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Spring Cleaning and Its Affect on My Asthma.

Spring Cleaning and Its Affect on My Asthma

Spring is my favorite time of year. I love the smell of spring, the feel of a fresh breeze through the open windows, especially after being cooped up indoors during a long Michigan winter. I love the sound of birds chirping, and the sound of a Detroit Tiger’s game on TV. This inspires me to write stuff like this, and it inspires me to do some spring cleaning.

Sounds normal, hey?

I also have allergic asthma with a severe allergy to dust mites. Not so normal, I bet you agree. This poses it’s own set of problems when it comes to cleaning.

Last spring, for example, I got this bright idea I would take the shop vac into the basement and suck up all the cobwebs scattered along the walls and ceiling. I powered that sucker up and got quite a bit done in just a few minutes when a severe asthma attack hit me.

“What the…!?” was my initial response.

Then I realized how stupid my idea was. As I was sucking up cobwebs with one end of the vacuum, the other end was blowing dust mites into the air. I had one of those lapses in judgment.

Well, not really: I had one of those moments where I forgot I had asthma. 

Can you fault me?   

I had a moment where I felt I was normal. Actually, this was one of those things you should NOT do to control your asthma but probably do anyway. Regardless, I had to quit mid-project and take care of my asthma.

Thankfully, there are some great asthma medicines that allow me to obtain pretty good asthma control. I take Advair and Singulair every day, and these help a lot. However, the fact that some degree of airway inflammation is always present (due to the severity of my disease), coupled with my severe allergy to dust mites, can still result in allergy and asthma attacks.

The trick to spring cleaning with asthma

In my asthma past, I was a lot braver than I am today. In the past, when I was in a cleaning mood, I would just keep going — ignoring any early warning signs and symptoms of asthma — until the project was done. Or, better yet (worse yet) I’d keep going until my asthma attack was so bad I had no choice but to quit. Then I’d rest and treat my asthma. Of course, when I did this, it was harder to treat, and took longer to get my breath back, than my current method of stopping and dealing with it right away.

You see, this is a trick — a good trick — for dealing with asthma. Rather than pushing myself to the limits, I have learned — and smartly so I imagine — to pace myself. The older, more mature version of me, knows better than to be that foolish (other than my vacuum experience, that is). So, over time, I have learned to pace myself. And it does kind of suck (no pun intended).

It is frustrating that I can’t just start and finish projects on the same day. But, when you have asthma, especially if you have allergic asthma (or severe asthma), you just have to learn to pace yourself. I know that when I want to complete projects around my home, such as what I have planned for this spring, I have to pace myself. This means that simple projects may take days, even weeks, and sometimes even months, to complete. Sometimes, because I also work and have kids, projects never get done.

And, yes, it can be frustrating.

Here, I will give you an example. Our house is small. We have our two littlest kids, Myles and Laney, sharing a room. They are getting older now, and have piled up quite a collection of toys. If you have kids yourself, you can just imagine the mess that can accumulate in that small room. We have decided to build a room for our older daughter, Callie, in the basement. In that space, however, are several boxes of junk that need to be sorted through. Two of these boxes contain toys I wanted to sort through. Lord knows that I cannot just throw toys away. If I did that, and I threw away a good toy, they would have my head. So, being the good dad I am, I decide to sort through these toys one by one. And some toys are big, like trucks. But others are small, like Polly Pockets. And there are 300 million of these smaller Polly Pocket type toys for everyone big toy. And, of course, there are another 300 million pieces of other smaller toys. And, yes, I exaggerate a little bit (a lot) here, but I think you get my point: It’s a daunting project no one else wants to take up. So that leaves it up to me — the asthmatic dad. Now, I know that there are dust mites in closets and in boxes. I know there are dust mites under beds and under couches. So I have learned to be careful when I clean in those areas. I know this sounds stupid, but I didn’t expect there to be dust mites on kid’s toys. So, I’m sitting (imagine this) on the basement floor, sorting through toys, putting the ones to keep in this box, the ones to throw away in that box, and the ones to take to Goodwill in that box. And I get less than fifteen minutes into the project and my chest starts to burn.

You see? This is one of my early warning signs.

Okay?

“Quitting” during an activity, for a while, may not bad for someone with asthma

I have to quit. I just walk away. And, usually, that alone solves my problem. If I waited another half hour I would have gotten the project about done, but I would have probably ended up with a severe asthma attack.So, I have learned to just walk away, no matter how far along the project is. I’m hoping to get this job done soon. I want to get Callie into her new room in the basement, and then one of the littles (Myles probably, since the room is painted a boy color) can move into Callie’s old room. You see, because I have to pace myself, phase one is still undone.

When you have a chronic disease like asthma, you don’t let things like this bother you. Instead, you learn to cope; you learn to make adjustments; you learn to pace yourself. I think this is true for just about every asthmatic. We try to live as normal as we can, but there are some things — like spring cleaning — that we can’t do the same way others do. And, yes, sometimes people think we’re lazy — but we really aren’t.

So, these are my personal experiences and lessons learned regarding spring cleaning. This is my experience with spring cleaning and asthma.

What are some of the ways spring cleaning has affected your asthma? Let us know in the comments below.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Shellzoo
    4 months ago

    I just got a new vacuum that is supposed to be better for allergies. I used it the other day and it picked up tons of dust without putting me into a coughing fit. Cleaning usually triggers my allergies so I have to clean, take a rest, clean, rest and clean. Takes longer but is easier for me. I plan to use some of the ideas posted here. I know I have lots of room for improvement in making my house asthma friendly.

  • TracyLee
    4 months ago

    I used Consumer Reports (nonprofit) to guide me on HEPA vacuums and air purifiers. By having a free county library membership, I have access to CR. I didn’t even have to stop by a physical library; I just filled out the online form. IMO, it is worth looking into.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi TracyLee and thanks for letting us know you’re using Consumer Reports as well.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    4 months ago

    As Leon said, it would be neat to know the brand of that vacuum you use. On a related note, I just spend a half hour in the basement cleaning. You’d think I of all people would know better. But, again, who else is going to do it? John. Author/ Site Moderator.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thanks, Shellzoo, for letting us know what vacuum you used. I’m sure there are others (besides myself, of course) who could benefit from your endorsement. John. Site Moderator.

  • Shellzoo
    4 months ago

    Only thing that drives me to my basement is a tornado warning. It is unfinished, musty, dusty and gets a mouse or two occasionally.

  • Shellzoo
    4 months ago

    John and Leon, I read Consumer Reports and one of the vacuum cleaners they recommended for asthma/allergy sufferers that was in my price range was the Shark Navigator. I found a good deal on it and only just put it together and used it on Monday. Within 5 minutes the bagless canister was filled with dust that my old vacuum never picked up. I don’t work for Shark and am only speaking for my experience. It blew air out but not dust and my allergies/asthma did not flare up. I don’t think I have ever used a vacuum before that did not leave me feeling miserable. I do think if people have asthma they should thoroughly investigate their choice of vacuums because some just seem to stir up the dust more than they clean it up.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for your post. Sounds like you now have just the right vacuum. Are you in a position to share which vacuum you are using that you’ve been so successful with? We do not make recommendations, of course, but I am curious. Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Thanks, Shellzoo, for answering my question about the vacuum cleaner. I appreciate it. Leon (site moderator)

  • TracyLee
    4 months ago

    Measuring 3 different brands of microfiber dust cloths with a particle counter (>0.5 & >2.5 microns), when using them none stayed below the level I need. Even slightly damp cloths raised the count to the “sneezing & watering eyes level”. My HEPA vacuum emits the air at “0”, but using the dust brush on odd shaped objects is tedious. So now I use thoroughly WET rags. Lots of wet rags of any material –it doesn’t matter how linty they are when they are dry.

    My “interesting rock collection” gets sprayed off in the sink. A pile of dusty plastic hangers was sprayed off in the shower.

    Stuff that I don’t want to get wet — decorative pine cones, pleated cloth lamp shades, forgotten winter gloves that aren’t dirty enough to wash — I have the luxury of going out to the garage, opening the door, and blowing them off with an air compressor turned on low while I hold my breath for each item. (I save this task for times of clean outdoor air. Fortunately, I also have a particle counter mounted outside.)

    One of my air purifiers is on a dolly ($20 at a discount hardware store) so it is easy to move near me when I am going to be stirring up dust. But a lot of the time, I give in and wear a mask. The mask also prevents me from unthinkingly itching my nose, bringing the dust up to inhale. I always wear it when shredding paper and handling cardboard boxes, and plan on showering immediately after.

    And then there is prevention. I joke that half of what we own is storage containers to hold the other half of our stuff. Stackable plastic drawers, the cheapest ones we could find. After 15 years, they are drooping a little at their centers, but not too noticeable.

    Maps, novelty items, & paper books are in glass fronted library bookcases. Finished ones are $$$, but we bought ours unassembled and unstained.

    For bedding and camping gear that don’t fit in closets, a free standing 6-foot x 4 foot cabinet purchased unassembled at a home improvement store. We made additional shelves and bought stronger and more shelf supports.

    Filing cabinets. Not the lightweight small 2-drawer ones sold at department stories during tax time, but big commercial legal size cabinets. Before we upgraded, we used ones we got from a business that was shutting down and selling all their fixtures ($15 each). Then we bought more when the company I worked for had a merger. Extra cables, camera gear, all sorts of nonpaper stuff end up in the cabinets.

    Our rooms would not win an interior decorating contest, but it is nice to have so little that is exposed to dust.

    Spiders and their webs sometimes stay if they are in a location I don’t look at often. (In the basement, under the stairs.) I figure that if it was worth their effort to make a web, then they are probably catching other bugs I don’t want to be living with.

    And last, the biggest strategy to make spring cleaning less burdensome: we are child-free. 🙂

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    4 months ago

    Hi. TracyLee. Wow. Many of those things you list are similar to what I’ve done in my home. I keep my magazines and baseball cards in plastic bins, or books with plastic pocket sleeves to keep the dust mites out. I have lots of old books too. I never thought of Glass fronted library book cases. That’s an awesome idea. I will have to look into that. Thanks for sharing. John. Author/ Site Moderator.

  • Lorene Alba, AE-C moderator
    4 months ago

    Tracy what great advice! You surely have a few unique things to clean, but you’ve worked it all out. I’m also child-free, which is a big help, although I do have a dog, so . . . .

  • ce4ever
    4 months ago

    This article is really good. I “don’t quit” and therefore pay with a full asthma flare, or last time a severe asthma flare. I need to give myself permission to stop and take a break. I may actually get more accomplished this way; instead of trying to barrel through it and becoming shut down for 1-3 days afterwards.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    4 months ago

    Thank you! It sometimes takes a long time to learn to pace yourself, or when to stay away from a project. But we asthmatics always find a way. John. Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi ce4ever and thanks for your post. I’m sure the author, John Bottrell, will be pleased to see that you really liked this article. We appreciate you sharing what works for you when doing your spring cleaning. It sounds like you know how to take care of yourself – even when you are ‘pushing’ quite a bit. Regards, Leon (site moderator)

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