If you or one of your family suffers from hay fever, you may be looking forward to spring/summer with dread. However controlling yours or your family’s allergy could be easier than you might think.

Keeping Common Allergens at Bay

Spring is a time when air-borne allergies can kick in and those who suffer from hay fever begin to feel the effects of grass being mown and pollen being released. Whether you are allergic to indoor (dust mites, pet allergens and mould spores) or outdoor (pollen) allergens, or a mixture of both, there are several things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms.

Quick Tips

  • If possible, replace carpets with hard surface flooring, such as tiles, vinyl, laminate or wood.
  • Launder bedding every week on a hot wash (at least 60ºC) to kill the dust mites in it.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect hand-contact surfaces such as television remote controls, light switches and telephone receivers.
  • Vacuum carpets and soft furnishings regularly to prevent dust, dust mites, and other debris building-up.
  • Clean hard surface flooring regularly to remove dust, dirt, and visible mould growth.
  • Damp-dust hard surfaces to minimise dust and dirt and help prevent dust mite debris and other allergens becoming airborne.
  • Remove surface clutter to make cleaning easier.
  • Clean and disinfect floors and furniture promptly if there has been a spill of blood or body fluids such as vomit or faeces.

Why is Good Hygiene Important?

Dust mites, pet allergens, mould spores and pollen can float through the air, where they can be inhaled or enter the eyes, causing symptoms. They can also land on surfaces and if these surfaces are disturbed, the allergens on them can disperse into the air again. Therefore if you have an allergy sufferer in your home, it is important to keep it as clean and allergen free as possible, to minimise the person’s reaction to those allergens to which you are sensitive.

What You Should Know

An allergen is something that causes an allergic reaction. An allergic person's immune system mistakenly thinks the allergen is harmful, so it reacts and causes allergy symptoms, such as itching and sneezing. Someone who does not have an allergy can be exposed to exactly the same substance such as pollen or pet allergens (the dead skin flakes constantly shed by furry animals), for example, and not have any symptoms at all.

How Good Hygiene Can Help

Controlling allergens in your home could be easier than you might think. The best strategy for preventing allergy symptoms is to try to avoid exposure to the allergens that cause them. Keep all surfaces as clean and dry as possible, minimise clutter and put items away so that they don’t accumulate dust, and use cleaning products that are proven to remove pollen particles, pet allergens and dust mite debris from hard surfaces. Regularly launder and/or vacuum soft surfaces and furnishings. Use a surface cleanser and clean cloth, or surface cleaning wipes that are proven to reduce indoor allergens on hard surfaces.

You also need to think carefully when choosing furnishings for your home. The general rule is that solid, smooth surfaces are better choices than soft ones, in which allergens can get trapped. For flooring, use small, washable rugs over tiles, vinyl, laminate or wood. Wood, leather and vinyl are better choices than upholstery when it comes to furniture. Wooden chairs with washable seat pads are a good choice. Choose furniture and light fittings with smooth finishes which trap fewer allergens than ornate ones, and use cupboards rather than shelves. For window coverings, vertical blinds are easier to clean and trap less dust than horizontal ones. Remove or reduce unnecessary soft furnishings. These collect dust and are therefore havens for dust mites!

To reduce exposure to house dust mites, you need to vacuum regularly (try a high-filtration vacuum cleaner fitted with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air [HEPA] filter), reduce household dust, remove unnecessary soft furnishings and clutter, and lessen your home’s humidity. Keep the bathroom and kitchen well ventilated by opening windows and/or using extractor fans to help circulate air and remove moisture. Remove any visible mould growth promptly using suitable disinfectant products that are proven to kill moulds.

As so much time is spent in the bedroom, sufferers from house dust mite allergy should use allergen-proof bed covers, launder bedding every week on a hot wash (at least 60ºC) to kill the dust mites in it, and keep pets out. For children, choose soft toys that are washable and launder them regularly on a hot wash (at least 60ºC) to remove dust mites. Clean and disinfect hard toys regularly and then rinse them thoroughly with clean water before re-using.

To reduce allergic reactions to pollen, hay fever sufferers should stay indoors with windows closed when pollen counts are high, or avoid walking in grassy open spaces, particularly in the early morning and evening. Otherwise, try to use air conditioning if possible. To avoid mould spores, keep away from mild, damp and musty conditions, such as woods, or where hay or grain is stored. Avoid cutting grass, raking leaves or turning compost heaps. Keep your home dry and well-ventilated and limit the number of houseplants you have.

If you are allergic to pets, but living with them is unavoidable, try to keep them outside, or at least limit the pet’s contact with soft furnishings. Use cleaning products that are proven to remove pet allergens.

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