Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Household Items That Trigger Allergies

Peace Lily For Bedroom

For those with allergies, you know how frustrating it can be to have sneezing fits, or to wake up to a super stuffy nose, or (in my case) to always have one. I don't think I ever fully realized I had major problems with allergies until I went to an ENT after a cold led to a bleeding, infected ear and my acupuncturist told me to get to one immediately.  Sure, my dad has always liked to bet on how many sneezes I have in me (it's usually way over 10 in a row), but it wasn't until the ENT visit, after a mega- dose of nose spray, that I realized what it's actually like to be able to breathe freely.

Until my clogged/infected ear cleared up I did have to try the western med route with a small dose of antibiotics, and some antihistamines (which didn't work), so I chose not to continue with the antihistamines and am in the process of looking into homeopathy to help with the sinus congestion. I will let you know if I find anything that works.

But what actually causes those allergies in the house?  I think I have always known that dust mites are probably the cause of the majority of my sneezing fits and waking up congested, but I was shocked to read on other household items that could be triggers for my allergies.

You dust, you vacuum, you keep the kitchen spic ‘n span, yet you’re constantly stuffed up and sniffly. Turns out even homes that are super-clean and tidy can hide some nasty allergy triggers, says Clifford Bassett, M.D., medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. “Many people suffer for years, not realizing that the source of their misery is right under their noses,” he says.

Plants In The Bedroom: This probably depressed me the most. I adore my plants- I have about 15 of them in my room, and I'm not sure I could part with them. Besides, they're great for feng shui, and they're supposed to help with indoor pollution.  However, most plants are also responsible for mold spores that can trigger allergies, and according to allergist Dr. Christopher Randolph, at Yale-New Haven Hospital, breathing those spores during the night can cause you to awaken with, among other things, a stuffed nosed, sore throat, dry cough- all of which I have had.  They recommend removing all your plants and just keeping peace lilies (I do have one).  Apparently, they get rid of the mold spores, but maybe my one solitary peace lily isn't enough to counteract the other 14 or so mold-spore producing plants.  I'll have to think about this one.

Washing Machines: Go figure, but I guess it makes sense.  Apparently, those mold spores also love our washing machines because of all that lovely dampness.

University of Arizona researchers say washing machines can also harbor millions of these allergy triggers, due to poor drainage and damp crevices, seals and gaskets. The result: Mold spores not only get embedded in clothing, but if the levels are high enough, you’ll inhale them every time you’re in the laundry room, says Dr. Randolph. To kill up to 100 percent of washing machine mold in one shot, pour 8 ounces of bleach into your empty washer and run it for a full cycle at the hottest temperature setting. To halt future growth of moisture-loving mold, leave the washing machine door and detergent dispenser cover open to help the machine dry out completely.

Smelly Candles: I can vouch for this. Every time I walk into one of those shops that sells scented candles I immediately start sneezing. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) it's the flames that can

emit chemicals that can nudge indoor pollutant levels up to levels considered illegal outdoors. Plus, the oils that give scented candles their distinctive smells can irritate and inflame the nasal cavities, triggering a runny nose and watery eyes even if you’re not normally allergy-prone, says James Wedner, M.D., chief of allergy and immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Instead, opt for other forms of mood lighting, such as low-watt frosted bulbs in lamps, then put out bowls of fresh potpourri to add a soothing scent.

Coat Closet: Dust mites love to snuggle up and nest in those winter coats that sit around for most of the year. And they adore wool. Wool has 10 times more of those nasty critters than cotton or other fabric.  One doctor recommends washing winter outerwear a few times during the winter months, and then keeping them in plastic for the rest of the year. I-Village also recommends placing your down-filled jackets in a  hot dryer for 20 minutes once a week in order to kill those mites and their eggs.

Doors and Windows:  I had no idea this could be a problem, but the EPA says that

 allergens quickly build up inside tightly-sealed homes, reaching levels more than triple what you inhale outdoors. To clear them out fast -- without making your heating costs skyrocket -- open a few windows for 15 minutes daily to let a fresh breeze blow through. Experts at Canada’s National Research Council say a daily blast of fresh air is so effective at whisking out airborne mold spores, dust mites and more, that it can cut winter allergy flare-ups in half. Also smart: Keep your home smoke-free. Inhaling secondhand smoke worsens allergies for four days after exposure, by stimulating production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, say doctors at the University of California, Davis.

Alcohol: I don't drink so this isn't my problem, but who would have thought? I know one can be allergic to the sulfites in wine, for example, but according to research done at the University of Santiago in Spain, more than one alcoholic beverage per day can increase allergies. That means no more than 4 ounces of wine, 12 ounce beer or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor per day.  And I-Village recommends drinking the six 8-ounce glasses of water per day. However, you can drink other liquids, as long as they don't contain alcohol.

Bathmat:  Yes, because of dust mites and mold, your bath mat needs to be washed in hot water once a week and dried thoroughly. It's all about the humidity.

Your Teddy Bear: I figured the mites would love my stuffed animals as much as I do. Of course, the only way to get rid of them is by washing your stuffed teddy in hot water and then drying it in an equally hot dryer, but I doubt there would be much left of the toy, so allergist Neeti Gupta suggests putting them in your freezer overnight. According to the good doctor,

That's if you have enough room. If you have a menagerie, like I do, I suppose you could freeze several at a time. This one I might try.

Thankfully, these are surprisingly easy ways of cutting down on the allergy triggers in our homes, now we just have to figure out how to suck out all the pollen from the outdoors.
“Dust mites are surprisingly sensitive to cold and dry air, so that’s a great way to kill them off.”

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