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Tips for safe spring cleaning

It’s time for spring cleaning! There’s just something about warmer weather and more sunshine that gives many people the itch to really clean house. But before you get started, make sure you’re prepared to clean as safely as possible. After all, ladders can tip, chemicals in the air can be breathed in, and it’s easy to overdo things, especially if you’ve been less active over the winter.

Here are some tips to help ensure you feel better, not sicker, after cleaning house.

Dr. Kathryn Bachman is accepting new patients at Beacon Medical Group Goshen Family Medicine Center.

Be careful with spray cleaners

“Anytime you’re spraying chemicals, there is a risk of inhaling them,” said Kathryn S. Bachman, DO, Beacon Medical Group Goshen Family Medicine Center.

Consider this: according to the American Lung Association, lung function gradually declines after the age of 35, but some toxins ― including traditional cleaning products ― can speed up the damage.

To protect yourself, Dr. Bachman suggests making sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area.

“If you have to use a spray in an enclosed area such as a bathroom, open a window or turn on the fan and limit your time in that room,” she said.

In addition, read the labels on cleaning products and look for those labeled “low VOCs.”

Don’t mix products

“The most serious chemical injuries from cleaning occur when people mix chemicals, particularly in the bathroom,” said Dr. Bachman. It’s especially dangerous to combine products containing bleach with products containing ammonia.

Both might be more common than you think. Bleach is an ingredient in many sanitizing sprays and toilet cleaners, and ammonia is a common glass cleaner.

“When mixed together, they produce toxic gases called chloramines,” explained Dr. Bachman. “These can irritate your lungs and cause coughing, as well as headaches, nausea and vomiting.”

Take simple precautions

Mixing products is dangerous. But even when used correctly, many cleaning products have ingredients that aren’t friendly to your body. A few simple precautions can prevent or minimize any potential irritation to your skin or lungs.

  • When working with any chemicals, turn on fans or keep your windows open.
  • Be sure to dilute cleaning products as directed on the label so that you don’t accidently overexpose yourself or your family to unsafe levels of a chemical.
  • Consider wearing gloves when cleaning and wash your hands after doing any sort of cleaning to limit contact with cleaning agents, as well as potential reactions to dust and grime.

 Consider wearing a mask

Cleaning tends to churn up dust, pet hair and dander. To minimize the allergens that float into the air (and into your nose), you can wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth or microfiber cloth. If you have allergies, Dr. Bachman suggests that wearing a high-quality mask may help limit your exposure.

Beware of slips and strains

It’s not unusual for people to strain muscles from lifting too much weight or working longer than their body is accustomed to working. Dr. Bachman recommends that if you’re doing heavier lifting or harder work than is typical for you, make sure to take breaks, drink plenty of water and use common sense.

Slips and falls are among the more dangerous risks when doing spring cleaning and chores.

“Musculoskeletal injuries are common from spring cleaning, the most serious of which are fractures from falls off ladders when people are cleaning gutters or washing windows,” said Dr. Bachman.

Her top tip for staying safer when using a ladder is to ensure it’s secure on a level surface before climbing. Also, maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times and never climb past the recommended rung.

With the preventive measures above, you can gain the satisfaction of a good spring cleaning without suffering painful consequences.

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