When your child’s runny nose never seems to go away, it’s easy to blame seasonal allergies. If you live in a place where ragweed follows pollen like clockwork, it could be the great outdoors that’s irritating your child’s system and impacting his sleep. But when allergies don’t come and go with the seasons, the culprit could just as easily be a lot closer to home. In fact, it could be your child’s room - and even his bed itself - that’s triggering his allergies.
Environmental allergies are very common, and 40 percent of children suffer from some type of allergy. Luckily, though, indoor allergens are a lot easier to get rid of than the ubiquitous pollen outdoors. Just a few simple steps will cut down on your child’s reactions significantly, or even entirely - leading to better breathing, better health, and a much better night’s rest.
If you’re not sure what’s causing the reaction, a visit to the allergist will ensure that your attempts to cut down allergens are focused in the right place. If the results show your child is reacting to dust mites, pet dander, or mold, then your laundry routine will become your first defence against your child’s sniffles.
Wash the Allergens Out
The first step is simple: wash everything. If pet hair or dander is one of the allergen culprits, then run all clothes and bedding through the dryer first. Running clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes will help loosen pet hairs from the fabric. After the dry cycle, clean your dryer’s lint trap, which should have caught a lot of the hair, and then move everything to the washer.
Next, wash all clothing, bedding, rugs, and curtains in hot water (over 140 degrees F). It doesn’t take a lot of heat or time to remove allergens, but you do need the high temperature to kill dust mites. Add a half cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle, which will also help remove pet hair, and has the added benefit of killing any mildew, mold, or bacteria - while also doubling as a fabric softener.
Finally, dry everything on hot for at least thirty minutes.This second round of heat will ensure that you kill any remaining allergenic organisms or spores. A longer drying time will also help remove any remaining pet hair or dandruff; the tumbling movement in the dryer will shake everything loose that’s still stuck on the fabric.
Adjust Your Laundry Routine
Once you’ve washed out all the allergens in your house, you’ll need to make sure your laundry routine isn’t adding new allergens back in. The most common indoor allergens are pet hair, dust mites, cockroaches, and molds. But if you know your child has allergies, then it’s a good idea to switch your entire laundry routine to be allergen-sensitive.
Start with your detergent: get rid of anything with chlorine, perfume, phosphates, or dyes. Avoid all chemical laundry additives like fabric softeners. Consider trying a detergent that’s specifically made to be anti-allergen: these detergents include surfactants that bind to allergen proteins, making your wash cycle more effective at getting rid of allergens.
Finally, replace chemicals in your laundry routine with natural alternatives. White vinegar works well as a fabric softener (with the added benefit of killing mold and mildew). Another natural fabric softener option is wool laundry balls, which you can toss in your dryer along with your load. If your allergen-friendly dye-free detergent doesn’t help your laundry smell the way you’d like, then a few drops of an essential oil scent can be a better option for allergy sufferers. As you switch your laundry routine, however, be careful that you aren’t adding new allergy triggers for your child. If your child is allergic to wool or lavender, then using wool balls and lavender essential oil could cause more problems than the old detergent did. Only make one change at a time, and test each change with one item of clothing or bedding. Have your child wear the clothing for an hour to make sure her skin doesn’t react to the new ingredient before you switch your whole laundry routine.
Prevent Allergens From Returning
Last, your laundry routine needs to ensure that allergens don’t build up again. This may mean washing more frequently - once every one to two weeks for bedding, and after every use for clothes. Keep washing curtains and rugs every two months.
If dust mites are a problem, get allergen-proof casings for your child’s mattress, pillows, and blankets - these will make a big and immediate difference in the quality of her breathing and her sleep. It’s not possible to get dust mites entirely out of a mattress, but a mattress casing will prevent the mites from getting to her and triggering allergies. Long term, you can also consider switching to a foam or latex mattress, which is a much less habitable environment for mites than a traditional spring mattress.
If your pet is the main allergen, then it’s time to ban Fido from your child’s room. If possible, keep your pet in one area of the house - ideally an area with no carpets or rugs. Hardwood, tile, or laminate floors have a surface that doesn’t collect hair and dandruff as easily, so if your pet stays in those areas of the house, you’ll have a much easier time limiting the allergen triggers. Long term, if your child’s allergies are severe, you may want to consider finding a new home for your pet, or getting allergy shots for your child to reduce her reaction.