How our washing habits could be aggravating our seasonal allergies.
Summer seems to be upon us with a heatwave promised for the next few weeks, but with the summer comes the inevitable seasonal allergies.
It’s thought that up to 25% of UK adults suffer from hay fever, and with climate change ramping up, we could be experiencing a hay fever season that is both more severe and extending well into September or October.
Pollen tends to stick to softer fabrics meaning that small habits around washing and drying our clothing could be working to worsen our seasonal allergies.
With this in mind, we spoke to Professor Adam Fox, a Paediatric Allergist working at a leading London teaching hospital and the President of British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology to learn about what changes we can make around our day-to-day clothes washing and drying habits that can help alleviate the itch.
Pollen could be collecting on our masks
This year one thing that we have all had to compete with is wearing masks in public. Whilst there is some reason to believe that any physical barrier such as a clean, breathable disposable mask or a fabric mask could still be blocking pollen particles, the downside is that without proper hygiene, these could be collecting pollen particles.
The best way to make sure that that our masks are pollen free is to always use a fresh disposable mask, and to wash reusable masks regularly. Of course, this is an important step under normal circumstances, but with hay fever as an additional concern you may need to wash even more regularly so that pollen isn’t collecting.
Pollen particles may also be collecting on our bodies
We like to move around a lot, especially now we have that little bit more freedom to do so. But with this we should be mindful that we may be collecting pollen particles wherever we go, both on our clothes, but also in our hair and skin.
Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to wash all clothes more often in the summer months when the pollen count is at its highest, but also get yourself in the shower a little more often that you might do normally. This will not only help you cool down, but also wash away those pesky pollen particles.
Wash bedding more than normal
Our bedding can be another key place where pollen particles can collect, particularly as we spend a lot of time face-to-pillowcase. In the summer months, it’s advisable to wash our bedding more than normal so that when we jump under the covers at the end of the day, we’re not facing even more allergens.
You might also want to consider taking clothes off ahead of entering the bedroom and washing hair ahead of climbing into bed. This means that any pollen particles that may be clinging to us aren’t brought into the bed ready to agitate us later.
Where possible, avoid leaving windows open throughout the day too as you could be inviting pesky pollen particles in that will later settle on bedding overnight.
Get to know your pollen count
You may notice in the summer months that many regional and national weather forecasts include a pollen count. This is a measure of the amount of pollen particles in the air in the form of low, medium, or high.
Of course, on higher pollen count days you are more likely to suffer with allergies so if possible, you should avoid hanging your laundry out to dry on those days. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the pollen count if you can, one of the best sources of information is the University of Worcester who have detailed information on pollen forecasting.
Wind direction can play an important role in the pollen count with certain regions generally having higher pollen counts that others. Those living near the sea tend to benefit from a lower pollen count as the winds tend to blow the pollen particles inland but those in the countryside will naturally have a higher pollen count.
Rethink how you’re drying clothing outdoors
Hanging clothes outdoors in the summer is the more sustainable choice than using tumble dryers for all of our washing loads. But during these months there are a few extra things to think about; one of the most crucial being the time of day.
Pollen is very light and easily picked up by the warm air, therefore it rises early in the morning, and falls back down during dusk. Because of this, we should avoid having our washing out on the line during these times of day. Try hanging clothing out in the middle of the day if possible and get them in by dusk. This is not only the warmest part of the day when our clothes will dry the fastest, but also the time of the day when there is less pollen lower to the ground.
The main contributors for pollen are grass and trees, so hanging washing away from sources of pollen can help lessen the effects but be mindful that pollen may still travel on the wind.
Once the washing is in, give your washing line a good wipe over before hanging new clothes too, as this will wash away any particles on your line that may transfer to clean clothing.
Be mindful of open windows when drying clothes indoors
An alternative to outdoor drying is to dry clothing indoors on drying racks where the warmer air will certainly make short work of drying your clothes. But be mindful of open windows, as they will still allow pollen to blow in and settle on your clothes almost as much as if they were hung outside.
If you are a hay fever sufferer its best to make sure those windows are closed if you are drying your clothes indoors to minimise the transfer of pollen onto clean laundry.
Top tips to avoid seasonal suffering
Based on this, here is a quick checklist from Dr Adam Fox of things to consider that could help minimise your seasonal allergies:
- Avoid being outside in the early morning and evening, as the pollen counts are highest then (unless it is raining).
- Sleep with bedroom windows closed if you can.
- Wear sunglasses, preferably the wrap around type and use goggles when swimming in the sea or in the pool.
- Pollen will be brought into the house on washing dried outside, so be mindful of hanging clothing out too early in the morning or bringing it in too late at night. You might also want to consider using a tumble drier for bedding in the pollen season.
- Limit trips to rural areas. Sea breezes blow pollen inland, so escape to the seaside instead.
- Take off clothes before entering the bedroom to prevent outside allergens entering the area you sleep in.
- Shower before going to bed as pollen sticks to hair and skin as well as the clothing we wear.
- Apply Vaseline around the edge of each nostril this can act as a barrier to trap pollen
- Use of a nasal douche such as Sterimar, may help to wash away pollens and irritants. This can be used just prior to nasal sprays to maximise their effect.
- When it’s especially bad, don’t be afraid to consult your pharmacist or even your GP to get help.
This summer, with seasonal allergies heightening, it’s more important than ever to keep clothing looking and feeling like new. Our range of washing machines, dryers and washer dryers can allow for clothes to be both washed and dried in one fell swoop during high pollen count days. And while these small changes to laundry habits don’t promise to alleviate our allergies entirely, they do ensure that we’re not aggravating our issues more than needed.