Many people with allergies know when the mold counts are high or pollen is on the rise in their area. But it can be equally important to have insight into the state of potential allergens inside the home.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with hay fever, allergies or allergic asthma can benefit from taking extra care to reduce the presence of allergens in the home.
“Some steps to reduce indoor allergens are complicated and time-consuming — but there are some easy things you can do that may help,” says the Mayo Clinic. Depending on your particular allergies, some steps may help ease symptoms more than others.
In an interview with dailyRx, John Oppenheimer, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), said, “…the greatest gains can be had by doing some simple things in the home.”
“First, in the case of dust mites, encasing mattress, box springs and bedding and washing bedding weekly in hot water appear to be the most useful maneuvers,” said Dr. Oppenheimer.
Regarding pet allergies, Dr. Oppenheimer told dailyRx that removal of pets seems to be the best method. However, Dr. Oppenheimer noted that studies have shown that "...it may take up to nine months to see allergen levels diminish to that of a home with no pets.”
“Lastly, in the case of mold, repair of water damaged areas and solving where the intrusion is coming from is the only good answer,” said Dr. Oppenheimer.
These are the broad, simple steps to take out some major sources of allergens. There are also plenty of ways to tackle allergens in specific rooms of the home.
Bedroom and Living Room Tactics
As mentioned by Dr. Oppenheimer, a good first step to protecting your bedroom from allergens is to use dust mite-proof covers and to wash sheets weekly.
The Mayo Clinic also suggests opting for washable window treatments over horizontal blinds. It can also be helpful to choose curtains made from synthetic fabric or plain cotton.
Another window-related tactic is to keep windows closed during pollen season and rely on air conditioning, suggests AAAAI. Any mold or condensation that forms on windows should be cleaned away.
The AAAAI also notes that hot and humid houses make for prime environments for mold and mites. They recommend keeping the temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity between 30 and 50 percent.
Clutter around the bedroom or living room can also be a source of problems. “Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines,” suggests the Mayo Clinic.
The Mayo Clinic recommends using a vented exhaust fan in the kitchen to remove fumes from cooking and reduce moisture in the area. The clinic warns that most standard stove-top hoods may filter particles from cooking, but rarely vent the fumes outside.
AAAAI suggests storing food (including pet food) in sealed containers and making sure to throw out food that has become moldy or out-of-date. Putting garbage in an insect-proof container, emptying it every day and keeping the kitchen food-crumb clear can also help reduce the risk of insects, cockroaches and rodents, says The Mayo Clinic.
It can also be helpful to wash the dishes every day and keep the sink clean of food.
Preventing moisture and mold is the main name of the game when it comes to the bathroom. So, what's one easy way to prevent this area from breeding allergens? The Mayo Clinic suggests you towel-dry the tub and shower enclosure after use.
It can also help to have an exhaust fan working to remove moisture from the air while showering or bathing.
AAAAI says that wood or linoleum flooring is preferable to carpet, and tile or mold-resistant paint is a better option than wallpaper in the bathroom.
Use washable rugs in the bathroom and toss out or clean mats or shower curtains that become moldy.
As Dr. Oppenheimer warned, water damage can be a big source of mold. AAAAI recommends you quickly repair any leaks that may occur.
A Healthy Home
There is a huge range of steps people can take to try to make their home more allergen-proof, only a small portion of which are mentioned here.
Talking to a doctor about specific allergy-related needs can help patients determine which steps might be more helpful to them or more important to tackle first.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends one broad step that is probably good advice for all allergy sufferers: “Don't allow smoking anywhere inside your house.”
Though some steps to protecting yourself from allergens in the home might require major redesign choices (like switching from carpet to hard wood), others are as simple as making trash removal a daily routine or telling smokers to take it outside.
By making an effort to look at allergy factors in the home, sufferers can hopefully ease some of their symptoms and view their house as a cozy refuge from allergens.