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A Few Tips For Your Home

Home Allergens with Doctor on Demand

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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:

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1. Refresh your linens – all of them.

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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:

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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.

3. Add living plants or trees:Dr On Demand child health care - Emily Henderson lifestyle-22

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:  Dr On Demand child health care - Emily Henderson lifestyle-403

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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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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  1. This service sounds awesome and very familiar to me…my sister is an ER doc and has been my “dr on demand” for a few years now. Maybe I need to give her a break and check out this app! Thanks for all the allergy info.

  2. I’m a 100% no shoes in the house girl… it’s automatic and how I was raised. Also i live in Montreal so for a good chunk of time it’s not even optional… And with babies and and kids, yes, if it’s not being done I think it’s a wise change. But I had to laugh, because in all your photos… there are shoes on your feet lol!! Be free Emily, let you feet be free!

    1. I was going to say something similar… with four seasons in Canada, no shoes in the house is all we know! Not long ago, I read this conversation on the internet that got quite heated (of course! it’s the internet!) about shoes vs. no shoes in the house and I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe the number of people who wore shoes in the house. Even funnier, were the pro-shoe people who were disgusted at the idea of company walking around in their house WITHOUT shoes on. Oh, we are so lucky to have the first-world problems that we do…

  3. Allergies and asthma are a battle, you have some good advice. Some of the other things I did to help my allergic children: (1) when burning a wood fire I closed all the doors to the other rooms in the house and closed the air vents in the room with the fireplace to discourage circulating wood smoke (2) get upholstered furniture and mattresses professionally cleaned (without toxic chemicals) regularly (3) clean or wash curtains regularly.

  4. This is such a great idea. I’m recommending it to my brother who has the worst allergies I’ve ever seen. He already does a lot of those things but maybe there’s a thing or two he could gain from having a doctor check his house out.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great post! Doctor On Demand is such a great service, it feels like we’re moving into the future! Real talk though, where are the heeled sandals from?!

  6. I don’t even have kids and I’m super into this. I hate doctor’s offices. SO MUCH WAITING. This is great, thank you!

  7. Great tips. Thank you for the article–was just cleaning my pillow cover inserts today! Insanely personal question, I know…but what sort of health insurance do you have/offer as a small business owner? Just recently started my own studio and it has been a challenge to find something comparable to what I blatantly took for granted at my old agency. Any tips you have would be so-so-so-so welcome.

  8. I wish we had that kind of service here in France. My doctor on demand is called “common sense”, and often I get it right, but I failed to see a mild ear infection once, resulting in a child being ill longer than she needed… I felt miserable and so sorry for her.

    Also, what are those blue and white hanging porcelain (?) things ? Wind chimes ? I’ve been decluttering and Marie Kondo-ing and zero-waste-ing lately, but to hell with my principles, where can I get those ? Please ? I’ve seem them a couple of times and yet they are still not in my kitchen where they would be perfection…

    1. Oh man, yes, it’s such a great service. Hopefully something will be available soon in France!

      And they’re ceramic bells! Here’s the designer: http://mquan.com/

      1. Thank you so much for answering !!

  9. I had basically the exact same convo with an allergist when I was 20. “You have a severe cat allergy, you must get rid of your cat” and I was all “nah.”

    10 years later and my cat allergy is all but gone. Boom. I use allergy eyedrops everyday but that’s about it.

    I also have asthma, and for me Singulair has been a god-send. Since I started taking it daily, I literally have not used my albuterol inhaler once (it’s been almost 3 years!). Emily, you may have tried this before, or discussed it, but if not, I cannot recommend it more highly. I used to have to carry that puffer everywhere and would have to puff once or twice before (and maybe even after) any physical activity, but now I can run/hike, whatever with no wheezing at all. Check it out!

  10. Love this! My husband has allergy problems in the spring and I don’t (knock on wood) so these are some great tips I can use to hopefully reduce his misery! Also, random unrelated post idea: Could you PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE do a roundup of affordable yet nice to look at fans? Not ceiling fans, just any kind of stand-alone fan that doesn’t look tacky for those of us who are looking at the next few months of 117 degree weather starting this weekend? I’m sure I’m not the only one who would appreciate a post like that this summer! Thank you!

  11. I have slowly converted to a no-shoes household but struggle with the following two issues: 1) how to keep up this standard when guests come over (particularly when a larger party is both indoors and outdoors), and 2) the best (most stylish/organized) way to handle the inevitable pile-up of shoes at the door. Emily, any chance you want to do an upcoming post this?

  12. a duh question..how do you clean out the air vents??? do you mean vacuum them out. ty ?

  13. Thank you for sharing this. I grew up with cats and then in college developed a terrible allergy to them along with my seasonal allergies. This gives me hope that I could have a cat someday soon.

  14. I come home from work and start sneezing. I get up in the morning and come out and sit in the lr with my coffee and start sneezing. Mostly sneezing in my own home. Did a little research and find that a houseplant I’ve been living with for over 10 years is a common allergen: ficus (benjamina). I take my two ficus plants outside…immediate relief. So yes, many plants are good for cleaning the air, but beware the ficus!

  15. Great post …. Thanks for bringing it up…
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  16. Lots of good information here (no shoes in this house either!) as always, but let’s get to the real question: Where is that adorable stuffed unicorn toy from? I need it.

  17. I have suffered from allergies for decades leading to among other things puffy under eye circles. Solution? Wool pillow with dust mite zipped pillow protector with silk pillowcase, only one not two because your neck should not be craned upwards while sleeping.

    1. Seriously worked better then any cream I’ve ever tried and makes for better bed head.

  18. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article

  19. That wood coffee table! details please!

  20. Do you happen to know the name of that plant you’re holding (#3)? I have the same one and I’ve never seen it anywhere before! I’d love to know what it’s called if you know. Thanks!

  21. Allergies are important, etc etc…but LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE BABY, oh my goodness!

  22. I’m glad that you shared this helpful information with us.

  23. Thanks for sharing useful information for us.I really enjoyed reading your blog, you have lots of great content

  24. This post is very nice as well very helpful…

  25. I hadn’t seen this kind of information from other web sites …

  26. I use astrology as guidance….

  27. As an owner of 2 indoor cats too, I will highly recommend a Furminator brush to reduce shedding. You can buy them at PetSmart, etc. at around $40 and they are worth every cent. They reduce shedding and dander by up to 80%. Every time I brush my cats, I’d swear I have enough fur to build another cat!

    Once a week brushing (don’t get too carried away or you can actually thin out their hair too much) makes a huge difference, especially in Spring/Summer when the kittehs are shedding their winter coats.

  28. 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