Springtime has finally arrived. We are all so excited to see new growth in the grass, trees, and flowers, not to mention sunshine and warmer weather! Unfortunately, the bright beauty of spring comes with a price: allergies. Mold, pollen, and ragweed are not only a problem outside, but they’re also sneaky little troublemakers, always finding a way to slip into a house undetected. In fact, 67 percent of indoor pollen concentration is due to the pollen outside.
For the elderly and those facing serious lung and pulmonary disorders, allergies can mean more than itchy eyes and a runny nose—they can trigger life-threatening conditions, including chest tightness, asthma attacks and shortness of breath. In St. Louis where we’re known for our allergies as much as our Arch, having your defense up is critical to your health, as well as your aging loved ones.
Keep allergens outside where they belong by following a few simple tips this spring:
- Slip off your shoes. In the spring, allergens can latch on to your clothes and shoes the moment you step outside, especially if you take a stroll through the yard. Before anyone enters the home, ask them to take off their shoes and keep them on the porch so they don’t track pollen throughout the house. Also request that jackets be hung by the front door.
- Run the air conditioner. While it may cost you more in utility bills, an air conditioner is an essential tool in battling allergies. Running the AC instead of opening windows keeps allergens outside and balances indoor humidity levels to stop mold and dust mites from multiplying. For best results, if the air conditioner uses a standard air filter, switch it for a certified HEPA one, which traps 99% of allergens. Be sure to replace the filter every one to two months.
- Put the washing machine to work. During allergy season, your washer should be in overdrive mode. At least once a week, wash and dry sheets, pillowcases and comforters on the highest setting to kill off dust mites. To rid the home of mold, wash rugs, especially those in the bathroom, once a week along with shower curtains.
- Give each room a clean sweep. Before giving any furniture a good cleaning, ask your allergy sufferer to leave the room so they’re not affected by the dust and dander that are stirred up. Dust with a cloth dampened with a hypoallergenic dust spray or water, and immediately follow up with a quick drive around the room using a HEPA vacuum.
- Snack on smart foods. Occasionally, some allergy sufferers experience “oral allergy syndrome” when the body mistakes fruit and vegetable proteins for pollen during allergy season. If your loved one has a reaction when eating certain produce, skip the raw versions for cooked, baked or canned options. On the flip side, certain foods like kiwi, pineapple and kefir all have allergy-fighting vitamins or enzymes that can relieve certain symptoms.
- Get the right diagnosis and the right care. Due to the variety of health issues many seniors experience, their allergies are often misdiagnosed. For others, the medications they take, such as beta-blockers, can intensify allergy symptoms. Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider before trying any over-the-counter drugs to be sure that the cough and shortness of breath are caused by allergies and not something more serious.
Starting with these six steps can have you well on the way to stopping spring allergies. If you or your loved one is still coughing, sniffling and itching, it might be time to dig deeper into where these sneaky little allergens are hiding. Of course, if relief cannot be found, be certain to schedule that physician appointment. We wish you a happy, healthy spring!