When preparing for guests to visit, it's normal to consider sleeping arrangements, clean towels and extra snacks. However, one thing that is often overlooked is how your home could impact people with allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as 50 million people in the United States are affected by allergies. From dust mites to dog dander and peanuts to penicillin, common allergens could be lurking in your home. In order to prepare for your guests, ask them exactly what they are allergic to and how they deal with the problem normally.
Sometimes your guests may feel bad for making requests of you. Reassure them that they aren't alone. Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology have found that allergies are increasing and about 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are impacted.
With food allergies, find an airtight container to store any opened bags or bottles of the food or drink that causes allergic reactions in your guests. Once you've sealed the containers, clearly mark them and keep them out of the way -- on the highest shelf in your pantry, in your garage, in outside storage. And this purging of allergens could be a great excuse to clean out your pantry and refrigerator. If the items need to be kept cool, either store them in the back of your fridge, clearly marked, or ask a neighbor whether he or she could take the goods for a few days. If neither of those is an option, check with neighborhood homeless shelters to see whether they accept opened food items.
Once you've stored or gotten rid of the allergens, clean up the space with a green cleaner like Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer's or Method. These organic cleaners aren't abrasive on skin, and they are biodegradable, eco-friendly and allergy-friendly. Using these cleaners can also limit allergic reactions from certain chemicals and save your guests from dust -- another extremely common allergy. There are plenty of nontoxic cleaning options at your local grocery or pharmacy.
Factoring in allergies to pets or pet dander can be a bit more difficult. Once you've scrubbed your house with nontoxic, eco-friendly products, vacuumed your floors and washed all your bedding, you can ask your guests which allergy medications work best for them. Consult a local pharmacist to see which brands he or she might recommend. If your guests only have minor allergies, Fluffy might be OK staying in the house. Having your pet sequestered in another room is still a good idea. If the allergies are severe, consider sending your pet on a playdate with a friend or neighbor, or to a kennel, for the duration of your guests' stay.
No matter what, allergy sufferers will truly appreciate your efforts to make their stay more comfortable. And that will help combat flare-ups by reducing stress. "Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers," says Ohio State University's Dr. Amber Patterson in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
And if the allergy is severe, remind your guests to bring their EpiPens and keep them in an easily accessible location. Have them give you a demonstration as to what you should do in case they experience an acute reaction. The more information they can equip you with the better you'll both feel. Then you'll know what to expect in a worst-case scenario. Be as prepared as possible, and enjoy spending time catching up and making new memories. That's nothing to sneeze at.