Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Outdoor and Indoor Allergies

Seeing all the blooming outside with trees budding and sprouting looks marvelous to those of us in the Midwest and other parts of the country, since we suffered through one of the coldest Aprils on record. But for those of us who suffer from seasonal allergies, it is the beginning of itchy watery eyes, stuffed noses, and sinus headaches. Try and limit your outdoor exposure when it’s windy out. If you are working outside, a mask can be very helpful. Especially in the spring and fall, keep your windows closed to cut down on spores coming into the house.  As far as medication goes, talk with your doctor. Different people react differently to medication. For myself, I’ve found a good all-purpose allergy medication like Allegra or Claritin along with a nasal steroid like Nasacort or Flonase works well. It’s also recommended to take these medications year-round, not just during “allergy” season. They need to build up to be truly effective.

Indoor allergens come from three main sources. First are dust mites, microscopic creatures that can trigger allergic reactions in many sensitive people. Dust mites, their waste, and dead mites are the cause. Pet dander is another component that causes a reaction. Dander is dead skin cells that have been cast off the animal. This is the allergen, not the hair as many people think. Cockroaches are a huge allergy trigger. We don’t like to think about them, but if you live in an urban area or large apartment building, it’s possible to have this problem without having them in your unit. Dead cockroach bodies disintegrate and blend with the dust and cause irritation. 

There are several ways to reduce allergens in the home. Hard surface flooring is the best. Carpets trap allergens that spew into the air every time you walk, no matter how much you vacuum or clean them. If you must have carpet, do clean and vacuum frequently with a HEPA filter vacuum. Use blinds instead of curtains. Vacuum lamp shades and upholstery frequently. Your bedding can harbor many allergens as well. Use an allergen proof mattress and pillow covers. Change your bedding weekly and be sure to wash in hot water.

Many people are severely allergic to pets. Pet allergies are caused by dander, not hair. There are dogs available now that are bred to be non-allergenic. I imagine these could work for people whose allergies are not severe. There a few other things that can help. Again, vacuum thoroughly and often. Have another family member bathe and groom the pet. Use non- allergenic shampoo. Don’t let the pet onto furniture and beds. Wash your hands well after handling your pet. Most children don’t display allergies to pets till after age five, so it’s best to wait till then before introducing a pet.