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If you’re one of the millions of Americans with seasonal allergies, you may think that staying indoors during allergy season will protect you from allergens. Not true! The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports that indoor allergens can be just as hazardous, making ridding your home of allergens an important priority.
Allergens are substances that trigger allergic reactions or asthma symptoms in some people. They can be found in both outdoor and indoor air. Indoor allergens include pollen, dust, mites, cockroach debris, animal dander, and mold.
Allergen particles are carried in the air and vary in size. The larger the particle, the faster it will settle on couches, tabletops, carpets, and other indoor surfaces. Once particles settle, disturbing them by sitting, vacuuming, or dusting, for example, puts them in the air again where they can enter your respiratory system and trigger symptoms.
Regular, vigorous cleaning helps reduce the number of allergens in your home and improve indoor air quality. The following tips, brought to you by the AAFA, will help you achieve better indoor air:
The best way to remove indoor air pollutants is to eliminate the source. This includes removing pets, carpets, overstuffed furniture, stuffed animals, non-encased mattresses and pillows, and bedding that can’t be washed in hot water, from rooms in which you spend the most time.
If you’ve been cooped up all winter in a house with little or no circulation, air out your home on dry days when pollen counts are lowest by opening the windows. Prevent outdoor allergens from entering your home by keeping doors and windows closed on high-pollen days and running your air conditioner on recirculate.
Moisture increases the humidity level in your home, encouraging the growth of dust mites and mold. Reduce humidity by running your air conditioner and opening windows on dry days. You can also opt for purchasing a dehumidifier online or at a local hardware store.
Dust mites are microscopic pests that generate allergens. Hundreds of thousands of dust mites may live in your bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets, curtains, and other household items. Because dust mites feed on dead human skin cells found in dust, it’s important to keep all surfaces of your home clean and uncluttered. Choose bare floors over carpet, using throw rugs that can be washed. Encase pillows, mattresses, and box springs in zippered allergen impermeable or plastic covers. Wash bedding, uncovered pillows, and stuffed animals in hot water at least once a week.
As we mentioned above, vacuuming can cause settled particles to recirculate in the air. Because it also keeps allergens to a minimum, it should be performed once or twice a week using a vacuum that’s been certified as asthma and allergy-friendly. For a list of certified devices in your area, visit the AAFA. Wear a dust mask while doing housework. Use a damp cloth for dusting. Leave the house for a couple of hours after cleaning to allow unsettled dust to settle again.
Most doctors advise people sensitive to animal dander to refrain from keeping pets with feathers or fur. If you already have a pet or are just dying to get one, bar your pet from the bedroom by keeping the door closed at all time. Keep pets off beds and furniture. Replace carpet that’s been exposed to pets with bare flooring. Stick your pet’s favorite piece of furniture in another room. If you’re unable to tolerate fur or feathers, try getting an Iguana.
Reduce exposure to indoor mold by eliminating moisture. Purchase a dehumidifier to reduce dust mites and moisture. Immediately repair leaks and other sources of moisture. Keep surfaces mold-free at all times and remove moldy firewood and piles of moldy grass, leaves, and other debris immediately from the yard.
Discourage cockroaches from feasting on your food by covering it and placing it in a secure cupboard or the refrigerator. If you must use poison baits or traps, avoid chemical agents that can irritate allergy symptoms or asthma.
“Tips to Control Indoor Allergens.” Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. Accessed March 2, 2015.
by Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN