The One Moving Stressor That Everyone Forgets to Prepare For

published Apr 18, 2021
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The week I started packing up our house to move to Wisconsin, I began experiencing allergy-like symptoms — sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. I’m prone to seasonal allergies, but usually not in the middle of December. Naturally, I wondered if I was coming down with the virus — but other than the stress of moving to a new state during a pandemic, I felt 100 percent fine. To be safe, I brought it up to my doctor, who confirmed it probably was an allergic reaction. Turns out, rifling through all my belongings unearthed allergens that had been sitting dormant in my home’s storage areas — one moving stressor I was definitely not prepared for.

According to allergist and immunologist Tania Elliott, MD, household activities like spring cleaning or packing for a move can activate dust mites and other indoor allergens like dander and animal hair. For people with allergies, she says, that environmental change can result in common allergy symptoms like the ones I experienced — a runny, itchy nose, swollen, irritated eyes, and sneezing. If you move during the spring months, your symptoms might worsen, thanks to open doors and windows that can let in outdoor allergy-producing particles like pollen and grass.

If you’re already dealing with allergy symptoms, then it might be time to treat the allergies with an over-the-counter antihistamine. For itchy eyes, Elliott suggests Pataday® Once Daily Relief Extra Strength. But if you’re getting ready to pack for an upcoming move, Elliott says prevention is key. Just as you create plans for renting a truck and updating your address, be strategic about your physical well-being in the moving process — trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.

“When treating allergies, the first line of defense is to understand triggers and determine how to avoid them,” Elliott says.

If you’re moving dust-covered things around your home, Elliott suggests regularly vacuuming rugs, carpets, and upholstery to remove potential allergy triggers. She also advises using a damp rag rather than a dry one when you’re cleaning to avoid potentially irritating particles floating in the air. Change clothes when you’re done packing or cleaning for the day, in case yours are covered in irritants. It may also help, when you’re getting ready to move, to keep humidity low, and to add air purifiers throughout your home. For extra protection, wear an eye shield when you’re cleaning or packing. And all those face masks you have lying around? Now you have another use for them!

We’re finally settled in our new home, and luckily, I don’t envision we’ll move again in the near future. But if I get the sudden urge to finish unpacking those boxes of books or organize my basement, I’ll be equipped with strategies to keep those dust mites at bay. Whether you’re moving or staying, taking care of a home is already stressful enough, without all those pesky allergy symptoms.