Our winter of beautiful rain might have ended the drought and turned our hillsides green, but it also means an increase in pollen and mold. Both can cause breathing trouble and put children’s health at risk – especially for those with allergies.
“One of the biggest offending environment is carpet,” says Eli Nussbaum, M.D, professor of pediatrics and UC Irvine School of Medicine and medical director of the Pediatric Pulmonary and Cystic Fibrosis Centers at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. He calls carpet “one of the worst things you could have in your house” because it accumulates mold, fungus, pollen, dust and dust mites. Nussbaum says that if you can’t remove your carpeting, you should vacuum it regularly and have it professionally cleaned at least once a year. Vacuum your upholstery as well.
Dust and dust mites can also accumulate in bedding. Nussbaum recommends washing bedding at least twice a month and using hypoallergenic covers – which need not be expensive. You can get them at Target.
You should also clean out, clean and dry your refrigerator on a regular basis to keep mold from growing there, and keep an eye on your houseplants. If you notice a white or greenish substance accumulating on top of the soil, that is mold. To keep the humidity level low in your home and prevent mold from growing, use exhaust fans and open windows in the kitchen when you cook and the bathroom when you shower.
An even bigger problem could be mold inside your walls. “After a rainy season, in many homes water seeps behind the drywall,” Nussbaum says. Handle leaks immediately, and have your home checked for mold if you suspect this has happened.
Cleaning can help remove allergens from your home, but be careful which cleaners and laundry products you choose. Some have ingredients that can cause irritation; Nussbaum recommends reading warning labels on the packaging carefully. “Anything that can cause skin irritation, stay away from this,” he says.
Instead, look for products created to protect the environment because they will protect your family, too. Nussbaum mentions Simple Green and products from The Honest Co. as examples. “Those that are environmentally friendly will not cause harm to human beings,” he says. You can also create DIY cleaners with readily available household items such as baking soda, vinegar and borax. Vinegar is good for wiping down kitchen countertops, and baking soda is great for scrubbing.
Nussbaum points out that all homes contain some mold and other allergens, but a little work can ensure that your whole family breathes easier. “You cannot completely eradicate everything,” he says, “but you can at least minimize the impact.”