(BPT) - For more than 40 million Americans living with allergies and 25 million with asthma, housekeeping comes with extra concerns and responsibilities. More than half of all homes in the U.S. have at least one person dealing with allergies or asthma, so cleaning needs to focus on removing common household allergens and irritants, and avoiding problems that some cleaning supplies could actually create.
'Allergen avoidance and environmental control are important parts of any asthma and allergy management plan,' say Dr. Beth Corn, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital and Medical Director of the Division of Immunology Faculty Practice Associates, 'that means a patient should try and avoid contact with allergens like dust mite particles and pet dander that can be found in the dust of most homes. Exposure to irritants, like strong scents or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be found in some common household cleaners should also be avoided by patients with respiratory issues.'
If your cleaning routine doesn't specifically focus on allergen control and removal, you may be only moving dust around, sending allergens and irritating cleaning chemicals into the air that could aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms. To create a 'healthy home' this season, consider these simple tips from the asthma and allergy friendly Certification Program, a healthy home initiative of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA):
* Use a certified vacuum that has a high efficiency filter with tight seams and seals to prevent particles from leaking out while you vacuum. Also, choose a style that requires minimal exposure during canister emptying or bag changes.
* Use moist cloths or special dry dusters designed to trap and lock dust from hard or flat surfaces that rarely get cleaned, such as baseboards, door jambs, air duct vents, ceiling fan blades and window blinds and shades.
* Certain cleaning products can contribute to airborne irritants, especially if they contain harsh chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or have strong odors. Also avoid 'green' products with natural allergenic ingredients, such as lemon, coconut or tea-tree oils.
* Place certified allergen barrier covers on your mattresses and pillows. Wash your bedding at least once a week in 130 degree hot water to kill dust mites and their eggs.
* Mold, a common allergy trigger, can grow anywhere in your home where moisture is present. Look for cleaning products that help kill and prevent mold from returning. Also, keep your household humidity below 50 percent and fix leaky pipes and cracks to reduce standing puddles of moisture where mold can prosper.
* If you are unable to remove carpets and heavy rugs from your home, have a certified professional steam cleaning service care for them three to four times a year. The asthma and allergy friendly Certification Program has recently adopted a new standard for Professional Carpet Steam Cleaning Services. Visit www.AAFA.org/certified to learn more.
* If children live in your home, look for certified plush toys. Dust mites, mold and pet dander can accumulate on plush toys over time. Certified toys can be machine-washed and dried, or placed in the freezer for 24 hours then rinsed in cold water to remove dead mites. Dry completely. Do this monthly.
* Lots of air passes through window areas and airborne dust and allergens accumulate on all types of window treatments - which are rarely cleaned. In the family room and throughout the home, replace big, heavy linen drapes with more sensible window treatments such as wood blinds or flat screens that are easy to wipe and keep clean.
* If your home uses central air conditioning or heat, replace the filter in the machine regularly, typically every 30 to 90 days. Choose an HVAC filter that has been certified to effectively capture fine airborne particles like pollen, dust and dander.
AAFA's asthma & allergy friendly certification program helps consumers evaluate and verify the allergen-reducing effectiveness of a variety of products, from cleaning supplies, air cleaning devices and vacuums to toys, bedding, home improvement products, paints, clothes washers and more. You can learn more at www.AAFA.org/certified.