It's spring. Here's how to allergy-proof each room of your home
Warmer-than-normal weather launched allergy season early this year, pumping up pollen counts across much of the nation. And if you think you can retreat indoors to relieve your sniffles, think again.
Two thirds of people with allergies suffer them year round, said allergist James Sublett, M.D., co-founder of Family Allergy & Asthma in Lousville, Ky. And the leading cause of those year-round allergies are dust mites, animals and cockroaches, he said, all of which make their homes inside of ours.
Outdoor allergens will make it into our homes through normal ventilation, Sublett said. "And of course it gets tracked in, too."
If you can't escape allergens, it's time to go on the attack. Here are Sublett's tips on allergy-proofing each room of your home.
Your bedroom deserves the most attention, Sublett said, since you lie and breathe there for eight or so hours a night. Dust mites live primarily in bedding, so buy a set of high-quality, mite-proof encasements for your pillows and mattress. They should be tightly woven with zippers that seal completely. Wash all your bedding weekly in any temperature of water to kill any mites. Doing this weekly is key as it ensures you eliminate both mites and their eggs before they hatch, Sublett said.
If you're allergic to pollen, it's a good idea to shower at night before bed. And consider keeping your room a pet-free zone, as a Golden Retriever can track in allergens on a high pollen day.
The living room
Your living room, and any space you spend much time in, should have "smooth surfaces as much as possible," Sublett said. Smooth, clear surfaces wipe down easily, such as a hardwood floor or a plastic chair. Window blinds are perhaps preferable to drapes for the same reason, he said. Avoid rugs or carpeting whenever possible.
"I know the carpeting industry doesn’t like this idea, but when you have a carpet, you do have like a big sponge there that collects dust," he said. "Normal activity is going to throw that back up in the air."
If rugs and carpeting are unavoidable, regular vacuuming removes much of the dust. Sublett recommends a respirator mask to protect from particles while cleaning—just make sure it's an N95 respirator that's NIOSH-approved, he said. Finding a high-quality disposable air filter for your furnace is important, too, Sublett said. Most are made to be replaced every three months.
Your biggest enemy in the kitchen is mold. Periodically clean any spots where leaks or spills might occur, including under the sink and your refrigerator's drain pan, Sublett said. When you do clean, avoid products with strong odors or fumes. Sublett prefers a small amount of bleach mixed in a bucket of water with some dishwasher detergent. And seal food in stored containers, leaving nothing that might attract pests such as cockroaches.
Using a ventilation fan when you shower helps cut back on your home's humidity, which should stay under 50% to ensure dust mites lack the moisture to thrive, Sublett said. A humidistat will help you measure it. Avoid humidifiers or vaporizers in the home, too.
The laundry room
Don't leave out piles of damp clothing and towels, Sublett said, which become a welcome mat for dust mites and mold. Ensure your clothes dryer vents to the outside of your home, too, doing away with excess moisture.
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