As the weather turns warmer and trees and flowers begin to bloom, you may notice some less-than-pleasant allergy symptoms developing: itchy, watery eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing, and asthma flares are common signs you suffer from indoor allergies, seasonal allergies, or both.
While folks with seasonal outdoor allergies may choose to spend more time indoors when pollen counts are high, that means more exposure to indoor allergens like dust, pet dander, and mold. Whether you have hay fever or allergic asthma symptoms throughout the year, or they pop up as the weather changes, below are some steps you can take to reduce allergens in your home.
Dust mites, mold and mildew, pet dander and smoke/oven fumes are a few common sources of indoor allergies. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to reduce indoor allergens in your home.
One important step you can take, regardless of allergen source, is to invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can remove allergens from the air. Additionally, check and replace the filter in your HVAC system on a monthly basis. Many people are surprised at how quickly these filters get dirty. Below are more tips for keeping specific areas of your home allergy-free.
Bedding, furniture, carpets: Dust mites thrive in soft materials like mattresses, bedding, carpet padding, and curtains. Encase mattresses and pillows in dust-mite-proof covers. Shampoo carpets regularly and vacuum often (or better yet, remove carpeting from your home if that is an option!). Use washable curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric, and wash them regularly – at least one per month. Replace horizontal blinds, which collect a large amount of dust, with washable roll-up shades. If you have upholstered furniture, invest in a steam cleaner to clean it regularly – or better yet, choose leather or vinyl furniture, as it’s less permeable and easier to clean.
Bathrooms and areas of high humidity: Unfortunately, many areas of the country are prone to mold and mildew due to high humidity. The best thing you can do to prevent or mitigate mold (short of hiring professionals) is to invest in a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity down. It’s also crucial to open windows or use an exhaust fan after bathing and showering to keep moisture in the bathroom down. If you live in a humid area, check behind furniture seasonally to ensure mold is not growing on the walls and baseboards; mold is more likely to develop in areas with less air flow, such as between furniture and walls.
Pets: Some people don’t realize they are allergic to animals until they have already bonded with a pet. If you discover you are allergic to pet dander and rehoming the animal is not an option, there are still steps you can take to reduce your reaction. First, keep animals out of your bedroom and off of furniture to limit exposure. Bathing pets weekly can also help minimize dander. Brush them regularly (outside if possible), and wash your hands after petting them.
Kitchen: A surprising source of indoor air pollution is your gas stove. If you cook with a gas stove, it’s important to have an exhaust hood that vents outside. Turn it on whenever you cook to ensure that the fumes (and any smoke caused by cooking) doesn’t linger in the air.
Up to 30% of people in the US suffer from some level of allergic rhinitis – also known as hay fever. If you find that you have itchy, red eyes, stuffy, runny and/or itchy nose, and sneezing and coughing when the weather starts to warm up in the spring, you may suffer from outdoor allergies. While staying indoors when pollen counts are high can help, it’s not always possible to avoid being outside. Additionally, it’s nearly impossible not to track pollen indoors, as it gets into our clothes, hair, and the air when we open windows and doors. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce how much pollen gets into your home.
As with indoor allergies, the first step is to invest in an air purification system with a HEPA filter. You can purchase standalone units if your home is not equipped with a system. If you have an HVAC system, be sure to check, and change, your air filter often during the warmer months to ensure they are running optimally and filtering out as many air pollutants as possible.
Here are some additional steps to take to prevent outdoor allergies from affecting your indoor spaces.
Keep shoes off indoors: Pollen can be tracked into our homes, and into our carpet and furniture, via our shoes. One easy step to avoid this is to have a “no shoes indoors” policy.
Change clothes when you come inside: Like shoes, clothes can track pollen indoors. If you spend a lot of time outside on days when the pollen count is high, be sure to remove pollen-covered clothing when you come inside, and put on clean clothes.
Shower in the evening: Many people are set on their morning routine, which often includes showering. However, if you suffer from outdoor allergies, it’s imperative that you shower in the evening to remove pollen from your hair and skin. Otherwise, you will track pollen into your bed, essentially exposing you all night long while you sleep.
Stay indoors on dry, windy days – especially after rain storms: Pollen counts are often at their highest after it rains, when the ground dries out and the wind picks up. If you are able, stay indoors with the windows closed on these days to avoid exposure altogether.
While there is no way to prevent ALL allergens from invading your home, there are many steps you can take to reduce the effect they have on your day to day life.
If you find that you are still suffering from indoor or outdoor allergies in your home, even after you have taken the steps above, we can help. Maine Urgent Care is here for you seven days a week. We can diagnose and treat many allergy symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life – both indoors and out.