National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month is halfway over, and while we can’t control Mother Nature and substances outside of the home, we can minimize allergy triggers inside it.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ambassador Robin Wilson is a New York City-based designer who heads Robin Wilson Home (clients include President Bill Clinton). Wilson gives us tips on creating a low-allergy inner sanctum — and that includes cutting chemical exposure, which makes the body more sensitive to reactions.
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“You go out into the sun on a daily basis, but if you sit in it for six hours you’ll get a sunburn. It’s the same with sleeping on a toxic mattress. If you spend a third of your life sleeping, you’re spending a third of your life absorbing toxins. Cheap mattresses are sprayed with boric acid: That’s roach killer! Buy the most expensive mattress you can. Dust mites collect in your mattress and pillow. Change pillows every three years, wash them once a year and choose synthetic pillows, not down-feather ones: Feathers trigger allergies.”
“Choose a nylon shower curtain, not a vinyl one. Nylon doesn’t off-gas and it’s more mold-resistant and washable. Check and replace caulking once a year. Flushing the toilet sends microscopic water droplets throughout the bathroom every time you flush. That means mold and E. coli might be landing on your toothbrush, so put the lid down before flushing.”
“Your floors and walls are the largest surfaces in your home. Use non-VOC paints that won’t off-gas. Replace wall-to-wall carpeting with carpet tile, which can be cleaned properly. Use cotton-backed, not vinyl-backed rugs — they trap less dirt and dust. Use white vinegar to clean fridge pans and add it to the soap compartment in your dishwasher. Run it while empty.”
Is your home an allergy nightmare?
“If your allergies clear when you go [on vacation] and then when you get home you start feeling ‘blargh’ again, then your environment is full of triggers,” says Wilson. “Two easy tips: Every 60 days, freeze your child’s stuffed animals in sealed bags to kill dust mites. Also, whenever you walk into your home, take off your shoes to prevent the outside world from coming in. ”