While many look forward to Spring and its abundance of flowers, for allergy sufferers it’s more likely to be a season of stuffy noses, sneezing and watery, itchy, irritated eyes. For some, these symptoms may escalate to include sore throats and headaches. If you experience several of these symptoms and they persist for more than a couple of weeks, you may be suffering from seasonal allergies. If this is the case, fortunately there are things you can do about it.
Find out what you’re allergic to. A visit to a certified allergist can help to pinpoint which plants and pollen you’re most sensitive to. The doctor may be able to prescribe a seasonal treatment plan that you can start before symptoms begin to appear.
Avoid the outdoors. Spend as much time as feasible during “allergy season” indoors, especially in the mornings and on warm, dry, windy days, when pollen counts are the highest. If you normally run or exercise in the park, consider joining a gym for the Spring and doing your running on a treadmill.
Wear a hat when outdoors, and wash your hair often. Your hair is like a magnet to pollen, so try washing your hair before you go to bed so as not to transfer it to your pillow when you sleep. If you normally use hair gels or sprays, avoid them during allergy season, because they become “pollen magnets.”
Wash your linen and clothes more often. And when you do, don’t hang them on a line outdoors to dry. This just allows the newly-clean clothes to pick up pollen in the air.
Don’t use window fans. Instead, use an air conditioner set on “Recirculate” to keep out the pollen rather than a fan, which will just take the pollen in the air and spread it around.
Use a saltwater nasal spray. You can make this yourself by mixing a teaspoon of table salt with eight ounces of water. Using this spray twice a day can help to wash allergens out of your nasal passages, and to keep them moisturized.
Eat allergy-fighting foods. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C have been shown to unblock clogged sinuses, so indulge in oranges, broccoli, grapefruit, kale and brussels sprouts. The flavonoid quercetin has been shown to inhibit the release of histamines that trigger the symptoms of allergies, so adding foods high in quercetin like black and green tea, berries, apples, and red onions may help. Some studies have indicated that papaya and pineapple, which contain bromelain, can reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
When you stop to sniff the flowers, sniff the right flowers. Plants that are allergy-friendly include periwinkles, gladiolus, irises, begonias, orchids, and bougainvilleas; plants that are likely to provoke your allergies include daisies, sunflowers, zinnias, dahlias, chrysanthemums, lily of the valley, gardenias, narcissus, and star jasmine.
Your dog is a source of allergens, too. When Rover comes in after frolicking in the yard, consider washing his feet off rather than allowing him to bring mold and pollen from outside into the house with him. Pet dander can also trigger allergies, so bathe your pets often and wash their bedding when you wash your own.
Leave your shoes by the door. Pollen and other allergens catch a ride on your feet, just as they do on Rover’s.
Avoid strong fragrances. Once the allergic reactions have begun, your immune system may become as sensitive to your favorite perfume as it is to pollen.
Wear movie star sunglasses. Really. Large, outsized glasses can help to keep pollen from being blown into your eyes when you’re outdoors.
Consider ditching your carpets. For allergy sufferers, your carpets may be the worst choice possible in floor coverings, because they tend to trap allergens of all kinds. If you love your carpets, vacuum them often, preferably with a machine that has HEPA filters.
Mold is ubiquitous; its spores are pretty much everywhere. It’s when they are blown into our homes and begin to grow there that they pose a health risk to us. Mold spores in the home become airborne, and exposure to them – living or dead – can cause sinus congestion, cold-like symptoms, sore throats, coughing, and asthma attacks. Long-term exposure can result in more serious mold allergies. As a result, it is important to minimize one’s exposure to mold.
In the home, mold tends to grow in areas that have been flooded or exposed to dampness, such as basements, bathrooms, and in walls into which moisture has seeped. Nevertheless, mold is often difficult to detect. In general, if you are aware of a musty odor or see signs of discoloration on walls or flooring, especially in areas that have been exposed to flooding or consistent high humidity, chances are you have mold. One way to test discolored spots for the presence of mold is to apply a small drop of bleach; if the stain loses its color or disappears, it’s probably mold, and should be removed.
Areas of mold in the home can be small (a square yard or less), moderate (more than three patches, or one patch smaller than three square yards), or extensive (when any patch of mold is larger than a sheet of plywood). If you have extensive areas of mold in your home, you should seek professional help to remove them. But if you take the right precautions, you can safely remove small and moderate areas of mold yourself:
Mold can usually be removed by cleaning the area with a detergent solution.
Before attempting this, however, make a trip to your hardware store and buy a mask, goggles, and household gloves. Do not touch mold or attempt to clean it with your bare hands. If the mold infestation is fairly large, wear protective clothing while cleaning up and wash it carefully afterwards.
Discard any carpeting, mattresses, or porous materials that have gotten wet or have been stored in damp conditions. If the mold has affected areas of drywall, they may have to be removed and replaced, because it is almost impossible to get rid of the mold in them. If you are cleaning wood, concrete, or other porous surfaces, clean them first with a vacuum cleaner fitted with HEPA filters. Mold on wooden studs or wall beams may have to be sanded off before cleaning.
Scrub the affected areas with a detergent solution, rinse it off and wipe it clean with a sponge or rag, and then dry the area thoroughly. The use of diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) is recommended by some experts, and not by others; do not use full-strength bleach because its fumes may be more dangerous than the mold.
After the areas have been cleaned, clean up the area using a vacuum with HEPA filters. Allow the area to dry thoroughly, and then monitor it to make sure the mold does not return. If it does, you most likely have a water leak or a moisture problem that will require professional help.