When I was 24, living in New York, I’d see people around this time of year wearing face masks on the street – like at any moment they were going to have to perform a surgery. It was both disconcerting and hilarious. I put them in the same category as the people who wore their neck pillows casually around the airport. I didn’t understand why they’d do that, but I found a kick out of it. Cut to me, 2 years later, wanting to claw my throat out of my neck and not knowing why. We had just brought our then kittens home and it was May, and apparently I was now a grownup who had severe allergies. I wanted to rip that face mask off that innocent old lady and steal it to protect my own breath. I went to an allergist and he told me that I was really allergic to my cats. That combined with spring pollen and a propensity towards asthma meant that I was in trouble. He told me to get rid of the cats immediately. I sobbed and told him to pretend that I was a vet and that getting rid of the cats was absolutely not an option. The solution for me was getting on some asthma medicine, not letting our cats sleep with us and to control the symptoms of the seasonal allergies. Over the years I have become less and less allergic to cats, so HA to that doctor and his opinions of my cats.
But it all flairs up this time of year – mostly due to the pollen in the air (I think). So I thought that it would be a great chance to chat about what I have done to manage my allergies and how Doctor On Demand helped me do that.
I made a video appointment with one of their doctors, Dr. Tania Elliott. I shared my history with allergies and we then walked through the house (digitally of course) to pinpoint allergy triggers. She let me know what I needed to do to help us diminish as many of the issues that were causing the allergens as possible.
All these tips, a lot of which were new to me, can be applied to any of your homes, or if you would like a personal walkthrough with one of their doctors, you can easily download the Doctor On Demand app and use their service (it costs $40), where you will chat with a Doctor as you walk around the house and they will point out some of your trouble areas. Here were some of the tips that Doctor On Demand passed along to me:
1. Refresh your linens – all of them.
I’m pretty good about washing sheets and pillowcases (or having them washed) frequently but if you have allergy problems you should add protective covers so that the dust mites don’t inhabit too deeply. Dr. Elliott suggested I throw away the pillows after a couple of years – which is something we don’t do enough. I think Brian has had “his pillow” since college. So disgusting and pretty unsettling now that I think about it. I keep trying to hide it (or toss it) and he seeks it out. I recently bought a couple inserts from Parachute that finally have satisfied his need for the perfect fluffy pillow insert that goes soft once you lay down, and their sheets could not be more soft.
2. Take off those shoes at your door:
The fact that we don’t enforce a “no shoe” in the house rule is so stupid. With two kids that basically live on the ground, we are exposing them to not only allergens, but to toxins that they don’t need to be breathing in by not taking off our shoes at the door. So, as of a few weeks ago (when we shot this post), we take off and leave our shoes by the front door. Dr. Elliott also mentioned that if we (or you) have an outdoor allergy, you should remove your shoes and keep them outside so that you don’t track that allergen in. We now even have a basket right by the front door that gets filled with shoes. It is a reminder to us to take them off and it makes the entry a little less messy and cluttered.
We sure have the tree thing covered what with that 14 foot Fig in our living room. But, remember that small or large live plants improve the standard of air quality and oxygen in your environment. They circulate air and freshen it up making the air much better to breath in for everyone. Dr. Elliot also suggested adding small rocks on top of the soil in your plants to control any potential mold.
4. Maintain your fireplace:
We have a gas fireplace with porcelain logs, but wood burning stoves and fireplaces can trigger asthma because the wood releases chemicals in the air and increases levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) into the environment. The solution: make sure you have proper ventilation for your fireplace and keep it clean so that you don’t expose yourself to those chemicals.
6. Keep your stuffed animals clean:
I didn’t realize (I probably should have) that stuffed animals can be riddled with dust mites which is a huge allergen. The solution is super cute: once a week put stuffed animals in the freezer for an hour and it will kill the dust mites. Look at that innocent baby, breathing in all those dust mites because I never put those animals in the freezer. I wash her blankets, but it hadn’t occurred to me to shove her unicorn in the ice box. So, a simple fix will leave both you and the kiddos happy and allergen free.
7. Control the pet hair:
Obviously we have cats and any cat owner with an allergy knows that we have to keep them brushed to reduce shedding and these days we really try to keep bedroom doors shut so that they can’t sneak in and cover our bed in black fur.
A few other tips that Doctor On Demand suggested that we didn’t need or want to take photos of:
1. Change out your air vents regularly: Since the exterior of the house has been in construction now for what seems like 19 years, the level of dust that we are consuming through our vents is terrifying. So we’ve been switching these out almost every two weeks (I think the suggestion is every six months). But it makes a HUGE difference in how much dust comes in.
2. Avoiding upholstery: Everyone always suggests avoiding upholstered furniture, carpets or drapes when possible to eliminate dust mites. Obviously as a designer and lover of all things soft and cozy, this is something that I’m less inclined to do, but it’s good to think about if you have really bad allergies. Anything porous can house dust mites and fabrics are a lovely soft inviting home for them.
My appointment took 15 minutes and it was just so easy and helpful for us. Use your phone, tablet, or computer, enter in some quick information (background, allergies to medicine, medical history, etc), and you will be online face-to-face with a doctor momentarily. I find using the computer easiest with kids so they don’t grab the phone, but when I did my home tour with them walking around with the ipad (or phone) it was very easy with both sets of cameras. You can speak to a doctor immediately or set up an appointment for later that day or the next. They even have doctors on staff to chat about mental health, lactation, pregnancy, and, of course, pediatrics/newborns.
Let me give you some other examples of how I’ve used their service lately: Last Sunday Elliot had a cold and had some gunk coming out of her eye. While I knew it wasn’t anything to worry about, I also knew that there were some ointments that could help speed up the process and it did look like it was irritating her a lot. We jumped on a call and got the prescription within a half hour. The gunk went away in 1 day. This morning on my run, I realized that I only have 42 puffs of my inhaler left which can go pretty fast these days (I’m running a lot and it is allergy season), so I made a quick appointment and from my kitchen island, where I’m writing this article, I spoke with Dr. Brent Galloway who asked me some questions and quickly called in my usual prescription (and yes, my insurance covers the prescription). SO EASY. Read about some other situations here and here.
Now, this is obvious, but I feel compelled to say it – if there is anything life threatening at all, or an illness that has multiple symptoms, etc, go the doctor, urgent care, or emergency room for issues like that.
This app is strictly for those more annoying appointments where you feel going to the doctor would be a 2 hour time suck that would result in a simple solution. I often just like a doctor saying, “You are treating your baby’s cold properly, maybe think about doing XYZ, but you mostly need to cuddle, sleep and wait.” Sometimes that assurance is needed, but spending 2 hours at an appointment isn’t.
Plus, look how much fun I am having chatting with those lovely doctors.
Each visit is just $40 or less. Doctor On Demand now takes insurance, so your visit may be fully or partially covered. I didn’t have mine linked up for my appointment this morning but will next time, click here to see if they take yours. I made the appointment at 10:30am for 11am, so the turnaround is really fast. If you want to see a doctor right away, the average wait time in the app is just 3 minutes.
All in all, it’s a service I truly count on and love using. Being a parent especially breeds vulnerability and, yet, taking the time to go to the doctor creates even more stress. So this app, Doctor On Demand, saves me so much time which is the #1 thing I need more of in my life and decreases my stress about all those random bumps, falls, sniffles and allergies that can occur on a daily basis.
A big thanks to Doctor On Demand for working with us – they’re even offering a discount code to you guys: HENDERSON10 – valid for $10 off anyone’s first visit. Offer expires 9/30.
***Photos by Tessa Neustadt
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