I love autumn. Living in the woods of south central Pennsylvania is like existing inside a great masterpiece painting during October. Each day brings added delight with new tones of gold, orange and red. It’s also ‘sweata’ weatha’, which is an added bonus! (Cue hot cider and cocoa, campfires and crisp evening air!) There is one thing about this otherwise beautiful, wonderful season of which I’m not a fan: hay fever. If you’re a member of the club, you’re likely feeling dreary-eyed while you read this for lack of sleep.
Do you have sinus pressure that makes your face feel like it’s about to explode? Have you used your tongue to try to ‘scratch’ the roof of your mouth while simultaneously tugging and vigorously rubbing your ears? Are you using eye drops so your co-workers and family members don’t mistake you for an alien in disguise? Then, yep — you’re probably a full-fledged member of the hay fever club.
There’s something you should know about hay fever
Have you been struggling through yearly bouts of hay fever thinking it’s typically caused by ragweed? So was I, until I recently learned something while scrolling online at three in the morning because that’s what we hay fever club members usually do while our loved ones are fast asleep. I decided to Google ’causes of hay fever’ because we had a drought this year and there really isn’t a lot of ragweed blooming. In fact, the fields are quite brown and crunchy.
There I sat with my roll of toilet paper (a club member’s go-to when the tissues run out) and cell phone. I was trying to learn more about this seasonal intruder and how to alleviate symptoms naturally because I avoid commercial medications as much as possible. Guess what I learned as I clicked article after article? Ragweed and other pollen of autumn are not always the cause of hay fever. In fact, a much more common culprit is — dust mites.
Here’s where your curtains and carpet come in
As soon as I read that dust mites cause hay fever, I started rambling off excuses and justifications in my mind. Okay, so I don’t dust as often as I usually do during X Country season because we are never home, except during the night when we sleep. My house isn’t all that dusty. Well, let me tell you, the more I read, the more I became convinced that my daughter and I may be victims of dust mite-induced allergies. The articles kept asking if I (the reader) had wall-to-wall carpeting or curtains in my house.
Ironically, (or perhaps not) the only areas that have wall-to-wall carpeting in my home are the bedrooms. My bedroom is also one of the only rooms in our home that has fabric curtains. Coincidentally, (or perhaps not) my hay fever symptoms, and my daughter’s as well, are always worse during the night when we are in our bedrooms. My little middle-of-the-night online research session taught me that dust mites exist even in the cleanest of homes. They are microscopic organisms related to spiders that feed off dead skin cells of humans and pets. Guess where they thrive the most? Curtains and carpets!
You no longer have to vacuum or make your bed as often
There’s good news for hay fever club members! Two of the solutions for reducing the effects of dust mites are to not make your bed or vacuum often. When you cover up your bed, it allows the colonies of dust mites that live in your mattress to thrive. (I know, that made me want to start sleeping on a hardwood floor, too.) Every time you vacuum, it stirs up the mites. If you vacuum, you should leave the room for at least 20 minutes and perhaps wear a mask while the sweeper is running. (Sweeper: Pittsburgh colloquialism for vacuum.)
Get a dehumidifier to combat hay fever
Dust mites apparently do not drink water. They absorb it from the atmosphere. This is b-a-d for hay fever club members who live in houses that tend to collect high levels of moisture in the air. The solution is to run dehumidifiers because less air moisture means less dust mites. Some of the pollen allergy symptom alleviators that come in handy in the spring might also help you during autumn.
A word about our beloved pets
Pet dander aggravates hay fever. In addition to your dead skin cells, dust mites are feasting off the skin cells of your cats and dogs, too. Also, when your pets clean themselves, invisible flecks of saliva enter the atmosphere, which worsens your symptoms.
Tips of reducing hay fever symptoms
We obviously do not want to re-home our pets, so what can we do to lessen our hay fever symptoms each fall? Sorry, but you need to wash your bed linens and curtains more often. The articles I read recommended once per week. I used to be a once-a-week-sheet-washer but I’ve only ever been a twice-a-year curtain washer. When life gets busy, I wash sheets every few weeks. That’s about to change because I’m convinced my hay fever is being aggravated by dust mites.
Another helpful tip to reduce hay fever symptoms is to never use a dry cloth when you dust. (Did your face contort like mine did when I first read that?) Using a dry cloth reportedly stirs up dust mites, which is why a damp cloth or one you have sprayed is better. I have always assumed that I have seasonal allergies because I live in a place that cycles through seasons. I now understand why people who live in locations with static climates also get hay fever. I’m going to take a wild guess and predict that at least half the people who read this post are going to go on cleaning sprees this week. I know I am.
Full disclosure: I’m still making my bed Every. Single. Day. because I’m one of those people. Even the thought of unseen, spider-like critters in a mattress isn’t enough to get me to go full-out ‘messy bed’ for the rest of my life.