are present in the air. Reducing the amount of allergens in your home can help improve indoor air quality and reduce your exposure to allergy triggers.
But if your spring cleaning routine doesn’t specifically focus on allergen removal, and only moves dust around (sending allergens airborne), or incorporates products that can add pollutants to indoor air, it won’t do much to help minimize allergens in your home.
If you suffer from allergies and asthma, consult with your doctor on the best course of treatment, and tackle spring cleaning with these simple tips – from the asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program, by the nonprofit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) – to help control the allergens that can exacerbate allergies and trigger asthma.
Make your home asthma & allergy friendly
Consumers spend nearly $18 billion annually on asthma and allergy medications. But they also spend more than $20 billion on non-medical consumer products marketed for people with asthma and allergies, according to AAFA. While demand for such products continues to grow, there is little to no regulation governing their product claims, the Foundation notes. AAFA’s asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program helps consumers evaluate and verify the allergen-reducing effectiveness of a variety of products, from cleaning supplies, air cleaning devices and vacuums to toys, bedding, home improvement products, paints, clothes washers and more.
Created in 2005 in collaboration with a leading testing and certification partner, Allergy Standards Limited (ASL), and top medical experts, the program independently tests and certifies products that are more suitable for people living with asthma and allergies. The products that have successfully passed testing are “certified” and identified by a distinctive certification mark on their packaging. You can learn about the certification process and certified products at www.aafa.org/certified.
Cleaning tips for maximum effectiveness
* House dust is one of the most common irritants for allergy sufferers. You may think dusting your home will help reduce allergens, but if you use a feather duster that simply lifts the dust off surfaces and into the air, you will actually increase airborne dust particles. Always use moist cloths or special dry cloths designed to trap and lock dust from hard and soft surfaces.
* Certain cleaning products can also contribute to airborne irritants, especially if they contain harsh chemicals, strong odors or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Choose products that contain none of these irritants, but also beware of “green” labels, as some of these solutions may be made with natural allergenic ingredients, too, such as lemon oils, tea-tree oils or coconut extracts.
* A vacuum that leaks more dust than it captures can make your indoor air quality worse. Use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter and tight seams and seals to prevent particles from leaking out while you vacuum. Also, choose a style that requires minimal exposure during canister emptying or bag changes.
* Pests become more active during spring and rodent dander and cockroach particles are common household asthma triggers. However, some pesticides may do more harm than good for people with asthma and allergies. If you have a pest problem, look for an exterminator with expertise in integrated pest management and who can advise you on traps and solvents that are safer for people with asthma.
* Cat dander is present in most U.S. homes, even where no cats have lived, studies have shown. Your spring cleaning routine should include freshening linens in your bedroom, where cat or dog dander can settle, becoming food for dust mites. Place mite-proof bedding on your mattresses and pillows. Wash sheets at least once a week in 130-degree water to kill mites and their eggs.
* Mold can grow anywhere in your home where moisture is present, and mold spores are a common asthma and allergy trigger. To remove mold and mildew look for cleaning products that help kill and prevent mold from returning. Also, keep household humidity below 50 percent and fix leaky pipes and cracks to reduce standing puddles of moisture where mold can prosper.
* Gather stuffed toys, where dust mites, mold and pet dander can accumulate, and wash them in hot water and dry completely before using again. Place stuffed toys that can’t be washed in the freezer for 24 hours, then rinse in cold water to remove dead mites, and dry completely. Use your spring cleaning routine to help turn this into a monthly habit.
* Lots of air passes through window areas, and airborne dust and allergens accumulate on all types of window treatments – which are rarely cleaned. In the family room and throughout the home, replace big, heavy linen drapes with more sensible window treatments such as wood blinds or flat screens that are easy to wipe and keep clean.
Spring cleaning season is a great time to adopt new allergy and asthma friendly cleaning habits and products. You can learn more at www.AAFA.org/certified.