Sneezing, itching, watery eyes... yes, it’s allergy season again. Suffer less by giving your home a thorough once-over. Here is a spring cleaning checklist for reducing your allergy triggers:
✓Keep pollen out. After being cooped up all winter, it’s tempting to open your windows to let in the fresh spring breeze, but don’t! “The best way to reduce exposure to wind-borne pollen is to keep your doors and windows closed at home even when you’re not there,” says Dr. Karen Binkley, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.
✓Banish mould. “Mould becomes an air-quality problem when the number of indoor spores (the tiny, reproductive airborne structures mould produces) is higher than the number of spores found outdoors,” says Angelina Bertoni, owner of A Healthy Abode, a company in Toronto that specializes in environmental assessment services. To get a handle on moisture outdoors (which will help prevent it from building up indoors), she recommends cleaning eavestroughs of debris and checking windowsills for rot. In your house, make sure your kitchen range hood is doing its job of venting excess moisture, and keep surfaces around the sink as dry as possible. In the bathroom, clean the exhaust fan and check that it is venting steam out by holding a tissue up to it. (“It should stick to the vent,” she says.) Also, check that the vent pipes do indeed lead outside and not just to another room in the house.
✓Hot laundry wash. “Dust allergens are present year-round. The bedroom, where you spend eight hours a day in bed with your face in a pillow and a blanket by your face, is where you’ll often get an allergic reaction,” says Binkley. To kill dust mites, your best bet is to wash bedding weekly in hot water. If you’ve got a dog or cat at home, Bertoni insists your furry little friends have their own place to sleep. “This prevents animal hair and dander from building up on your bedding,” she says.
✓Damp-wipe surfaces. Rather than distributing dust into the air by feather dusting, use a damp wipe, advises Binkley. Mop floors as usual, and in your spring cleaning be sure to dust those hard-to-reach areas, such as lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. “They’re easy to ignore as they rest above our heads. However, it is important to dust all surfaces, particularly ones used for redistributing air such as ceiling fans,” says Bertoni.
✓Vacuum thoroughly. “Relatively speaking, dust mites are large and heavy, so even if they’re disturbed in the carpet and go into the air, they settle quickly,” says Binkley. However, carpets can serve as a reservoir for them, she adds, so regular vacuuming can help. You’ll want to use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, says Bertoni. Also, get rid of clutter: “The more stuff you have, the more stuff you need to dust, wipe, move, vacuum, polish and clean,” she says. “And let’s face it, most of us don’t like doing those chores – therefore, less is definitely more when it comes to a clean and healthy home.” Get motivated to declutter by thinking of the money you can make by selling your pile of discarded items on Craigslist or in a yard sale.
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