Allergy season has arrived. If you think allergies are just an outdoor thing, think again. If you ever open your windows and doors, keep your shoes on in the house, or don’t strip down your clothes when you come inside, there is pollen in your home. Aside from pollen, many people are also allergic to dust mites and mold. Spring-cleaning can do more than make your home look nice – it can help prevent allergy symptoms.
- Avoid Bringing the Outdoors In– “Know your triggers and, to keep offending allergens outside, don’t open windows on days when the pollen count is elevated,” recommends Andy Nish, MD, an allergist with the Allergy and Asthma Care Center in Gainesville, Georgia.If you’ve spent time outdoors, wash your clothes and shampoo your hair to avoid carrying around allergens or transferring them to indoor surfaces such as sofas and bedding. According to Dr. Nish, allergens that are tracked indoors can stay potent enough to cause symptoms for a few days.
- Use a Vacuum with a HEPA Filter– Though taking your vacuum to the rug seems like an efficient way to zap allergens, irritants like dust mites and pet dander can easily be released back into the room while you clean. To prevent this, use a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which traps allergens, at least once a week. Be sure to vacuum your upholstery as well!
- Wash Bedding Every Week– Dust mites are the most common trigger of indoor allergy and asthma symptoms, and they thrive on soft surfaces, which means your greatest exposure to them is through your mattress. To help decrease susceptibility, wash bedding weekly in hot (130°F) water and dry on a hot cycle. If your comforters can’t be laundered, cover them with a washable duvet cover to keep them out of allergens’ reach. Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in allergen-proof covers.
- Institute a Shoe–Free Policy– Keep dust, pollen and more from entering your house in the first place by encouraging family and friends to take their shoes off at the door. Provide ample interior and exterior doormats to trap shoe muck and a basketful of slippers for guests.
- Be Aware of Humidity Levels– To keep allergens that grow in damp areas, such as mold, under control, maintain proper household humidity. A humidistat, a gauge that measures humidity and that can be found at most local home improvement stores, helps you monitor how much moisture is in the air. Indoor humidity levels should be kept below 50 percent. Use dehumidifiers in damp areas such as basements, and empty and clean the holding tank regularly. Run the air conditioning in humid weather to remove moisture from the air, and replace the air filter monthly (it helps trap some allergens).