Are you one of the millions of people who struggle with allergy symptoms caused by pet dander, dust mites, mold or other triggers inside your home? It can be difficult to tell the difference between indoor and seasonal allergies. The symptoms are often the same, but people who struggle with indoor allergies find their symptoms last all year and don’t go away when pollen counts die down.
Michael Gannon, MD, a family medicine doctor with Atlantic Health System, shares his top five tips to reduce allergens inside your home.
“Allergies that are triggered by indoor sources can be difficult to avoid,” says Dr. Gannon. “Fortunately, there are some tried and true methods to limit the allergens lurking inside your home.”
1. Filter the air
One of the best ways to reduce your indoor allergy symptoms is to boost your home’s air filtration by changing your air filters at the start of each season and keeping your air vents clean. Running your air conditioner at temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees also helps to cycle in fresh air. Keeping the humidity in your home to 50% or less will prevent mold in kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
2. Keep your home clean
Common allergy triggers including dust mites, dander and even pollen, are commonly found in dust. Wiping down hard surfaces frequently can reduce your exposure to these triggers, as well as keep pests such as cockroaches and dust mites at bay. If you see mold in your bathroom or kitchen, clean the area with bleach that is no stronger than 5% concentration. Always wear gloves when using bleach to prevent skin irritation. Because carpeting can harbor dust, dander and dust mites, Dr. Gannon recommends vacuuming carpet and upholstered furniture with a small-particle or HEPA filter vacuum once or twice a week.
3. Protect your bedding
Washing sheets, blankets and stuffed animals in hot water each week and drying them with high heat will help reduce dust mites. Removeable allergy covers protect items that are not washable, such as mattresses and box springs. Dr. Gannon suggests replacing pillows each year and recommends synthetic fibers over natural down or wool for pillows and comforters.
4. Remove pet dander
Unfortunately, pets are a leading cause of indoor allergens and no animal is truly hypoallergenic. If it’s not possible to find another home for a pet that is aggravating your symptoms, you should keep them out of bedrooms and out of the house when the weather is nice. Regular grooming, in addition to laundering pet beds and blankets, can keep pet dander at bay.
While plants can help purify the air, they also exacerbate allergy symptoms for some people. Dr. Gannon says that it’s better to stick with faux or silk plants and flowers that can be dusted or washed.
5. Reduce clutter
Cutting the clutter makes it easier to clean and helps prevent the accumulation of dust and allergens around your home. Try to avoid storing items for a long time since cardboard boxes and paper are attractive to pests and can accumulate dust. Toys and stuffed animals should be stored in plastic bins with lids that can be easily wiped down.
“Home should be a place where people can relax, recharge and be comfortable,” says Dr. Gannon. “Fortunately, it’s possible to reduce your allergy symptoms by taking some simple steps to remove allergens and improve the air quality inside your home.”
If you feel as though indoor allergens are affecting your health, your primary care doctor can offer further guidance. If needed, your physician can provide you with a referral to an allergist who can help identify allergy triggers and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
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