More than seven million Australians have allergies, including asthma, hay fever, allergic conjunctivitis and eczema and the online guide (http://www.sensitivechoice.com/creating-healthy-home/) has a room-by-room description of common triggers, how to reduce them and products which may help.
Asthma symptoms increase in spring, making it especially important for people with the lung disease to be aware of triggers and risk factors in the home.
The Council is encouraging people to do a home review before the onset of asthma symptoms.
Allergy specialist Associate Professor Sheryl Van Nunen, says personal health and home health go hand in hand.
“To get your asthma or allergies under control, you should speak to your doctor, take your prescribed medications and follow your asthma or allergy plan,” she advises.
“Your doctor can help you to identify your asthma or allergy triggers – some of the most common are house dust mites, pollens, moulds and pets. Once you know your triggers you can take steps to reduce or eliminate them.”
Here’s where you can find triggers in your home, and what you can do about it.
Dust mites can usually be found snuggling in your bed. Regularly washing the bed linen with hot water (the water needs to be at least 55 degrees) and freezing soft toys overnight will kill the mites. Mattresses, pillows and quilts can be harder to clean so look for washable mite impermeable covers or products made with anti-microbial treatments to help.
Mould in bedrooms usually comes from a built-in wardrobe or en-suite bathroom. Consider whether the air flow or humidity levels could be improved and ensure any leaks or rising damp are treated quickly.
If your family pet causes asthma or allergy problems, the pet should not be allowed into the bedroom.
Mould is the key asthma and allergy trigger in the bathroom. Once visible mould has been tackled ensure there is good ventilation and leaks are sealed to help stop it returning.
Cleaning can be a problem, so look for household cleaning products with fewer harsh chemicals and no fragrances, and try not to over sanitise the home.
Once visible mould and affected food have been eliminated, maintain good airflow in pantries and other potentially musty spots.
If anyone in your family is allergic to certain foods, take care to avoid them and reduce contaminating other foods, especially where anaphylaxis is concerned.
Furniture, curtains and flooring can harbour all sorts of allergy triggers, from dust mites to pet dander. Try to find products that are easy to clean or have anti-microbial properties.
Good vacuum cleaners with high quality filtration (e.g. HEPA) effectively lift dirt and emit clean air. However, vacuuming or sweeping will always stir up allergens so sensitive people should avoid doing the cleaning themselves and stay out of the room while it’s happening.
Woodfire heaters need to have properly working chimneys so smoke doesn’t drift into the room. Unflued gas heaters are dangerous and should be replaced, while open fireplaces that waft smoke into the room are best avoided.
When cleaning the laundry use household cleaning products with fewer harsh chemicals and no fragrances.
During pollen season, avoid drying bed linen outside on high pollen count days, after thunderstorms and on windy days.
Also watch for mould which can be avoided by good ventilation and humidity levels.
Pollen is the key asthma and allergy trigger in the garden. If you are sensitive, avoid spending time outdoors on high pollen count or windy days and after thunderstorms during pollen season.
Some people are sensitive to the effects of chlorine in pools and spas but fortunately there are now options to avoid chlorine and bromine and still keep pools and spas clean.
Building and Renovating
This gives you a chance to tackle asthma and allergy triggers at the source. Aim for a dry and well ventilated house with good wall, floor and ceiling insulation. This will help target triggers such as dust mites, mould, chemicals like VOCs and temperature changes.
When choosing products, look for anti-mould properties, impact on temperature or humidity, and ease of cleaning. Products with low or no VOCs or chemicals will also help your family breather easier. Don’t forget to let any smells or fumes out before you settle in.
The Healthy Home Guide has been developed by Sensitive Choice, a community service program created by the National Asthma Council Australia.
Sensitive Choice has identified products and services that may be better choices for people with asthma and allergies. More than 50 community-conscious companies are involved, including many leading Australian and international companies.
The program’s blue butterfly symbol is clearly displayed on approved products from bedding to building products, cleaning agents to carpets, air purifiers and vacuum cleaners, to paint.
All products are reviewed by the Sensitive Choice Product Advisory Panel comprising experts in allergy, respiratory medicine, pharmacy, general practice, industrial chemistry and consumer issues. Only products that may be a better choice for people with asthma or allergy are included on the Sensitive Choice register.
For more information on asthma and allergies, visit Sensitivechoice.com or the National Asthma Council Australia website: nationalasthma.org.au