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Reducing Exposure to Environmental Allergens

Child's Allergies

Control Your Child’s Allergies Naturally

Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of our allergy prevention report, we discussed the importance of feeding our children foods that are known to strengthen the immune system and cleanse the body, which will help prevent or lessen allergy symptoms. That is preventing allergies from the inside out, which is essential. But it is also important to prevent them from the outside in — to limit the allergy triggers to which an allergic child is exposed.

Doctors know that common allergies, such as an allergy to pollen, pet dander and so forth, don’t develop after just one exposure to the allergen. Rather, allergy symptoms start after a child continues to be exposed to the same allergen over time. Hence, it is important to minimize exposure to various possible allergic triggers. In addition, it is possible for a child to develop new allergies; so, if you have a child who is already allergic to some substances, doctors advise that it is wise to decrease exposure to other common allergens and irritants, as well.

There are number of ways to limit such exposures, and below, we highlight some basic, important ones.

Control Exposure to Pollens and Molds

Pollens and molds from outdoor vegetation can trigger allergy symptoms in many people. A child who is allergic to either of these two triggers should limit time spent outside when pollen or mold counts are high.

For pollens, you may need to take measures in the spring, summer or fall, to keep pollen levels low inside your home. Molds are usually dormant during the winter but can grow in spring, summer and fall. Most mold-related allergies occur from July to late summer, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Keep windows and doors closed on high pollen or mold count days; dust furniture often; wet-mop floors, vacuum carpeting often.

Air conditioning, especially in hot climates, will not only cool down indoor temperature, it will also filter out pollens, and remove excess moisture from the air, which can promote mold growth. Filter on your A/C unit should be changed once a month.

To prevent mold growth in your home, make sure humid places (bathrooms, basements, etc.) get plenty of ventilation. Use solution of 2 ounces of bleach in 1 quart of water (1 cup per gallon) to wipe down surfaces where mold could grow, such as bathroom walls or other dark, humid places.

Control Dust Mite Populations

Dust mites are creepy-looking, eight-legged microscopic creatures that are found in most homes. They don’t burrow under the skin like scabies; instead, they live on mattresses, carpeting, stuffed toys, curtains and household dust. They feed on dead skin cells, and their droppings and fragments are allergy triggers for some people.

Some of the same measures that will keep pollen levels low inside your home — frequent dusting, wet-mopping, vacuuming — will also help keep dust mite populations down. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter will help trap dust mites that become airborne when you vacuum.

It is also important to change bedding one or more times a week, washing it in hot water. Some people encase their pillows, mattresses and box springs in zippered, dust mite-proof covers (available at allergy-supply stores and many other stores). That will help keep these items free of dust mites.

If you use bed spreads, use the type that can be laundered at least a couple of times a month, or dry-cleaned.

It is best not to have upholstered furniture, mini-blinds or carpeting in an allergic child’s bedroom, but vacuuming such furniture or carpeting often, will help. Carpets should be shampooed periodically, also. If you have them, mini-blinds should be wiped down once a week.

Preferable for allergy-prone children are place rugs that can be easily washed in hot water once a week.

Use washable curtains and wash in hot water once a week; vinyl window shades should be wiped down weekly.

The room of a child who is prone to allergies should have few knick-knacks or other items that can’t be easily dusted, including non-washable stuffed animals.

The child’s bed should be free of stuffed animals, which collect dust and mites. Allergy experts advise to allow only a few washable stuffed animals in your child’s room, which should be washed once a week. Your boy or girl can decide which washable stuffed toys can remain in the room.

Control Pet Dander

This might be a tough point, but if your child is highly allergic to an animal, you may want to talk to your child’s doctor about whether finding a new home for the pet could be a good step, especially if diet and medication are not controlling your child’s allergic symptoms, or if your child needs multiple allergy drugs. If a pet is removed from the home, it may take several months for all the dander to be gone.

If your child’s allergy to the pet isn’t severe, it will help if the animal is washed once a week, to remove excess dander and pollens; however, dander levels on the pet can be high again within a few days.

You will also want to keep the animal out of the allergic child’s bedroom; keep room door closed, to prevent pet from entering it.

Last, if your child has asthma and you don’t own a pet, don’t get one. Even if your boy or girl isn’t allergic to animal dander now, children with asthma can develop this allergy with continued exposure.

Control Irritants

A child who has allergies is more likely to be susceptible to artificial chemical irritants. Exposure to the following irritants should be avoided:

  • Cigarette smoke: avoid smoking inside the house and don’t let others smoke, even when the child is not there, as chemicals in cigarette smoke can get trapped in upholstered furniture and carpeting
  • Do not burn wood in fireplaces or wood-burning stoves
  • Avoid strong odors from: perfume, hair spray, chemical cleaners and disinfectants, air fresheners, fresh or drying paint, glues

Control Outdoor Exposure to Allergens

Your child should not play outside when pollen or mold counts are high. Also, when they come in from spending time outdoors, have them take a bath, wash their hair and change clothes.

During pollen or mold seasons, drive with car windows closed and use air conditioner.

If your home has a lawn, a child with allergies should not mow grass or rake leaves.

Control Exposure to Cockroaches

Proteins in cockroaches can set off allergies and flare-ups in children with asthma. Take steps to keep roaches out of your home, such as cleaning up kitchen soon after meals, not leaving dirty dishes in the sink too long.

Roaches are also attracted to cooking oil that gets splattered on walls during cooking, so, it is important to keep all things tidy in your kitchen. If you do this, it’ll be easy to eliminate the occasional cockroach you may see with a natural, non-toxic solution of 1 teaspoon of essential oil diluted in a quart of water inside a spray bottle. (We recommend eucalyptus, mint or cinnamon essential oils, but there are many to choose from.) This mixture also works great for repelling mosquitoes around the home.

Baking soda also kills cockroaches: mix half baking soda and half powdered sugar (to attract the roaches), and leave small trails in key locations around your kitchen, out of reach of pets, such as on your kitchen counter or inside cupboards or sink cabinet.

By Cynthia Sanchez. A graduate of the University of Washington, Cynthia has extensive experience writing about health and wellness topics for different media.

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