Air Care for Kids: Keeping the Homefront Allergy-Free
Mar 04, 2019 11:42AM
By Avery Mack
An allergy is a dramatic overreaction of the immune system to environmental agents that are harmless to most people. Antibodies fight allergens with the release of histamines, and a runny nose, red eyes, sneezing, coughing, rash or hives can be the tangible result.
Common around age 10, allergies often fade later in life, so children are often most sensitive to their causes. Outdoors, the problem could be pollen from trees or plants. Indoors, chemicals, dust mites, mold or pet dander are common culprits. An allergist can help identify them.
Author of Clearing the Air One Nose at a Time: Caring for Your Personal Filter, pediatrician Hana Solomon, M.D., in Columbia, Missouri, focuses on a natural approach to prevent, rather than treat, symptoms. “Thirty years ago, we didn’t have specialty cleaning products,” she says. “Natural solutions work; sometimes just a cotton cloth and water are enough.”
Frisco, Texas-based Urban Hydration uses vegan-friendly, cruelty- and gluten-free ingredients and herbal extracts to ensure their cleaning products don’t contain parabens, synthetics, polybeads and toxic chemicals. Their home and spa collections are kept as natural as possible without requiring refrigeration. Lemon extract and coconut oil are key ingredients in their all-purpose spray, dishwashing solution and fabric refresher.
Microscopic dust mites live in upholstery, carpets and mattresses. They are the cleanup crew for the millions of dead skin cells humans shed daily. “If a child is allergic to dust mites, get rid of the carpet. Hang blinds on the windows. Vacuum heat vents,” Solomon says. “Use allergen-free pillows, no down or feathers, and a mattress cover. Wash it and bedding once a week. Reduce the number of toys and stuffed animals in use, wash [them] frequently and store others. Go unscented.”
Leslie Fischer, an eco-minded mom and entrepreneur in Chicago, reviews mattresses for adults and babies at SustainableSlumber.com/reviews. “Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gas from the mattress and disrupt sleep, but also trigger allergy symptoms, asthma and hives,” she says. “An organic mattress is a better choice.”
Natural fabrics are the best option for bed linens. Kathryn Kellogg, author of the Going Zero Waste blog in Vallejo, California, lists 17 sustainable and eco-friendly bedding brands. For her own use, she chose organic cotton sheets from a family-owned business.
Pajamas are also important. Look for comfy organic fibers that wick moisture, are hypoallergenic and fire-resistant. Merino wool’s millions of tiny air pockets create a micro-climate to keep sleeping kids toasty in cold weather and cool in summer heat.
Pallet furniture is trendy, but keep in mind that chemical residue or insecticides may remain in the porous wood, as well as E. coli or listeria from food transports. A safety checklist can be found at DIY Projects.
Often overlooked, indoor mold can live year-round in damp places like bathrooms. A DecoLife bath mat made of natural diatomaceous earth and resilient plant-fiber is antibacterial, non-slip and contains no colorants. It dries within three minutes to prevent mold or mildew from forming. Instead of dropping wet towels and washcloths into the hamper, hang them to dry and launder weekly.
Lemon juice keeps faucets sparkly clean and fresh-smelling. Vinegar cleans glass shower doors. Ditch the old shower curtain; most are made with PVC and release chemicals into the air. Install a rain showerhead to avoid water spray, and use a fast-drying hemp or organic cotton curtain.
Opt for natural flooring; bamboo and cork are both sturdy and sustainable, but have a large carbon footprint due to shipping distances. Linoleum, updated and colorful, is available with marbled, stone-like, flecked and woodgrain patterns. Antistatic and antibacterial, it withstands kids and pets, requiring only a mild cleanser and damp mop to stay clean.
Pets are often blamed when a child develops allergies. It’s actually their dander that causes the reaction. Rather than giving Sparky away, use pet-friendly wipes on fur and feet to remove dander and allergens carried in from outdoors. The Daily Shep offers tips.
Kids bring allergens into the house, too. Leave shoes outside the door, schedule an early bath and change to indoor garb for the evening. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will help clean the air.
Connect with freelance writer Avery Mack at [email protected]
This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.