The Best Ways to Keep Your Air Clean at Home

If you suffer from inhaled allergies or other sinus or breathing problems, you may already know that keeping the air in your home as clean as possible is important.  You might think that if you get an excellent air purifier, you’re all set.  It’s true that an air purifier can definitely remove most of the pollutants from the air, but there are some things you can do to keep your air cleaner on the front end, before it goes through a purifier.


Keep your home smoke free

Cigarette and cigar smoke are well known to cause breathing difficulties in many individuals.  In addition, smoke, whether firsthand or secondhand, can irritate nasal passages and sinuses, leading to upper respiratory symptoms.


In addition to cigarette and cigar smoke, you should also avoid wood-burning fireplaces.  Even though most of the smoke, soot, and carbon are directed up through the chimney, some particulate matter will still make its way into your home.  An air purifier can remove pollutants and odors caused by smoking or wood burning, but not until you’ve spent at least time breathing them in.


Control pet allergens and dust mites

Pet dander is one of the most common causes of allergy symptoms.  Controlling pet dander requires diligence on your part.  Regular vacuuming is key.  In addition to your regular whole-home vacuuming routine, consider getting a handheld cleaner so that you can easily clean your pet’s favorite sleeping spots on a daily, or near-daily, basis.  Even the best air purifiers can’t remove allergens from surfaces.


Controlling dust mites is a lot easier if you have a mattress cover as well as pillow covers.  Just remember to wash the covers and your sheets in hot water at least once a week for ultimate dust-mite control.


Avoid chemicals whenever possible

The chemicals found in many cleaners can irritate airways, nasal passages, and sinuses.  Avoiding them when you can could make a bigger difference than you think.  Consider using all-natural cleaners, like a mix of vinegar, water, and tea tree oil.  Such a mixture is cheaper than commercial cleaners, at least as effective across a multitude of surfaces, and highly unlikely to cause any breathing issues or otherwise induce allergic responses.  You can find a number of recipes for effective DIY laundry detergents, too.


Fight mold and mildew

Making sure that showers and tubs stay mold and mildew free can help control allergy and breathing symptoms.  Giving showers and tubs a chance to dry out thoroughly between uses is helpful, but you can use a cleaner such as the one mentioned above to keep mold and mildew from growing if your shower just stays too busy to dry out.  Also, be sure to keep an eye on shower curtains and liners, as wet fabric folded over on itself is a great place for mold and mildew to thrive.
While the above tips don’t represent a complete list of steps you can take to improve the quality of your air, they are definitely a good start and cover the most common causes of airway irritation found in many homes.


When Should You Introduce Peanuts to Your Kids?

Figuring out how and when to advance your baby’s diet can be confusing and scary.  This is especially true when it comes to foods known to cause serious, even life-threatening, reactions in some people.  Peanuts and peanut-based foods top the list of potentially worrisome foods for many parents.  

Newer studies suggest that it’s not only okay but actually advisable to start introducing peanuts and peanut-based items to babies as young as four months old provided they’ve been evaluated by an allergy specialist first to confirm that a peanut allergy isn’t already present.  Studies done and published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that introducing peanuts to younger children can actually significantly decrease the chances of them developing peanut allergies later.  This seems to be especially true for babies with severe eczema or egg allergies, as these conditions are known to increase a child’s risk for developing peanut allergies.  If your child doesn’t have any known risk factors for developing peanut or other food allergies, it won’t hurt to introduce peanuts, but it also won’t hurt if you wait until they’re older.  This new advice goes against the older recommendation to avoid giving children peanuts or peanut products until they were toddlers, especially in the cases of children with known risk factors or a family history.  It was originally thought that waiting until the child was older offered a better chance at avoiding the development of allergies, but more recent and more comprehensive studies have found the opposite to be true.


Another reason most experts recommended delaying introduction of peanuts until the toddler years was to minimize the chance of an allergic reaction being fatal to children born with an allergy to peanuts.  This is why it’s important to have your child screened for allergies before introducing them to potential allergens.  Though there is increasing evidence that food allergies are more often developed during early childhood than present at birth, there isn’t enough hard evidence to suggest that food allergies cannot be present at birth.

When it comes to figuring out how to introduce peanuts to your child, it’s still wise to avoid giving whole peanuts to children 5 or younger because of the choking hazard they represent.  Obviously, you also shouldn’t give any baby who doesn’t yet have teeth anything that requires chewing.  Even straight peanut butter can be problematic for babies and younger toddlers because of how thick and sticky it is.  You can dilute smooth peanut butter with some warm water to create a puree for your baby or new toddler.  If it’s the first time your child is having peanut butter, monitor him for about 10 minutes after the first spoonful just to make sure he shows no signs of an adverse reaction like a rash, hives, or anything that resembles trouble breathing.  If he does show any signs of a reaction, don’t give him any more of the peanut butter puree or anything else containing peanuts until consulting your pediatrician.  Obviously, if your child shows any signs of respiratory (breathing) distress, take him to the nearest ER for evaluation and treatment.