The history of spring cleaning is, if you’ll forgive the pun, a spotty one. Some believe it originated with the electricity-deprived homesteads that relied on wood burning heat in the winter, leading to soot and ash-covered rooms that needed a good scrub in the warmer months. Others think it may have come from Passover and the practice of removing leavened products from the home, encouraging observers to clean everything in the process.
Whatever the origin, your house is likely to be healthier for it. But you’d also be wise to recognize the fresh start offered by the tradition and use it as incentive to pursue some preventative health appointments. Take a look at five check-ups and why spring is a perfect time to make sure you’re up to date with them.
1. See an allergist to breathe easier
If you’re planning on tackling an intensive sweep of your house and you’re prone to sneezing, you should make seeing your allergist a priority. Even though numerous allergy products like nasal sprays and antihistamine tablets have switched from prescription to over-the-counter availability in recent years, there’s no substitute for expertise. “They’re certainly less expensive, but people don’t always use them properly,” says Allen Meadows, MD, an allergist and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “Nasal sprays, for example, are preventative medicines that can take days or weeks to work.”
An allergist will be able to help you sift through the numerous options on store shelves and find the best treatment available. That may include desensitization therapy, which helps reduce symptoms via injections or tablets taken under the tongue. The latter, Meadows says, is an option for people with grass or ragweed allergies, two common spring offenders. As for cleaning that house with a severe dust mite allergy? Reconsider it. “If you’re an allergy sufferer, it’s best to have someone other than you doing the cleaning.”
2. A dermatologist can scan the surface
Whether it’s dry skin, a rash, or any other complaint involving your surface area, dropping in for a dermatology appointment is one of the best things you can make time for before the summer months set in. According to Sandy Johnson, MD, a dermatologist in Fort Smith, Arkansas, sitting for a baseline exam and noting any spots, moles, or other abnormalities prior to outdoors exposure makes it easier to spot troublesome growths down the line. “[This is] especially true for people with a history of a sunburn or more than 50 moles or personal or family history of skin cancer,” Johnson says. Other springtime complaints: sun sensitivity, rashes, and bug bites. Anything that doesn’t respond to over-counter treatment, Johnson says, should be seen by a professional.
3. See your way to optometry appointments
You’ve had the same pair of glasses for years. Everything looks clear. Should you still follow up with an optometrist? Absolutely. One recent study found that 41 percent of asymptomatic patients wound up needing at least a prescription adjustment. Routine eye exams can also reveal hidden neurological diseases or degenerative conditions like glaucoma; if you’ve recently started a new, computer-intensive job, you might even benefit from anti-reflective lenses that can reduce the symptoms of eye strain, like headaches. And since you’re still in spring cleaning mode, a trip to the eye doc can pay off in less clutter: Some offices take old or outdated prescription glasses and route them to a donation center that distributes them to low-income families.
4. Dental assistance
While we can’t cite any hard data, it’s safe to say a dental exam is one of the most procrastinated appointments on anyone’s calendar. But if any part of your body needs a thorough spring scrub, it’s your mouth. “Plaque is removed by brushing, but once minerals calcify, it becomes tartar, which cannot be removed at home,” says Matt Messina, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “It’s like the coral reef.” A hygienist can get the gunk off; a dentist can perform a quick exam for overall oral health and to spot any problems (like cavities) before they become a sore spot. The visit can also provide you with dental cleaning tips: Messina says people don’t do quite as good a job cleaning spots they can’t see, like the backs of molars. He also suggests regular replacement of your toothbrush every three to four months, or “when the bristle start to splay out, like a bad hair day.”
5. For general housekeeping, see your primary care physician
Did winter lead to some excess weight along with your hibernation? Feeling sluggish even though there’s more sun out? Is the backache from yard work getting worse? All good reasons to schedule your annual physical, a top-to-bottom evaluation of your general health that may help keep you out of waiting rooms over the summer. Your physician can assess potential problem areas like high cholesterol, high blood pressure—and, in certain patient populations, recommend screening for certain cancers. They’ll also be able to guide you in either starting a new workout program or addressing any unwelcome effects of resuming one. (Shin splints, or pain in the lower legs, is a common springtime complaint.) Scrub all you like, but remember that a clean bill of health is the best home maintenance of all.