Spring clean your way to better health

Celebrating the warmer weather but dreading the itching, sneezing and wheezing part of the season? Instead spring forward by doing simple household cleaning to reduce your asthma and allergy triggers.

“All sorts of asthma and allergy triggers can accumulate in your home, especially house dust mites and mould, which are the most common triggers for people with asthma and allergies in the home," says Adele Taylor, Sensitive Choice Program Manager.

While for some seasonal triggers may result in a mild runny nose, for others it can trigger severe asthma attacks. With around eight in 10 Australians suffering from asthma also being affected by allergies, such as hayfever, a clean and healthy environment is an important part of reducing asthma and allergy triggers.

"Pollen season typically strikes South East Australia between 1 October and 31 December with pollen levels tending to be higher on warm dry days," says Taylor.

"If your asthma is triggered by allergens, it might be possible to avoid or reduce your exposure to some triggers of your asthma... [which] may lead to improved control of your asthma and reduce your need for medication. Your doctor, nurse practitioner or pharmacist can help work out if allergy plays a role in your asthma," she adds.

Consider the products you use, your cleaning techniques, and allow natural ventilation in your household, advises Taylor. The last thing you want is to move dust around and send allergens and irritating cleaning chemicals into the air!

8 ways to reduce your reaction
While you won't completely eliminate allergens, Taylor says there are many ways to reduce exposure for you and your family. Follow these tips so that your family can breathe easier this allergy season:

1. Get rid of old clutter
Clearing out your old belongings reduces dust significantly. Store everything in closets and drawers to minimise dust collection. You will definitely see the benefits to decluttering your home!

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Dust surfaces with a microfibre cloth rather than a feather duster

2. Dust forgotten surfaces
Over the winter months, dust will have collected on windows, blinds, curtain rails and skirting boards. Use a damp cloth to clean these areas and then rinse it out well. Don’t fluff the dust up into the air by using a feather duster though; this just distributes dust around the home. A microfibre cloth is a great investment!

3. Vacuum thoroughly
If possible, ask someone else to do the vacuuming, as this increases allergens in the air for up to 20 minutes. Use a quality vacuum cleaner that removes particulate matter (these often have HEPA filters).

4. Remove dust mites from bedding
Ensure that bedding, sheets, pillowcases and quilts are washed in water at hotter than 55°C at least once a week. Encasing the mattress and pillows in protectors will stop the transfer of dust mites. Open curtains and air bedding in the sunshine is also recommended.

5. Clean drapes and upholstery
Allergens cling to soft surfaces therefore it is essential to wash, dry-clean or vacuum drapes, as well as vacuum sofas and chairs to remove lingering allergens, and wash or dry-clean throw rugs. Vertical blinds or roller shades are less likely to accumulate dust than drapes. Consider venetian blinds or flat blinds, which are easier to clean that heavy curtains. External shutters are another option.

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Your pet's bedding can be a hazard for asthma and allergies

6. Clean up after pets
If you have a pet who has spent a long winter indoors, vacuum your pet's sleeping quarters well. Wash the pet's bedding frequently.

Allergen avoidance doesn’t cure asthma, but by reducing your exposure to allergen triggers you may improve your asthma control and help make symptoms easier to manage.

7. Remove mould
Mould is a significant and sometimes overlooked trigger of asthma. After removing mould, take steps to prevent it coming back such as sealing bathroom leaks and treating rising damp as soon as it’s detected.

8. Change or clean old filters in air-conditioners, vacuums and air purifiers
Keep the air coming into your house clean and fresh. Ensuring your rooms are well ventilated and are kept dry can do wonders for your nose.

Watch how Ellen DeGeneres does her spring cleaning

Asthma and allergy friendly products
The National Asthma Council has created Sensitive Choice, which helps educate Australians about managing their asthma and allergy triggers and also allows consumers to identify asthma and allergy aware products by marking them with a blue butterfly logo.

"Products marked 'Sensitive Choice' have been assessed by an independent panel... next time you go shopping, look for the blue butterfly on product packaging including bedding, cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, and more," says Taylor.

Do you or someone you love suffer from asthma? What are your best tips for avoiding attacks?

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