In many areas in the northern hemisphere, colder temperatures and precipitation are starting to drive people indoors more and more. And the more time people with indoor allergies spend inside, the more at risk we are for coming into contact with the substances that can make us miserable.
When we get exposed to things like dust mites, pet dander and mold, it can trigger a chain reaction that leads to an immune system response that you feel in the typical symptoms of nasal and eye allergies.
If you'd like to avoid increases in sneezing, sniffling and so on this winter, then this article will help to remind you where the risks are and what you can do about them to stay as healthy as possible.
Dust mites are tiny microscopic organisms that live in dust. They are the most common causes of allergy and asthma symptoms, and they are everywhere. But they are found in greatest numbers in your bedding. And unfortunately, most of us spend more time in our bedrooms than anywhere else in the house. So you will get the most bang for your buck by working to reduce the number of dust mites in your bedroom.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Encase your mattresses, box springs and pillows in zippered cases made of allergen-resistant fabric or plastic.
- Wash blankets, sheets and bedspreads every week in hot (130 degree) water and dry them in a hot dryer.
- If you have pillows or comforters that can't be washed, then encase them in allergen-proof covers too.
- Get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting if possible. Use only small, washable throw rugs.
- Keep humidity low by using a de-humidifier, but be sure to wash it regularly to avoid mold growth.
- Vacuum your bedroom weekly with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA-filter. If you do the cleaning yourself, wear a mask. Better yet, get someone else to do it!
Pet allergens are found in saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or urine of an animal with fur, but not in the hair or fur itself. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet, so if you have them, chances are you are being exposed to their allergens. Most people, if they are sensitive, react to pet allergens within minutes of exposure. But sometimes, there is a slow build over 8 to 12 hours after exposure.
If you are allergic to pet allergens, then your best bet is not to have a pet. Even keeping a pet outdoors will not prevent their allergens from getting into your house. But if you must have a pet or cannot avoid being exposed to someone else's then here are some things you can do:
- Minimize your contact with the pet as much as you can. Keep pets out of the bedroom and off of the furniture.
- If you have a caged animal, get someone else to clean it out.
- As with dust mites, pet allergens can settle into carpet, so wood floors with regularly washed throw rugs are better.
- Also, get someone to vacuum regularly with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner.
Indoor molds and mildew love warm, moist places, so they are most often found in bathrooms, kitchens and basements. They may also be found in potting soil, so it's best to avoid indoor plants if you are mold-sensitive.
Here are some other preventive measures:
- Keep areas well-ventilated and repair leaks promptly.
- Clean moist areas like showers, under the kitchen sink, etc. frequently with a 5% bleach and water solution. Dry thoroughly after cleaning.
- Use a de-humidifier if necessary, but be sure to clean it regularly.
- If items become moldy and cannot be thoroughly cleaned, then throw them away.
Especially in densely-populated, urban areas, cockroach droppings can be potent triggers of allergies and asthma, especially in children. Here's what to do:
- Block all entry points for cockroaches to get into your home, including crevices, wall cracks and windows.
- Cockroaches need water, so repair leaks, fix and seal leaky pipes and keep all areas dry.
- Don't leave human or pet food out after eating. Keep all foods in lidded containers.
- Vacuum and sweep floors after eating to get rid of crumbs and take garbage out promptly.
- Wash dishes promptly and wipe down countertops, stoves and under appliances and the refrigerator to get rid of crumbs and food droppings.
In general, following these healthy tips, no matter what you may be sensitive to, will reap significant benefits:
- Keep your home as clean and dry all the time as you can.
- Focus on the places where allergens are most likely to settle – bedding, carpet and upholstered furniture.
- Vacuum the house weekly, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter or double bags.
- Keep humidity low in your house by using a dehumidifier.
- Fix any & all leaks as soon as you discover them to avoid mold growth, and clean or remove moldy materials promptly.
- Avoid pests by storing food properly and by using covered garbage cans.
And one last bit of advice. Take your allergy medicine as prescribed and consult with an allergist if you have difficulty getting or keeping your indoor allergies under control.