More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. For many of us, even our homes don’t provide relief. That’s because many of our symptoms are caused by indoor allergens.
Even in the most carefully cleaned houses, people can be exposed to allergens like:
- Pet dander
- Mold spores
Exposure to these and other indoor (and often invisible) allergens can cause sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, wheezing, breathing difficulty, stuffy nose, throat irritation and other symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In rare cases, some types of indoor allergens can produce anaphylactic shock.
Fortunately, there are ways to allergy-proof your house and keep unwanted allergy symptoms at bay.
The best place to start is at a doctor’s office. An allergist can perform comprehensive testing to discover the allergens that affect an individual and the severity of the allergy. While allergy sufferers might ultimately have to use medications to control their symptoms, there are actions you can take to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place once you’re armed with this information.
Turn your home into a respite from your allergy symptoms by taking some or all of the following 13 steps:
1. Remove Carpeting
Carpeting is bad for allergy sufferers because it can harbor allergens and bring on symptoms. Even new carpeting can hold allergens, including chemical ones. Ripping up carpeting and padding can greatly reduce allergy suffering.
Replace the carpeting with flooring that can be kept clean and sanitized. Vinyl, wood, or natural stone materials are all better than carpeting. Keep the flooring swept and mopped regularly to remove any dust or other allergens that may accumulate on the surface.
2. Upgrade to a HEPA Vacuum
Allergy sufferers should vacuum their homes daily to remove allergens. However, vacuums without the right filter simply expel allergens into the air, increasing allergy symptoms and making homeowners miserable.
Upgrading the home’s vacuum cleaner can have a tremendous effect on allergy sufferers. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation recommends HEPA vacuums, which are proven to capture many allergens that would normally be dispersed back into the air with traditional vacuums. To be effective, your vacuum should have a HEPA filter that can filter allergen particles as minuscule as 0.3 microns.
3. Cover the Mattress
Bedrooms can be ground zero for allergy attacks. Mattresses are full of allergens like dust mites, which can make sleep uncomfortable.
Encasing your mattress and pillows in allergy covers will keep them clean and prevent a buildup of skin cells, dander, hair and allergens. Also, remember to replace your mattress every few years.
4. Remove Shoes Before Entering the Home
Many people don’t realize the sheer numbers of allergens they bring in from outside. While allergens like pollen can attach themselves to clothing of all types, shoes are especially prime targets for introducing them into a home.
It is a wise idea to put a mat outside of the house to carefully clean shoes. For the best results, shoes should be removed before coming inside the home. It is especially important to remove them after walking in grass and other sources of allergens.
5. Change the Air Filters Frequently
An HVAC system can improve air quality in a home or make it worse for allergy sufferers, depending on the filters. Air filters only work when they are clean and free of debris. Air cannot flow freely through a filter that is clogged with dust and debris.
Just like with vacuums, it is wise to purchase HEPA filters and replace them as often as recommended. Ideally, filters should be changed every thirty days. For allergy sufferers, filters may need to be changed more frequently.
6. Get Rid of Curtains
Yes, curtains add warmth to a home and offer privacy, but they can also foster allergens. Allergy sufferers should avoid fabrics as much as possible in their home décor. Opting for wood or vinyl blinds allows for easy cleaning and can help to prevent a buildup of dust mites, dander, and other allergens.
7. Avoid Indoor Pets
A furry friend is certainly a fun addition to a home, but they can spell disaster for people who are allergic. Cat and dog dander can cause severe allergy symptoms and can even make a person feel ill.
Many people mistakenly believe it is their pet’s fur that causes the problem, but this is not entirely true. A person who is allergic can react to the proteins found in the animal’s urine, dead skin, and saliva. Those with severe allergies should avoid pets. Although dogs and cats are most commonly known for causing allergies, many other pets can also bring on the sneeze, including rabbits, hamsters, and birds.
8. Install AllergyGuard Window Screens
Window screen filters from AllergyGuard can change the lives of allergy sufferers. The NanoScreen™ filtration mesh embedded in these screens prevents the movement of most microscopic airborne particles down to a very fine particle size far smaller than common pollen spores and other harmful particles. As a result, AllergyGuard window screens blocks most dust particles, pollen, agricultural dust, and other airborne allergens.
With BMT AllergyGuard window screens in place, homeowners can open their windows with confidence, letting in fresh air and sunshine—while keeping allergens out.
Decluttering can make a world of difference for people suffering from allergies. Many people don’t even notice how cluttered their homes are. Those unkempt corners and grandma’s prized collectible figures can all harbor allergens, especially dust. Where there is dust, there are always mites, and mites cause allergy symptoms in people.
Removing excess clutter can help eliminate allergens and reduce allergy symptoms in your home.
10. Consider Dehumidifying
Some homes tend to have higher humidity levels than others. High levels of humidity levels can encourage the growth of mold and mildew that can cause allergy symptoms and even affect people who are not allergic to fungi.
For particularly humid houses, it would be wise to invest in dehumidifiers to bring down moisture levels and prevent mold growth. Dehumidifiers can be installed as home systems or used in individual rooms.
11. Use Room Allergen Filters
While small room allergen filters are limited in their ability to control allergens, they can be useful. When other initiatives are not cutting down on symptoms, these filters can be strategically placed throughout the home. Most people find relief by having one in their bedroom.
These filters range in size and expense. Some are louder than others, so it is important to choose the right model that will offer a high level of air cleaning, without causing a disruption. For maximum protection, consider an in-room allergen filter for floor vents and fans that is made with genuine NanoScreen™ filtration technology.
12. Check Your Air Circulation
For allergy sufferers, exhaust fans can be helpful or harmful, depending on how, and how well, they work. Cheap exhaust fans just redistribute allergens throughout a home and often make people more symptomatic.
To be effective, an exhaust fan must take air to the outside instead of blowing it into the attic. If a home does not have exhaust fans that link to the outside, the occupants may find themselves sneezing and wheezing more.
13. Use Home Testing Kits to Identify Problems
When all else fails, it is possible to test a home for allergens. These tests measure the levels of dust mites, dander, cockroaches, and other allergens in dust samples taken from the home. The results can help determine the origins of your allergy symptoms and suggest the correct path for remediation.
Our homes should be a sanctuary from the allergies that cause so much misery for millions of Americans. All too often, however, our houses are filled with the very allergens we are trying to escape. The good news is that you can eliminate—or at least greatly reduce—the allergens in your home through some relatively cheap and simple steps. Even better, technology innovations now makes it possible to keep your homes free from allergens without shutting yourself off from the outside world. New filters, screens and some common-sense precautions allow you to allergy-proof your home—even with the windows wide open!