This past week, I had an allergy attack to end all allergy attacks. After a long day in Manhattan, I walked in the door and raced upstairs to put on some comfy clothes and whipped out a sweater I hadn't worn since last season. And within minutes, my eyes began to itch. So I rubbed them. A lot. Next, my throat began to feel scratchy and I started sneezing uncontrollably. At first, I blamed it on my bedroom. I had just changed the filters in the basement and the attic - having climbed through insulation and pipes like a commando on a mission to save his troops. After I pulled out what looked like at least six months of dust and debris, I thought I had found the culprit. But the sneezing and wheezing wouldn't stop.
So there I was in my kitchen with a welt over my eye and I suddenly had a thought. The sweater. The sweater! I hadn't worn the sweater in months and when I gave it a sniff, it smelled like something the cat had slept in. And judging from the cat hairs, I think he did.
As I raced around the house looking for a cold compress, I also received some disturbing news that was found earlier that day in our basement by our friendly Orkin representative who had been hired to keep the rodents away (you don't want to know about that one). Well, it turns out that Rosario found a dead mouse and an infestation of termites! And after he returned the following morning to figure out how we we were going to attack the problem, we found out the termites had taken up residence in my neighbor's tree stump and as the weather began to get chilly, they decided to pack their bags and move to my house. Lucky me.
And so, as I stared at myself in the hallway mirror with an eye that resembled the one Chris Elliott sported in "Something About Mary" while standing on a floor that could cave in at any moment as the termites threw a fiesta down below, I decided to ask my good friend and fellow Role Mommy Michelle Roberts - who is also the co-founder of Eco Health Designs and a mom of two, who shares the 411 on how to protect yourself and your family against harmful pests and allergens.
Incidentally, - the termite damage was minor so if you ever come over to visit, you won't fall through my living room floor.
And how am I doing since the sweater fiasco? Well, I cleaned out all the sweaters under my bed and am now sleeping with an ionizer/humidifier. My throat still itches but something tells me I'm allergic to my cat and not my split colonial.
Tips for Creating a Healthy Home ( NCHH )
Fix downspouts (includes downspout, elbow, flex-a-spout downspout extension). Repair downspouts to drain water away from the foundation and prevent moisture intrusion.
Repair water damaged ceiling (4' x 8' patch and installation). A dry wall professional can
Track off mats
Install/replace exhaust fans (including installation).
Radon test kit
Lead-based paint inspection / risk assessment
Avoid using pesticides, which can be harmful to your health.
Trash can with sealable cover
Non-skid pads for carpet runner
Help Yourself to a Healthy HomeAsthma and Allergies
Keep clutter down.
When possible, don't have carpeting or rugs. Hard floors (vinyl, wood, or tile) are much easier to keep dust-free. If you do have rugs or carpet, vacuum often. You may be able to borrow or buy a vacuum with a special HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filter to get rid of dust. Call your local or state health department for more information.
Keep Down Dust Mites
Wash bedding, including blankets, pillow covers, and mattress pads in hot water every week. Temperatures above 130º kill dust mites.
Control Other Pests
• Store food in tightly sealed containers.
• Clean up crumbs and spills right away.
• Empty your garbage often.
• Wash your dirty dishes right after eating.
• Don't leave out pet food or water overnight.
• Fix plumbing leaks and drips.
• Seal cracks where roaches and other bugs hide or get into your home.
Check Your Appliances
Your local county Extension Office--look in your telephone book.
Your local or state health department--look in your telephone book.
American Lung Association 800/LUNG-USA-- www.lungusa.org
The Soap and Detergent Association, Cleaning to Control Allergies and Asthma, 202/347-2900-- www.cleaning101.com/house
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) 800/929-4040-- www.foodallergy.org