Allergy Parents Who Start Out Strong Need to Go Long, Not Wrong

December 10, 2005 at 7:56 pm (Blog & Websites)

Originally submitted to (if approved, will appear in January)

Living in our house is not very conducive to routine cleaning, or routines of any kind. Three kids in less than four years, two careers, various entrepreneurial exploits, & numerous creative pursuits add up a busy place full of vitality and energy. We’re progressive, adventurous, exploratory. The last thing we like to do is stop and do anything remedial, but when it comes to environmental allergies, sometimes that’s the very thing we need to do.

When our oldest was first diagnosed (then tested and confirmed to have) nearly every allergy on the 64-item environmental allergy test sheet, my husband Steve and I went overboard removing sources of allergens from our environment. Sure, we kept the cats, but we vowed to wash them frequently, we invested in an air ionizer, we bought mattress covers, got rid of the shades, gave away stuffed animals, the works. We did it all.

Facing our first bout of the Winter Snifflies this year, I started doing a mental inventory of all those allergen-free-home tactics we’d adapted so long ago. No one had come around to issue a report card on our Allergen-Free Home Compliance—so how we were doing? Our middle child’s nose was running, and I knew from experience that if it wasn’t attended to quickly, his clear sinus drainage would turn cloudy, then there would be fevers, sleepless nights, and one very uncomfortable child kicking and screaming when it was time for medicine, leading to one frustrated mom and dad. No, thanks!

Here’s a list of methods we’ve employed in the past three years to get us through the winters with as few allergy-related winter colds as possible. Maybe this will be a reminder for you, as well:

1.) Change that air filter in the furnace. Yes, you really did just change it last month, and it’s possible that your relatives or parents don’t need to change theirs as often, but so what? If it’s dirty, then change it.
2.) Try out an air ionizer. Since these can be pricey, shop around for features and opinions. Some emit an ozone smell that you may find intolerable. Others may be smell-free but require daily cleaning that you might find hard to fit into your busy schedule. Before you buy, think about whether or not this product will really help you, and if so, whether you will maintain it properly. (We’ve personally had great success with our ionizer, but, alas, it is currently broken, thus, this tip!)
3.) If you use a humidifier to soothe your child’s cold or cough, inspect the room for any new growth of mold. Mold spores left unchecked can quickly repeat the cycle of allergic reaction, then sinus infection, then weakened immune system, then another cold or the dreaded flu. It goes without saying that you’ve cleaned the humidifier prior to and following its use, of course.
4.) Don’t just use your vacuum for spilled Cheerios–take care of those window blinds and shades. Dust the ceiling fans and inspect the air returns. While you’re at it, change your shower curtain and that mat in the bottom of the tub. Anywhere there’s water, there will be mold growing, and that stuff is going into your kid’s lungs. Maybe you could set a date on your monthly calendar to do this every single month, so you don’t forget.
5.) Keep your eyes peeled at your child’s school or daycare. I’ve personally eyed inch-thick dust on the air returns of public buildings like churches, community centers, health clubs, and libraries. Duct-cleaning services can take care of this sort of problem in relatively short order. Remember to remain gracious when you bring this subject up with the administration.
6.) Wash your pets regularly, or at least wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove dander. If you’re really busy, your animals might even mistake this for affection and learn to like it!
7.) If the medication your child is taking no longer seems to be working, and you’ve tried all of the above, then don’t be afraid to take it up with your doctor. You might need to switch brands, have an increased dosage, stop the medication altogether and try something else, like allergy shots. Maybe your child is already taking shots and the serum needs to be re-formulated. It’s your doctor’s responsibility to diagnose and prescribe treatment, but it’s your responsibility to keep track of the results, so don’t be remiss in reporting them.

By no means is this intended to be an exhaustive list of fail-safe cures for the Winter Snifflies, but it should give you a few action items to add to your Cold Prevention to-do list. I certainly will be adding them to mine, again, and again, I’m sure.



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