Treating Home Allergies: How to reduce indoor allergens
We’ve got bad news for seasonal allergy sufferers: That “season” is getting longer and longer. That’s thanks to the longer summers and warmer overall temperatures we’ve had the last few years. When the weather’s warm, people suffer more from home allergies when they’re indoors.
In the case of seasonal sufferers, pollen is the main offender. That’s the fine, powdery substance plants release into the air.
When these particles find their way into your home, they settle in and cause trouble.
It doesn’t help that Delaware and Montgomery counties, along with all of Southeastern Pennsylvania, regularly get failing grades when it comes to air quality.
Meanwhile, dust mites, mold, mildew, and pet dander also cause problems. All of these can build up in their house and make their lives miserable.
Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer as much in your home as you do outside.
How can I get relief from home allergy symptoms?
Home allergies are caused by allergens, or triggers, that you regularly find indoors. Some, like pollen, are seasonal. Others, like pet dander or mold or mildew, are year-round problems. To reduce these symptoms, you need to address all these triggers. Four ways to do this are:
- Establishing a regular, strategic cleaning routine
- Keeping your windows closed
- Using special air filters and air purifiers
- Making sure your bathroom is properly ventilated
Establish a cleaning routine to reduce indoor allergens
One important way to reduce allergens in your home is to keep them from settling in. You can do this by establishing a regular cleaning routine. Triggers like pollen and dust mites tend to build up in certain places. Attacking these once a week will keep them from becoming a problem.
You want to focus on cleaning:
- Sheets, pillowcases and blankets
- Rugs, carpets, and flooring
- Cabinets, countertops, and tables
- Windowsills and tops of doors
Let’s look a little closer at these.
Change your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets weekly
The big threat in your bed is dust mites. These tiny creatures eat flakes of human skin. So, they build up where you’re laying down and shedding skin cells all night.
Make sure you wash the linens in water that’s 130 degrees or warmer. It may be a little time-consuming. But, it’s much less expensive than replacing all our bedding with much more expensive, specialty linens.
Scrub windowsills and tops of doors with a damp cloth
These areas usually aren’t on the top of people’s cleaning lists. They’re often out of sight or out of mind. But, that’s part of the problem.
It’s common for dust – and pollen, and dander and other nasties – to build up in these spots. And, dusting just kicks these up into the air. That puts them in circulation around the house.
To get rid of these contaminants for good, wipe all these surfaces with a damp cloth.
The same goes for those cabinets, countertops, and tables. Use moisture to trap those irritants.
Use a vacuum with special filters
Rugs are notorious for trapping dust. So, you may want to invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
These filters are made to trap the tiniest of molecules. This keeps those particles from circulating back into the air.
For other types of flooring, water is critical. Sweeping will kick up any irritants. A mop gets rid of them more effectively.
Reduce home allergy symptoms by keeping the windows closed
Keeping your windows closed in the summer can be a tall order in the summer. And, it can be a double-edged sword. But, it’s an essential part of reducing home allergy symptoms.
The premise here is simple: Pollen is a primary seasonal trigger. And, in the warm weather, it’s always in the air outside. So, that’s where you want to keep it.
Of course, it’s impossible to keep those tiny particles out completely. After all, you’re still going to open doors for at least a few times a day.
But, keeping that to a minimum reduces the number of contaminants that get in. This is especially important on days with high pollen counts.
Air conditioning is critical
Without the AC the heat would quickly become unbearable with the windows closed in the summer.
If you have central air, make sure your unit is tuned up for the summer. A dirty AC can spread more irritants throughout the house. You also don’t want it breaking down during the hottest time of the year.
Of course, the downside is losing air circulation. Any irritants that are in the house stay there. They won’t escape through an open window.
Fortunately, you can address this as well.
Use special air filters
So far, we’ve mentioned filters in a few places: Your vacuum cleaner, for one, and air conditioner for another. These go a long way toward trapping contaminants and getting them out of the house.
But, “filters” are a pretty broad topic. Let’s look at some of the terms and products you need to know about.
You’ll see this acronym on filters for your HVAC system, vacuum cleaners, and other appliances. It’s a measure of how small of particles the screen will allow to pass through it.
The higher the rating, the smaller items the screen catches. Ratings from 1 to 4 catch pollen and dust mites. The highest is 16, which also traps bacteria and tobacco smoke.
These measure the same things as MERV ratings. But, a HEPA-rated filter catches even smaller molecules. You’ll find these on some vacuum cleaners. And, you can get HVAC filters with these ratings.
But, think twice before installing one of these on your heating and cooling system. HEPA filters are so fine that they’ll also block a lot of air from passing through. On an average system, it can decrease the airflow so much that the system won’t work correctly.
Whole-home air purifiers
You’ve likely seen devices that can clean the air in a single room. But, for someone who is seriously affected by seasonal triggers, it’s often not enough.
After all, you’re not confined to one room all day. Instead, you need to treat your entire home.
A whole-home air purifier attaches directly to your central heating and cooling system.
It’s essentially a filtering device. But, along with a screen, it’s got a fan that keeps the air moving through it.
This way, your system can filter out even the smallest contaminants. And, the built-in fan makes sure you don’t lose airflow throughout the house.
Keep your bathroom ventilated
Preventing contaminants such as pollen from getting into a room is important. But, for some areas, it’s almost more important to focus on letting other contaminants out. Bathrooms in particular.
What you’re looking to avoid here are mold and mildew. This stuff thrives in dark, moist places. As it grows, it releases spores into the air.
A bathroom is a prime breeding ground for these. Condensation from showers and running water provides the dampness. And, it will keep the spores hanging in the air.
Keeping your bathroom properly ventilated prevents pollutants from building up and taking hold.
Keep a window open while showering. This lets out excess moisture. Or, if the bathroom is in an interior room, make sure you have a strong, working exhaust fan.
Contact John Cipollone today to have a certified Healthy Air Expert assess your home and help you improve your indoor air quality!