Simple Solutions to Reduce or Eliminate Allergens
The best way for you to avoid the signs and symptoms of allergies in your own home is to avoid exposure to the allergens (dust mites, mold, pollen, and pet allergen) that cause problems. Effective environmental control can reduce or eliminate the need for medicine.
Pets are like members of the family, but the tiny flakes of dried skin they shed could be triggering your nasal allergies. In addition to these flakes, or dander, some people are also sensitive to the saliva, urine and blood of their pets. What if you can’t part with your best friend? You might not have to. Here are some measures that you can take to lessen your chances of an allergy attack.
- Wipe down indoor surfaces frequently to remove animal hair and dander.
- Keep your pets outdoors as much as possible, and a least out of the bedroom. Make your bedroom an allergy-free zone and teach animals to stay off upholstered furniture where pet dander might stick to the fabric. Remember carpeting and furniture can retain allergens for 3 – 6 weeks after the animal has moved on.
- Use HEPA air filters to remove microscopic particles of animal dander and hair from room air.
- Don’t install carpeting if you have a choice, otherwise vacuum frequently using a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
- Use a dust mask when cleaning.
- Install High Efficiency Low Pressure Air (HELPA) filters on home heating and air conditioning systems.
- Cover room heating and air conditioning vents with vent filter clothes to filter the air.
- Wash your pet weekly with a dander-reducing shampoo, then follow with an anti-dander spray to remove accumulated pollen from outside and pet dander. Also try having a non-allergic person regularly brush your pet outside to help keep your pets pollen and dander at bay.
- Wash your hands after touching you pet.
You can’t see them. You can’t hear them, but there are tiny critters living in your house dust that could be stirring up trouble for you if you’re an allergy suffer. Dust mites are the most common cause of perennial (year-round) allergies. Some 20 million people in the US are allergic to dust mites. Dust mites are the little creatures that feed off flakes of human skin, live deep down in carpets, furniture and bedding. Dust mites are less than a third of a millimeter in length. Their waste products when inhaled by sensitive people, can cause an allergic reactions similar to those caused by pollen.
Isn’t dust just dust?
Household dust is a conglomeration of many different things- fabric fibers, pet dander, food particles, plant and insect parts, mold and fungus spores, and dust mites and their waste products. A protein in dust mites’ waste products is what can cause an allergic reaction.
What can I do to eliminate or reduce the amount of dust mites and dust in my home?
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water. Dry on high to kill dust mites.
- Use anti-allergen encasements for bedding, including pillows, mattresses, duvet covers, and box springs.
- Vacuum thoroughly using a High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) filter vacuum and bags that seal in dust.
- Clean thoroughly once a week using equipment that traps dust rather than releasing it back into the air.
- Filter the air with a HEPA air purifier, which will eliminate 99.7 percent of indoor airborne allergens.
- Dehumidify the air. Dust mites thrive in humidity levels above 50 percent. Reduce humidity levels to between 30-50 percent with a dehumidifier. Use a small dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from closets, cabinets and other small, enclosed spaces. Monitor humidity levels with a hygrometer.
- Use High Efficiency Low Pressure Air (HELPA) air filters on heating and air conditioning systems.
- Replace non-washable stuffed toys with hypo-allergenic toys that can be washed in hot water.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, blinds, upholstered furniture, wool blankets, and down-filled covers and pillows.
- Use roll-type shades on your windows in place of curtains.
Mold is one of the four most common allergic triggers, especially in humid areas. Avoiding exposure to mold spores is central to effective treatment. High humidity promotes growth of mold spores in places such as damp basements, closets, refrigerator drip pans, air conditioners, garbage pails, and shower stalls. For many allergy sufferers, mold allergies are a problem throughout the year. Molds reproduce by releasing “spores” into the air. They thrive in damp, dark places and are often found in soil, growing on vegetation, or in piles of fallen leaves.
Here are a few tips for limiting your exposure to this common allergy instigator:
- Clean the refrigerator drip pan every few months. When mold grows in this pan, the refrigerator fan blows the mold spores into the room.
- Remove visible mold with non-toxic cleaning products.
- Keep the humidity level in your home below 50 percent with an air conditioner or dehumidifier and monitor humidity levels by using a hygrometer.
- Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and the bathroom.
- Check air conditioner vents and under the sink for water leaks. Address water leaks immediately.
- Wear a protective mask while gardening, raking, or mowing.
- Open windows on days when humidity levels are low to air out the house.
- Use a HEPA air purifier to reduce indoor airborne mold spores.
- Install High Efficiency Low Pressure Air (HELPA) filters on home heating and air condition systems to trap mold spores.
- Remove houseplants from your home. Soil is a place molds like to grow.
There are 35.0 million people who are allergic to pollen. Avoiding exposure to pollen is central to effective treatment.
- Avoid outdoor activities in the morning. Days that are dry and breezy have higher pollen counts, so exercise indoors to avoid allergens.
- Avoid mowing the lawn.
- Keep car windows up and air conditioning on when you’re driving.
- Wear a HEPA filter mask when pollen counts are high to avoid outdoor pollen exposure.
- Close all your windows at home. Use filter screens if windows must be opened, and a window fan with built-in filter.
- Try not to hang laundry outside during pollen season.
- Remove shoes before entering your home. Shower and wash your hair every night before going to bed. Pollen collects on clothing, hair, and exposed parts of your body.
- Use HELPA air filters on heating and air conditioning systems.
Traveling with Nasal Allergies
Who wants to wake up to a runny, stuffy nose or sneezing on vacation? You should not have to deal with nasal allergies when you travel, and to help make your vacation a pleasant time for you and you family, here are some important travel tips to keep in mind.
- Pack your medication
- It may not be pollen season at home, but it may very well be pollen season where you are traveling. For an on-line map of pollen counts throughout the united states, visit www.aaaai.org, www.pollen.com, www.breathingzone.com, or call 1-800-9-POLLEN.
- Be sure to sleep indoors in a room with air conditioning.
- Keep the windows closed and run the air conditioner to keep pollen and mold spores from joining you. Before heading off on a road trip, run the air conditioner or heater and open the windows for about 10 minutes. This will help remove the dust mites or mold spores built up in your ventilation system.
- Avoid using hotel closets if you are allergic to mold spores. Since mold spores grow in dark, damp areas, closets and dressers are common breeding grounds.
- Avoid rooms near the swimming pool, beach, or woods. They are likely to have a higher concentration of molds.
- Pack your own allergy-proof covers or pillows and mattresses.
- Ask for a pet-free room, remember pet dander can stay around 3-6 weeks after a pet leaves the room.
- Always carry your doctor’s phone number with you in case you have question, or if your symptoms become a problem.
NOTE: Many of the same steps apply to reducing airborne irritants including tobacco smoke, fuel particles and chemicals, such as using a HEPA air filter, but there are different approaches for detection and avoidance.