Spring cleaning tips for allergy sufferers
By Aliki Nassoufis Mar 28, 2011, 3:06 GMT
Berlin - As winter draws to a close in the Northern Hemisphere and the weather gets warmer, many people start spring cleaning. Allergy sufferers need beware, though, because general house cleaning raises a lot of dust. Cleaning products, too, can irritate the respiratory tract.
'Anyone with a chronic respiratory illness or chronic lung disease such as asthma or chronic bronchitis should be careful during spring cleaning,' warned Harald Morr, chairman of the German Lung Foundation. 'Asthmatics, for example, generally suffer from overly sensitive bronchial tubes and airways.'
Cleaning solutions and contact with allergens can cause sneezing attacks, coughing and difficulty breathing, he said. Such symptoms have various possible causes, and cleaning products alone are often to blame.
'When a person's airways are extremely sensitive due to an illness, then chemicals and the contents of almost all cleaning agents are enough to irritate them -- with very unpleasant consequences,' Morr said. He advised anyone who noticed that a cleaning product caused discomfort in the throat or bronchial tubes to keep its concentration as low as possible.
'You can often dilute the cleaning agent with water somewhat,' Morr said. 'This lowers the concentration of the offending irritants over the cleaning bucket and over the wiped areas -- and also lowers the risks.'
While cleaning products irritate some people, allergy sufferers in particular find that their symptoms are aggravated by major cleaning. One possible cause is an allergy to dust mites.
'An estimated 10 per cent of the population in Germany have this allergy,' noted Anja Schwalfenberg, a biologist at the German Allergy and Asthma Federation. Affected persons have an allergic reaction to dust mite allergens, which are found mainly in the microscopic creatures' feces but also in their bodies.
'When you clean, you raise dust and can come into contact with these allergy-causing substances, or allergens,' Schwalfenberg said. It can help to damp wipe, which raises less dust, she pointed out. Carpets should have a low pile, so as to retain less dust, and be hoovered regularly, preferably with a special vacuum cleaner with a filter that traps the allergens instead of blowing them back out into the air of the room.
Another potential spring cleaning threat is mould spores that can trigger an allergic reaction, noted Dirk Heinrich, a member of the German Otolaryngologists Association.
'Mould is most likely to appear in rooms with high humidity, for example bathrooms or bedrooms that tend to be cool,' he said, pointing out that mould spores could be carried into other rooms and swept into the air there. 'The spores can act as allergens and cause discomfort.'
So efforts should be spent to prevent mould from forming in the first place. 'You've always got to ensure that humidity can escape from the rooms. Thorough, regular ventilation is important,' Heinrich said.
If possible, doors and windows should be kept wide open during house cleaning. People who still experience irritation can buy a dust mask that covers their nose and mouth, Morr advised.
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