Stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and red and scratchy eyes - these allergy symptoms mean it’s time for allergy season once again. Allergies can strike at any season, both inside and outside of the house. It might seem like feeling like this is just part of season changes for seasonal allergies, or maybe you’re feeling the sniffles all year, like perennial allergies. But can I be allergic to my house? Yes, your house can give you allergies! But, there are ways to remove allergens and reduce allergens from your home! We’ve compiled the best ways to reduce allergens in your home, from ways to allergy proof your bedroom to the bathroom and beyond!
Finding your allergies
First, to find out if you can be allergic to your home, it’s important to understand your allergies. Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with more than 50 million Americans affected each year. Chances are you probably have dust mite, mold allergy, grass or tree allergy, or a pet dander allergy - or a mix of these. But to really help reduce allergens in your home, you should start by testing what allergies you need to reduce.
An at home allergy test with Imaware will test 68 allergens, including environmental allergens. Your results will show if you have any elevated IgE levels to common outdoor allergens like grasses and trees, indoor allergens like mold, dust mites, and animal dander, as well as any foods.
Besides using these tips to reduce allergens in your home, a board-certified allergist can work with you to create a program that helps to alleviate symptoms. This can include the use of antihistamine and other medications, allergen avoidance and immunotherapy.
Reducing environmental allergens in the home
Even the cleanest houses may still have problems with allergens. Dust mites live everywhere - even if you keep things nice and tidy at home. Chances are, you probably have dust mites in every fabric item inside your home - including upholstered furniture. Dust mites feed off of human and pet dander.
- Remove fabric window treatments and replace with blinds that can be easily dusted
- Wash all bedding in hot, soapy water once a week
- Use dust proof covers on all pillows and mattresses
- Remove carpeting, and wet dust hard floors regularly
Outdoor Allergens Come Inside
Even if your house is sealed properly, outdoor allergens can also come indoors with every window or door opening, and every time you bring in items from the outdoors. If you have outdoor allergies from trees or grasses, you can easily tract these allergens into your home in your clothing and shoes. If you have a pet, they can also bring allergens in on their coats, even if you aren’t allergic to the pet itself! Even your clothing and shoes can pick up allergens and bring them inside.
Here are some basic tips to reduce allergens coming inside your home:
- Remove shoes when you come inside
- Place door mats both inside and outside all doors
- Change and wash clothes after outdoor activities before sitting down on sofas, etc.
- Check pollen counts daily and manage your days outside around high pollen days
- Use a nasal rinse to flush out allergens after being outside
Pets and Allergies
Pets can fill our lives with joy and love, but they can also fill our lives with tissues and nasal sprays. Some with pet allergies choose a pet-free life. But some with pet allergies will keep pets and live with allergies. An allergist can help with sensitizing allergy shots or drops to help your body acclimate to pets with less allergic reactions. Regardless of how you treat pet allergies, it’s best to use these tips to reduce pet allergens in the house:
- Wipe pets off with a towel before they come inside
- Bathe pets regularly, or use pet wipes
- Don’t allow pets into the bedroom or on any bedding
Regularly dust the home, including ceiling fan blades, blinds, and tops of cabinets and bookshelves where dust can fall onto living spaces. You’ll also want to change out air conditioning air filters regularly. Use wet dusting for any hard flooring, and vacuum regularly. These are cheap ways to keep your air as clean as possible. But sometimes you need to bring in additional tools to help. Portable air cleaning units, often labeled as air purifiers, can help reduce allergens from your home and circulate clean air.
If you’d like to level up your vacuum cleaner game, purchase a HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner or a vacuum that is tested to remove surface allergens and other rigorous allergy standards. HEPA (or high efficiency particulate air) technically removes 99.7% of airborne allergens down to .3 microns (a very small amount). If you are having dust allergy issues, you can also wear a mask while vacuuming and sweeping.
Washing Linens Regularly
Bedding should be washed in hot water, and on a hot dryer setting. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America(R) recommends their certified washing machines that reach over 130(0)F to kill dust mites. If bedding can’t be washed at these hot temperatures, you can also put the item in the freezer overnight. The items will still have to go in the dryer for at least 15 minutes on high heat. Besides dust mites, you’ll also want to wash bedding to remove other allergens that may accumulate like pet dander, and outdoor allergens.
Mold allergies can be relentless, because mold is a naturally-occurring organism that grows everywhere. Typically mold growth can be seen - or worse - smelled! If you’ve ever walked into a building with mold, you probably know the damp, musty smell. Especially in humid climates, tackling mold can seem overwhelming.
Your biggest ally in this battle against mold is a dehumidifier! By sucking the moisture out of the air, you can inhibit mold growth. This is especially important in areas with poor ventilation, or areas that get humid frequently, like the bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen. You might have seen moldy shower curtains or mold growing on bathroom counters. You can see mold growth happen practically overnight in your own bathroom! Proper ventilation is key! You can run the air conditioner during humid times to cut down on the humidity that feeds mold growth.
It’s also important to fix any leaks you may have with plumbing, as any excess moisture from leaks can cause mold growth. Mold can grow in ceiling tiles, in paint, drywall, or insulation. Any flooding or substantial leaks should be examined by an expert. While this mold may be hidden in your home, it can substantially affect your allergies.
If you believe you have a problem with mold, there are several at-home mold testing kits available online or at your local hardware store. You can also hire a mold expert to come in and test your house for mold. Depending on how big the mold problem is, you can DIY mold cleaning with simple cleaning tools, or you might need a mold remediation specialist.
Allergy proofing your bedroom
Your bedroom is a prime place for allergens, and it’s a room you spend a lot of time in every day. We spend a third of our life sleeping, or at least attempting to go to sleep!
Start by making a regular cleaning routine, including vacuuming once a week, at least, to minimize allergens. This includes dusting with a damp mop or cloth, vacuuming, and washing bedding regularly.
Next, Use dehumidifiers in humid climates. If you use a humidifier in your bedroom for drier climates, make sure that the humidifier is cleaned regularly.
Make your bedding allergy friendly! Purchase allergy-friendly bedding including mattress pads, duvet covers, pillows, and pillow covers. The best products can block allergens, like dust mites, from getting through. These dust mite proof covers should be easily laundered. These products should also be made without chemicals known to cause allergies or irritants.
If you have pets, you’ll want to keep them out of the bedroom. Designating the bedroom as a pet-free zone helps to keep outdoor allergens, and pet allergens, out of this safe space. If you must have pets in the bedroom, it’s best to not have them on or in your bedding. We know this can be tough, so if your pet does share the bed with you, make sure you wash your bedding regularly. Pets should also be brushed regularly and bathed to help reduce dander.
If you’re suffering from outdoor allergens, take a shower and wash your hair before you go to bed if you’ve been outside. This can help remove any outdoor allergens before you climb into bed.
Even more household irritants
There are many types of products that release chemicals and pollutants inside of your home outside of IgE allergies we’ve discussed like dust mites and mold. Indoor air quality can sometimes be just as bad as outdoors! There are many items that we use quite often that could be causing allergy symptoms or additional respiratory problems. These items include:
- Air fresheners
- Fragrances, even those found in essential oils
- Cleaning products
- Flame retardants, often found in paints, carpets, furniture
- Formaldehyde, often found in building materials
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), often found in pain
These items can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat, and could trigger breathing problems. You can reduce the use of these items, use a HEPA filter air filter or air purifier, or make sure the space is well ventilated during use.
New home, now what?
How do you get rid of allergens in a new home? Starting from the ground up gives you an opportunity to install items that can prevent allergen issues from the beginning. Choose products that prevent mold growth. Make sure all windows and doors have tight seals to avoid outdoor allergens coming in easily.. Install allergy-friendly whole home air conditioners. Use low-VOC or zero-VOC paint in all rooms. Install easy-to-clean flooring, avoiding carpet when possible. Start with using Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Certified asthma & allergy friendly products.
Allergy Proof Your Home
There are many ways you can allergy proof your home, beyond the regular tidying up and standard cleaning practices, using these tips and tricks.
- Keep humidity low, and reduce moisture in the air, and use a dehumidifier if necessary
- Watch for leaks and floods that may spur mold growth
- Choose allergy-friendly insulation if possible
- Remove carpeting if possible, and replace with easy-to-clean flooring options
- Keep shoes off inside the home
- Hire eco-friendly pest control to control cockroaches and mice, and prevent re infestation
- Clean air conditioning filters regularly
- Have air conditioners inspected regularly
- Dust and damp mop solid surface flooring regularly
- Use portable air purifiers throughout your home, especially in the bedroom
- Use HEPA-filter vacuum cleaners regularly
- Keep household irritants use, like candles and fragrances, to a minimum
- Maintain good pet hygiene, and keep pets out of the bedroom
- Use low or zero-VOC paints
- Purchase allergy-friendly bedding with dust mite proof covers that can be easily washed
- Wash linens regularly in hot water, and use a high-heat dryer setting
- Shower regularly after any outdoor activity before coming inside
Keeping your home free from dust mites, mold, pet dander, and other environmental allergens can keep you breathing well and keep seasonal and perennial and respiratory allergies at bay.