How to Allergy-Proof Your Home
Suffer from indoor allergies? You can breathe a little easier knowing that there are steps you can take to feel better fast—plus some simple cleaning habits to ensure allergy symptoms aren't exacerbated. To help you figure out which rooms to tackle and how to clean them for optimal allergy relief, we talked to allergists Travis A. Miller, M.D., Medical Director, The Allergy Station at Sacramento Ear, Nose, and Throat in Roseville, Calif., and John Saryan, M.D., Chairman of Allergy and Immunology at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass.
If you make changes to just one room in your home to ease allergies, the bedroom should be it. Keep your bedroom windows closed at all times, suggests Saryan. While a fresh breeze can be enjoyable, it’s important to keep pollen from blowing into the bedroom from an open window—it can get into your bedding and you’ll breathe it in while you sleep. If you need to cool off, turn on the A/C. It’s best to remove rugs from this room too, as they can act as a reservoir for pet dander and dust mites. Saryan also suggests minimizing fabrics, drapery, extra pillows, excess clutter, and anything that can collect dust or pet dander. “You want the bedroom to be as sparse as possible,” Saryan says. If you have pet allergies, don’t let your dog or cat on the bed, or—even better—don’t let them in your bedroom at all.
“If you’re allergic to dust mites, use a woven, microfiber casing for the mattress and bed pillows to prevent the dust mites from moving through the mattress to your bedding while you sleep,” says Saryan. Washing sheets and pillowcases in hot water (130° F) weekly and the remaining bedding (duvet cover, blankets, and comforter) every other week can help to kill those dust mites. “Patients who practice these minimizing and cleaning tips can feel allergy symptom relief in a few days,” Saryan says.
The Living Room
Running the air conditioner reduces humidity, which is the best way to moderate dust mites in the space. Change filters monthly and, if you have central air, make sure to get the unit serviced at least every two years (or whenever it’s suggested on the owner’s manual). Your central air conditioner should have a filtration system that picks up house dust, pet dander, dirt, and mold spores, which can reduce allergies. If you do choose to open your windows, regularly wipe down sills and nearby furniture that pollen could collect on and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which will prevent dust clouds from kicking up as you clean carpets and rugs.
“Hard flooring in the home will have some benefit for indoor allergy sufferers because it’s easier to collect pet dander and reduce dust,” says Miller. If you have carpet, though, vacuum it a few times a week, especially if you have pets. Once a season, move furniture around so you can vacuum under it, suggests Miller. And wipe down hard surfaces and shelves often to reduce dust. The jury still seems to be out on whether individual-room HEPA filter devices are beneficial for allergy sufferers. While they may help with cat dander, they’re not as good for dust mites because those are heavier particles that settle quickly. “Allergists often recommend the home be kept below 30 percent humidity and often discourage using a humidifier since higher humidity levels allow mold, bacteria, and dust mites to accumulate,” says Miller.
Mold is also an issue in this area due to the amount of moisture in the space. Make sure your laundry room has a ventilation fan to decrease the moisture and humidity, especially if you let your clothes air dry here. Clean this room regularly to reduce linen dust from the dryer.
Attics and Basements
Safety Tip: Wear a dust mask any time you tackle large scale cleaning projects. Asthmatics should always wear a mask when cleaning.