Cedar Fever and Allergens: How to Prevent

Juniper Ashe Tree map  for Central Texas

Juniper Ashe Tree map for Central Texas

When our family moved to Austin in 2000, we discovered Cedar Fever, the sinus congestion, sneezing, coughing, eye irritation and low-grade fever that is caused by an increase in pollen from the Ashe Juniper bush (which is commonly called “cedar” in Central Texas).

With cedar allergy season knocking at the door, I am offering suggestions on how to control air quality during this irritating time of year.  Consider this simple checklist that has been compiled over the past 12 years for my customers to address all allergy producing problems in the home.

  • Remove surface dust.   Surface dust can overwhelm the body’s immune system and increase development of asthma in young children.  The use of glass cleaners, microfiber clothes, specialty dusters and floor care systems can significantly reduce environmental biological pollutants.  Prevention is key.
    • Home cleaning
      • Glass surface cleaner:  Many of us do not realize how much dust is attracted to glass and mirror surfaces.  When selecting a quality glass cleaner that won’t attract dirt and dust, be sure to choose a de-ionized product. I recommend Sparkle, Sprayway, and Earth Friendly glass surface cleaner.
      • Microfiber cloths: Microfiber cloths hold the pollutant in the cloth and keep the dust from migrating to other surfaces.  Be sure to wash these cloths regularly with non-fragrant laundry soap to preserve their effectiveness.  Mrs. Meyers Clean Day makes an excellent laundry soap called Baby Blossom.
        • Kaywos Cloths are innovative microfiber multi-purpose cleaning cloths that clean using only water rather than relying upon chemicals for cleaning hard surfaces. They leave a streak free shine on glass, stainless, counter tops and other surfaces.
      • Specialty Dusters: These biodegradable gems will hold a lot of dirt and dust and can quickly be disposed in the outside trash receptacle.  Remember to keep the pollutant out of the home environment to prevent the migration back into the home.  Note: clean the top of baseboards, curtain rods, picture frames and the refrigerator as dust loves to collect here.
      • Floor Care Systems: I prefer neutral based cleaners that leave no residue.  A preferred brand in the commercial cleaning industry is Bona hardwood and stone cleaners.  Bona sells Free and Simple floor care products that are a hypo-allergenic formula, have no dyes or scents and are GREENGUARD Children and Schools Certified. Be careful to use a clean duster before starting to clean the floor. This will pull large contaminants up and preventing them from becoming airborne.  Cleaning pads are excellent for scrubbing the surface, gently releasing biological pollutants from the surface.
    • Put out a welcome mat.  By placing a welcome mat outside of the front door you will prevent contaminants from entering your home. These lovely dirt collectors catch pollen, pet dirt, child’s play and other biological pollutants before they are introduced.  Remember to leave your shoes at the door.
    • Vacuum carpets. Today most vacuums are allergy compliant and simply require a good wipe down after use with a microfiber cloth to eliminate reintroducing dust into the environment.  Change bags or empty compartments frequently outside of the home and do not leave a bag sitting in the closet for extended periods of time. Mold and bacteria can form that can be reintroduced into the home when the vacuum is used in the future.

Pollen can get into your home and trigger allergies.**Remember surface dust is made of biological pollutants.  House dust mite - Dermatophagoides pteronyssinusAll of that dust is potentially composed of pests living or dead and what they may have left behind  This is where we all get the shivers!  Black mold, dust mites, pet dander, cockroach droppings, spider droppings, crickets and their dried body parts, rats/mice (plus those little black “jelly beans”), and bacteria or viruses spread by various carriers.  Pollen can also blow in and offer your nose an excuse to run.

 

  • Remove airborne pollutants. Similar to surface dust, airborne pollutants can trigger allergies and weaken your ability to fight off an infection. While the outside air quality is somewhat regulated by putting restrictions on corporations, your home air is not at all regulated unless you take the steps to maintain clean air.
    • Filtration systems: An HVAC filtering system is a key component to air quality. Change the filter in the HVAC every 1-3 months depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations. 3M Filtrete filters provide differing levels of air quality filtration and can vastly improve indoor air quality. Remember to clean the grills with a Swiffer Duster when changing the filter.
    •  Air Purifiers: In addition to your HVAC system, stand-alone air purifiers are available for rooms that are frequently used by dust particle producers like pets and people. 3M manufactures room air purifiers to capture localized contaminants and to aid in the air filtration process. Rooms to think about are in bedrooms, kitchens and offices.
    • Odor control: Odors can also be a contaminant and trigger allergy symptoms. The use of a deodorant only masks the smell and can unfortunately also irritate allergies. Instead of masking unwanted odors, eliminate them. Fresh Wave is a natural odor eliminator. This product line uses molecular science to get rid of organic and inorganic odors. More importantly, no toxins exist in this product, making it safe to use around people and animals.
  • Remove chemical pollutants: In previous articles I wrote about VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are released into the environment from building materials. These chemical pollutants contribute to the overall health of your home and the health of the people living there.
    • Standard paint can produce off-gas for 5 years. Consider priming and painting with lines of paint that are non-toxic and safe for people and pets in the future. You can also re-prime and paint with products designed to encase the off-gas and keep the environmental air quality intact.
    • Avoid cleaning solutions that off-gas into the environment. Strong odor does not correlate with cleanliness. Those fumes are generally not safe for people or pets.
    • Avoid purchasing products and product packaging that contain plastics that off-gas. A good rule of thumb is if the plastic has an odor it will be releasing contaminants into the environment.

The above guide is not a conclusive set, rather a practical approach and can be adjusted as your individual needs warrant.  Allergy season is different for each individual in terms of what triggers allergies and each home is unique with their potential pollutants.  Think about these categories and improve your home one step at a time.

If you would like additional information on any of the products listed, please contact the Central Texas retail outlet Zinger Hardware and General Merchant at 512-381-8111 or http://www.zingerhardware.com.

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