Seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever, affects about 1 in 5 Australians, and is widespread in the spring, early summer, and autumn months. It is caused by an allergic reaction to small airborne particles such as pollens from newly flowering trees, grasses and weeds, as well as mould and fungi spores that may have been dormant in the cooler months.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can include:
- An itchy and irritated nose, ear canal, soft palate, eyes and skin.
- Watery, bloodshot eyes. Eyes may also be puffy and sensitive to the touch.
- A clear, runny discharge from a stuffy nose.
- A sensation of having blocked ears that can’t be relieved by swallowing.
- A sore or itchy throat.
- Tiredness and trouble sleeping.
- Sneezing – sometimes in fits of up to 10 or more sneezes.
So how can hygiene help?
Air-borne allergens are tiny particles that enter the nose or eyes, resulting in an allergic reaction. As well as floating though the air, these particles can also settle on furniture, carpets, toys, clothing and other surfaces. When these settled particles are disturbed, they are dispersed into the air again.
One of the best ways to combat allergies in spring is to avoid exposure to the allergens that cause them. By maintaining a clean, hygienic and dust-free environment, you can effectively minimise exposure to allergy triggers.
Here are a few tips to help combat springtime allergies at your kindergarten or childcare facility.
Start with a thorough “spring clean”
Hire a professional preschool cleaning service to give your facility a thorough and detailed spring clean. Dust and mould, two of the most common allergy triggers, can build up on shelves, storage cabinets, around windows, as well as in heating and air conditioner vents. A good spring clean is a sure-fire way to eliminate any indoor allergens that might be lurking about.
Do away with dust mites
Dust mites are microscopic insects that live in bedding, sofas, cushions, carpets, or any woven material. Dust mites absorb moisture from the air (they love humid environments), and feed on organic matter (including shed human and animal skin). Dust mites don’t bite and do not cause harm to humans, other than triggering allergies. You can reduce exposure to dust mites at your kindergarten or childcare facility by:
- Removing clutter and any unnecessary soft furnishings that gather dust.
- Packing equipment away at the end of the day so that it doesn’t accumulate dust.
- Vacuuming carpets and soft furnishings regularly. A vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is recommended.
- Washing soft toys regularly on a hot wash (at least 60 degrees Celsius) to remove dust mites.
- Keeping indoor humidity levels low.
- Regularly cleaning ceiling fans to keep them dust free.
This can be quite the breeding ground for allergens, so following these suggestions will assist children hay-fever sufferers to sleep easy.
- Wash bedding on a hot wash (minimum 60 degrees Celsius), and dry in an electric dryer on the hot setting to eliminate dust mites.
- Fit allergen-proof bed covers and pillow covers.
- Vacuum carpeted areas, or sweep and mop hard floors daily.
Keeping on top of hygiene in Spring to stop the spread of allergies is imperative. Here’s how:
- Damp-dust hard surfaces to prevent any allergy-causing particles from becoming airborne.
- Minimize exposure to allergens by cleaning and disinfecting toys and equipment.
- Clean hard surface flooring regularly to remove dust, dirt and visible mould growth.
Mould thrives in damp environments, so food preparation areas and bathrooms are hotspots for mould growth. You can prevent the future growth of mould by:
- Regularly cleaning/wiping out your refrigerator and microwave.
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting indoor rubbish bins.
- Removing soap film from sinks, tiles, and grouted surfaces.
- Fixing leaky plumbing.
- Repairing sinks that don’t drain properly.
- Replacing water damaged carpets and wall or ceiling boards.
Some surfaces, fittings and fixtures will be easier to maintain than others when it comes to hygiene. Such as:
- As a general rule, solid, smooth surfaces are better than soft ones. A smooth surface is much easier to clean and keep free of dust and allergens.
- When it comes to flooring, use small, washable rugs over tiles, vinyl, laminate or wood floors.
- Wood, leather and vinyl are good choices when it comes to furniture, as they are easy to clean.
- Choose light fittings with smooth finishes as opposed to ornate dust-traps.