How to Make an “Allergy-Free” Home

By staff

Here is a home improvement project that will make life more comfortable at home. Read on for tips on how to keep your home “allergy-free.”

Common airborne allergens in our home include pollen (tree, weed, and grass), dust mites, mold, and animal dander. If you often have a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, sore throat and hoarseness, surely you are allergic to something in your home.

How to Keep Out Pollens.

1. Wash bed sheets weekly to get rid of pollens that may have entered the house.
2. Shower before going to bed to get rid of collected pollens on our skin and hair.
3. Keep your windows closed and use air-conditioning inside your home and your car.
4. Dry your clothes indoors, because if left hung to dry outside, pollens can easily attach to the fabrics.
5. Wear a filter mask when working outdoors.
6. Avoid outdoor activities between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, because this period is the peak time for dissemination of pollens.
7. Do some spring cleaning. Clean ducts, vents, filters, and ducts.
8. Pets can also collect pollens from outside so keep them out of your bedroom and off the furniture.

Airborne pollens enter our homes unintentionally and trigger allergies. When pollen counts are highest between 5:00 to 10:00 AM, stay indoors. Use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration, especially in your bedroom. Pollens can cling to fabrics if left outdoors, so dry laundry indoors in an automatic dryer. Once you get home, take a shower and rinse off pollens from your hair and skin. Keep pets off your bed and furniture, and make sure they are washed often. Mow grass before it grows tall, so it doesn’t produce seed heads and pollen. Remove weeds from your yard before they have a chance to pollinate.

Pollen season may be different in other countries, so it is best to learn more about the pollen cycles where you live and track when your allergies act up.

How to Control Dust Mites.

Minimize the clutter and store books and other items in closed cabinets. Use zippered allergen impermeable covers for your pillows, mattress, and box spring. Wash all beddings every two weeks in hot water. For your flooring, get rid of your carpets and opt for hard surfaces such as hardwood, vinyl, and tiles. For your window covering, throw out thick curtains and heavy draperies, and instead use window shades or light fabrics that are easy to clean.

Since the bedroom is one of the worst locations for mites (or the best as far as they are concerned) this is the area for the first line defense. Pull up the carpet and install hardwood flooring. In addition, for the bedroom there are dust mite proof mattress and pillow covers, it is important to do your research before buying products because some say they are mite proof but they aren’t. Bed covers need to be non fabric plastic or plastic coated. Zip the mattresses up in them and cover the pillows including decorative pillows. All bedding, sheets pillowcases, blankets and quilts should be washed in hot water at least once a week with an extra rinse cycle to get rid of bed mites and their droppings. Airing out bedding in the sun helps too, but if you have pollen allergies it isn’t the best idea.

It is also important to keep the humidity in the room below 50% use dehumidifiers whenever possible. Painted walls are better than wallpaper, blinds are better than curtains, if you must have curtains and rugs make sure they are washable and wash them at least once a month.

Interestingly enough, not making the bed in the morning is also a good way to cut down on mites. If you make the bed right after getting up then moisture from sleeping is trapped inside and create a perfect environment for dust mites. If you leave the bed unmade it allows the bedding to air out and dry. So it’s better to make the beds later in the morning rather than first thing.

Dust mites can be controlled to a degree, in the house and in the bedroom. In addition to making these changes it is important to vacuum frequently with a good vacuum that has a secondary HEPA filter. Make sure to empty the bags outdoors and use dust masks and gloves if you are the allergy prone person. Taking these steps will help lower the population explosion of dust mites in the house.

How to Prevent Growth of Molds.

Molds grow best in humid and damp areas in the house such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. They may grow in isolated areas of the house but they release airborne spores that float to other parts of the house to grow. Molds grow in closets, refrigerator drip trays, air conditioners, washing machines, under-sink cabinets, garbage pails, mattresses, foam pillows, attics, carpets, and upholstery. For prevention, control the humidity and clean your air conditioners regularly. Store your food properly. Wash shower curtains, scrub bathroom tiles and grout regularly, and use exhaust fans in your bathroom to reduce humidity.

Here are some suggestions with the help of the AAFA:
• Don’t let wet clothes stay wet. Hang towels and bathing suits to dry and make sure clothes don’t sit in the washing machine. They tend to get moldy/mildewy faster in the summer.
• Clean your shower and baths and bathrooms on a regular basis. There are some strong products out there specifically for mold and mildew but you may want to check the ingredients if chemicals are a concern. Try more organic ones if you’d rather, but they’ll take a little more elbow grease.
• Fix any plumbing leaks or other areas where water is accumulating.
• Throw away or recycle old books and phone books as they are prone to get moldy if sitting around.
• Use a dehumidifier.

How to Manage Pet Allergens.

Animal dander is not our pet’s hair or fur; it is the old skin scales that dogs shed regularly, and it is the proteins in our cat’s dried saliva, sweat, and urine that cause allergies. These float around the home and attach to walls, windows, and furniture. First, consider keeping your pet. But if you cannot let go of the emotional bond, there are some less effective but more viable ways to reduce pet dander in the home. The next best thing is to try to reduce the allergens. Wash your pet regularly. Keep your pet out of the bedroom also. Train your pet to sleep outside by creating a comfortable nook for them to sleep and eat. Use ample ventilation, and have a source of fresh air so that animal dander won’t be contained inside the house. Use a HEPA filtration system.  Remove all forms of carpeting or fabric covered furniture, and instead opt for leather or vinyl covers that can be cleaned easily.

Keep the Air Cleaner

Once the allergy sources are controlled, the air can be kept cleaner. That’s sometimes easier said than done as well, but with a bit of extra work and daily cleaning, it’s possible. One of the most effective things to do on a regular basis, meaning a couple of times a week, not a month, is to vacuum. Look for a good vacuum that won’t put allergens back into the air and change the bag or filter often. Many people prefer HEPA vacuums for allergy cleaning. If looking for a new vacuum, take some time to research and find one that will do the job you need.

Just as vacuuming is important to the fight against indoor allergens, so is dusting. Again, make sure you’re capturing and disposing of the dust, not just moving it around (which can be worse for you!). Use a wet dusting product, like Pledge, or one of the dusting rags that dust adheres to. I noticed one day in my daughter’s room that her bookshelf was covered in dust. Even though we do our best to keep her room picked up and vacuumed, she likes “things” and they are kept on top of her bookshelf which makes it hard to clean on a regular basis. I took everything off the shelf, dusted all of the “things” and the bookshelf, and replaced everything. I’m trying to get her to box up some of those knickknacks, but that hasn’t happened yet, though it would make it much easier to dust. The less clutter the easier it is to manage dust and other allergens. Try to reduce those stacks of magazines and bills, even if it just means keeping them in a large airtight box rather than out on a table or counter-top.

There will never be a house that is totally allergy-free. However, by reducing the factors that allow allergens to thrive inside the house, we can minimize the situations that would normally trigger our allergies.

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