31 Easy Tips to Reduce Allergens in Your Home

September 27th, 2013

Photo courtesy of William Brawley

Indoor allergy symptoms include a drippy nose with watery, clear secretions and itchy eyes; symptoms linger for weeks and are triggered by dust, dust mites, dander, mold, or cockroaches. Photo courtesy of William Brawley.

Suffering from a cycle of sneezing and coughing in your own home can be extremely frustrating, but such indoor allergies are a reality for millions of Americans. The good news is that these simple tips can help decrease allergy triggers and increase the air quality in your home.

  • Get your carpets professionally cleaned every six months. Think of it this way – you wouldn’t go six months without mopping your kitchen floor, would you? Although it’s not as visible, that’s about how much dust and dander build up on your carpets and rugs too. The EPA actually recommends getting them cleaned as frequently as once a month, but you can get away with having them cleaned every six months unless you have children, pets, or more than one smoker living in the house.
  • Clean your air ducts at least once a year. Those ducts transport air through your entire home, so make sure they’re clean so you’re not blowing dust and allergens throughout your house. Once they’re clean, position the vents toward your bed so you’re breathing clean air while you sleep.
  • Change your air filter once a month. Swap your standard filter in favor of HEPA filters or filters with a minimum efficiency rating value between 8 and 12, which help remove smoke, bacteria, mold, dander, etc., from the air.
  • Use a dehumidifier to prevent mold growth. Keep the humidity in your home lower than 50 percent, and clean the dehumidifier once a week.
  • Give special attention to areas where your pets sleep. Frequently vacuum and/or wash Fido’s designated nap zones to reduce pet dander and dust mite buildup.
  • Designate your bedroom and couches as pet-free zones. Not that it’ll be easy keeping him off the bed! But if you can’t stand to sleep without your pet, make sure you wash and vacuum your bedding frequently as it can become a reservoir for dander. You can even buy hypoallergenic mattress and pillow covers, as the tightly woven fibers don’t allow that nasty stuff to sink into your bed; and avoid mattresses filled with foam rubber or feathers. And if your pets jump on the couches, you can cover the sitting areas with slipcovers that you wash once a week.
  • Keep windows and doors closed — but not all the time. Obviously, limiting your exposure to the outdoors after you’ve mowed the lawn, on windy days, or on high-pollen days will prevent pesky allergens from taking up residence in your home. But if you never allow any fresh air to come into the house, the allergens will just become trapped inside.
  • Keep decorating simple. Store children’s toys and stuffed animals in a plastic bin and reduce the knick-knacks and books you keep on display, as they tend to be harder to clean and, therefore, accumulate dust.
  • Keep the house cool. Dust mites and mold thrive in warmer air. Lower the temperature to at least 70°F (21°C).
  • If you have indoor plants, put aquarium gravel over the dirt to reduce mold.
  • Wash the dishes, kitchen sink, and counters daily. This will eliminate moldy food, crumbs (which can attract bugs, cockroaches, and rodents), and mildew buildup.
  • Change your curtains to cotton or a synthetic fabric, which are easier to clean and hold less dust. Also, be sure to wipe down the windowsills with a mildew spray, as those areas are breeding grounds for mildew, mold, and dust. Be sure to replace the weather stripping and caulk the windows as needed.
  • Allow pets to roam outside. The wind and fresh air will disperse some of the dander. You can also brush your dog/cat outside to further lessen the amount of hair and dander that enter your home. If you’re extremely allergic, consider wearing latex gloves and a dust mask, or having someone else do the job.
  • Use an allergen-proof bag in your vacuum. Vacuums can blow around just as much dust as they eliminate, so reduce the chances of dust scattering around the room by switching the vacuum bag or even buying a HEPA vacuum filter.
  • Bathe your pet weekly. You can’t get rid of all your pet’s allergens with a bath, but it can help. On days you can’t bathe your pet, you can use baby wipes to wipe down his/her fur.Wash your hands after touching your pet – or at the very least, before your touch your face.
  • Use a tightly closing trash bin and empty the trash daily.
  • Use an exhaust fan in the bathroom to reduce moisture. Also, opt for tiled walls or mold-resistant enamel paint over wallpaper, which can seal in water vapor.
  • Don’t put your bed over an air vent, as doing so can trap dust.

If you try these precautions and still don’t see a decrease in symptoms or severity, consult an allergist/immunologist who can diagnose any additional allergies or suggest a medication that can alleviate symptoms.

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