Avoiding Holiday Allergies
When most people think of allergy season, its visions of springtime flowers and pollen that come to mind, not visions of dancing sugarplums. Be careful, though - the holiday season can cause coughing and sneezing, too!
Many people don't realize it, but often times there's a simple reason for an uptick in allergies during the holidays...your holiday decorations. Yep! Allergens from Christmas trees, poinsettias, dust, and mold can all contribute to a significant increase in nasal congestion and coughing, which is your body's natural response to fighting off particles it perceives as a threat.
We share some of the main causes of allergies during the holiday season and how you can effectively combat them!
Natural vs. Artificial Trees
Live, natural Christmas trees are a holiday tradition for many families, but they could also lead to indoor allergies this holiday season. Natural Christmas trees contain a lot of dust, mites, pollen and other allergens that can aggravate nasal passages.
If you decide to get a natural Christmas tree this holiday season, follow these tips to keep allergens at bay:
- Hose the tree down with water, then let it dry outside before bringing it inside. This will remove many of the allergens on the tree. Natural Christmas trees contain a lot of dust, pollen, and other allergens that can aggravate nasal passages.
- Keep the water fresh. Siphon out the water at the bottom of the tree once a week, and replenish it with a completely fresh batch. Stagnant water left until the end of the holidays provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and even mold.
- If your tree does develop mold wash the areas around the tree with an antimicrobial cleaner, and wear a mask while you do it. If not contained, mold spores can easily spread throughout the house and compromise indoor air quality (IAQ) leaving you to fight off allergies long into the New Year!
If your allergies persist you may want to consider making the switch. Sure, an artificial tree may not look as grandiose, but it can significantly reduce the potential for allergies.
If you opt for an artificial tree this year, make sure to take the following precautionary steps to avoid future allergen issues:
- Store your artificial tree in a container that keeps it dust-free
- Also, make sure to store your decorations properly so that they remain dust-free
- When it’s time to store your tree for the year, make sure that you clean the branches to remove any particles or allergens that accumulated during the holiday
Avoid Scented Candles and Oil
Candles are a huge component to allergies during the holiday season. The fragrances can irritate the sinuses and respiratory system causing allergies and asthma to flare.
Here are some tips on how to keep your candle decor without sacrificing your ability to breathe easy:
- Avoid wax that contains volatile aromatic hydrocarbons. Soot levels are often directly correlated to oil levels in a candle. In fact, some old-fashioned wax candles can produce 50 times more soot than soy candles, beeswax, or non-scented candles.
- Avoid multiple wick candles and inspect the wick. Make sure the thickness is proportional for the size of the candle. Choose candles without a wire wick. Thin, braided wicks are the best choice.
- Trim the wick to ¼ inch before lighting. The wick should burn down evenly with the wax.
- Keep your candle in an area free of drafts and heavy airflow. Reducing oxygen flow to the flame reduces soot production.
- Don't burn a candle for more than an hour. Make sure the candle has time to cool before relighting. This reduces the chances of soot development.
- Use radiator assembly candle holders. These are characterized by a top, or a roof, that is positioned right above the candle, where the soot can become quickly trapped.
- Try battery operated candles. Though they may initially seem fake, high-quality battery operated candles can look very realistic and provide you with the necessary aromatherapy, but without any soot-generating combustion.
There's Soot in Your Home
Unfortunately, many American homeowners have been unpleasantly surprised with the news of soot deposit and environmental toxins appearing in their home, seemingly out of nowhere. In fact, the trend has become so noticeable that the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) has noted a large uptick in calls about black soot deposition from concerned homeowners.
What is Black Soot Deposition?
Soot occurs when carbon-based fuels don't combust completely. It's the black and dark grey stuff that you see in your fireplace or on the wall, next to your candles. Often, soot will become stuck to walls, ceilings, and enter air vents. Besides being unsightly, soot negatively affects the indoor air quality of your home and your health overall.
Health Dangers of Soot
Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the amount of soot that manufacturers and car exhausts can spew out into the atmosphere? There is a good reason for this:
- Soot particles are very small and reach the deepest parts of your lungs when inhaled
- It can aggravate asthma, allergies, and other respiratory diseases
- It can contribute to the development of cancer
But, My Air Conditioning Filter Will Keep Me Safe
Actually, this isn't very accurate. Soot produced by candles and fireplaces is tiny; less than 0.1 microns in diameter. Such a small size means that soot can bypass many air conditioning filters and cycle through your house several times until it finally attaches itself to a solid surface. HVAC system recirculates air 5 to 7 times per day and 40 pounds of dust is created annually - which is why it is so important to have your air ducts cleaned!
Still Sneezing? Try These Tips
Holiday trees, candles, and soot may be huge components of allergens during the holiday season, but they aren’t the only things that could affect your sinuses. AdvantaClean experts share some smaller details that you might not have considered before, but make a huge impact on your allergies.
Following these tips to help people suffering from allergies and asthma:
- Remove interior fresh plants and flowers: Moist soil encourages the growth of mold propagules which can become airborne.
- Keep decorations dust-free during the off-season: Dragging the boxes of Christmas tree decorations out of the garage can bring a flurry of dust particles right into your home. So, a simple solution is to put the boxes into larger, plastic bins. Then, instead of bringing the bins into your home, remove the decorations while in your garage, and leave the dusty bins behind.
- Use cinnamon as a natural scent: Using cinnamon to "spice" up your holiday season not only makes your home smell festive but can improve your indoor air quality. Cinnamon naturally eliminates mold spores in the air!
- Check for soot in your fireplace: Fireplaces are also a major source of soot deposition in a home. Contrary to popular belief, gas fireplaces can also produce soot; just like wooden fireplaces do. Vented gas fireplaces (where the air is drawn from the outside) tend to develop soot deposition. Consider switching to a non-vented gas fireplace to reduce the amount of indoor pollution.
- Housekeeping: During the holidays increase your normal housekeeping around the Christmas tree and make sure your vacuum cleaner has a true HEPA filter.
- Humidifiers: Keep humidity close to 50% as best possible.