It’s in the air

From pollen to dust mites, Abi Jack­son re­veals what to look out for

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - This Week -

OUR homes can get a bad rep dur­ing win­ter, even tak­ing some of the blame for the spread of colds and flu, when ev­ery­body is cooped up and win­dows are sealed shut for weeks on end.

Thank good­ness, then, when sum­mer­time rolls around, we can fling those win­dows open with glee and give ev­ery­thing a good air­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, this isn’t good news for ev­ery­body, es­pe­cially those with al­ler­gies and asthma that’s trig­gered by things like pollen.

Here’s what to watch out for at home to stay healthy...

Pollen can come in through open win­dows A bane for hay fever suf­fer­ers, pollen can also be prob­lem­atic for some adults and chil­dren liv­ing with asthma, and while we think of it as some­thing that strikes out­doors, around trees and grass for in­stance, it can en­ter our homes too.

“Pollen can be brought into the home by a va­ri­ety of modes. A com­mon cause is com­ing in through open win­dows, which are of­ten opened early in the morn­ing and/or evening, when pollen counts are high­est. This means pollen can en­ter rooms and pro­vide a con­stant stream of aeroal­ler­gens [sub­stances that are breathed in that cause a prob­lem to the al­ler­gic in­di­vid­ual],” says al­lergy nurse ad­vi­sor, Holly Shaw.

Dry­ing laun­dry out­doors can also be an is­sue. Let­ting laun­dry air-dry in­doors can be a ma­jor con­trib­u­tory fac­tor to damp in homes, which can have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on health, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple with cer­tain al­ler­gies and lung con­di­tions. But while for many of us, the chance to dry clothes out­doors dur­ing the warmer months is a wel­come re­lief, this can also be a pollen trap.

“Pollen can be trans­ferred into the home on laun­dry that’s been aired out­side,” notes Shaw. “In ad­di­tion, pollen can also be trans­ferred on peo­ple (on their clothes, skin and hair) and do­mes­tic pets.” In other words, peo­ple and pets can traipse al­ler­gens like pollen in­side.

Dust mites thrive in warm con­di­tions Pollen isn’t the sole cul­prit. Dust mites are among the “most com­mon in­door air al­ler­gens”, Shaw points out, and they thrive in warm, hu­mid en­vi­ron­ments.

Dust mites in the home are most of­ten found in soft fur­nish­ings like car­pets, bed­ding, cur­tains and cush­ions.

What can you do about it? If open­ing the win­dows is tricky, but let­ting the house get too warm isn’t good ei­ther, where does that leave you? “Keep­ing win­dows closed and not dry­ing laun­dry out­side dur­ing high pollen times, and show­er­ing when you re­turn from be­ing out­side, will re­move pollen from the skin and hair,” sug­gests Shaw.

“Clean­ing in the home, in­clud­ing damp dust­ing and vac­u­um­ing, will help con­trol dust mites. It should be noted this can also cause dust mites to be dis­turbed, so those with a dust mite al­lergy may be symp­to­matic fol­low­ing this. Min­imis­ing the amount of soft fur­nish­ings in the home, keep­ing beds free from soft toys and cush­ions and wash­ing bed­ding above 60 de­grees may also help re­duce dust mites. For items that can­not be washed as eas­ily, pil­low or mat­tress pro­tec­tors may be use­ful.”

As with any time of year, en­sur­ing your hay fever/al­ler­gies and asthma is well-man­aged gen­er­ally is also im­por­tant, so if you’re strug­gling to keep symp­toms un­der con­trol, speak to your GP.

Pic­ture: PA Photo/think­stock­pho­tos

HANG­ING OUT: Pollen can stick to laun­dry that’s dried out­side.

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