April showers bring May flowers . . . and biological allergens that trigger summer shortness of breath. Everyone encounters these allergens outside and indoors throughout most of the year. Knowing about biological allergens and staying vigilant may help you maintain respiratory health.
Classes of Biological Allergens
Biological allergens, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals, occur in nature. Their effects range from mild to severe, depending on each person’s sensitivity and other factors. Here are common groups of biological allergens to watch for:
How to Control Biological Allergens
Some steps to control biological allergens and reduce triggering asthma attacks will work for several classes of allergens.
Reduce Indoor Humidity
Eliminating damp areas and reducing indoor humidity will prevent production of mold spores, dust mite allergens, cockroach allergens, and some bacteria or viruses. To combat these kinds of threats, it might be wise to invest in room or household dehumidifiers. Damp areas should be thoroughly cleaned and dried regularly.
Control Dust Mites
Controlling dust mites requires special measures.
- Launder bedding (sheets, blankets, mattress covers) weekly at 130°
- Use synthetic-material pillows
- Eliminate carpeting as much as possible; if necessary, use a HEPA-filtered vacuum
- Eliminate drapes and curtains
- Use smooth-surfaced furniture as much as possible
- Damp mop floors often
- If possible, wrap mattresses and pillows in allergen-impermeable covers
Control Cockroach Allergens
Employ methods used to control dust mites.
In addition, clean kitchen areas thoroughly, especially under appliances where food droppings or crumbs might collect.
For severe infestations, get professional help.
When weather reports indicate high pollen levels outside, keep windows and doors closed. During warmer months, use air conditioning whenever possible, and stay indoors.
Eliminate Pet Dander
Asthma exacerbations that are triggered by pet dander present special challenges. All furry animals, such as dogs and cats, shed dander (dead skin flakes). Dander cannot be removed easily from furniture, carpets/rugs, or bedding. While pet hair can be removed, hair alone does not cause allergic reactions.
Avoiding Bacteria and Viruses
Persons who suffer from any respiratory malady should avoid bacteria or viruses that cause respiratory infection or distress. Of course, this is not easy, especially now.
Persons who have asthma or COPD or who care for those who do should take extra precautions to avoid transmitting the novel coronavirus.
If you need additional information, the following resources provide useful news and tips:
Coping with biological allergens can seem daunting. The good news, however, is that maintaining a clean, low-humidity environment can work wonders. Everyone will benefit from the measures described above.