For many people with atopic dermatitis (AD), spring is the time of year when their hay fever or asthma kicks into overdrive. You try to seek solace indoors only to discover that mold, dust, pet dander and other allergens can be found lurking in the nooks and crannies of your house. Here are some tips for reducing the number of allergens in your home.
Establish a weekly cleaning routine
Frequent housecleaning lowers the amount of upkeep required to keep allergens at bay. Give your home a good scrub down once a week. On a monthly basis, make sure those weekly cleanings include easy-to-miss areas of the home, such as tops of doors, windowsills, crown molding, ceiling fans, underneath furniture, behind the toilet, etc.
Dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny bugs that live in house dust. Symptoms include those common to hay fever, such as sneezing and runny nose. Many people with dust mite allergy also experience wheezing and difficulty breathing – two signs of asthma.
It’s helpful to reduce the number of items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines. Store children’s toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins. Make clean-up time with the kids a fun family game by betting who can clean up certain areas the quickest.
Mold spores can also get into your nose and cause hay fever or reach the lungs and trigger asthma. Scrub mold from tub, shower and faucets with bleach. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.
Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves and a protective mask while cleaning. This way, you’ll protect your skin from harsh cleaners and avoid breathing in toxins or airborne dust and mold.
Tips for purifying the air from allergens
Hot, humid homes are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Close your windows and stick to AC during pollen season. Keep temperatures between 68-72 Fahrenheit or 20-22 Celsius, and make sure humidity doesn’t exceed 50 percent.
High humidity can lead to mold growth. Invest in a hygrometer. This simple device will test your home’s moisture levels. Pick up one at your hardware store and take a measurement in each room. If you get readings that are over 50 percent in any room or area, you’ll need a dehumidifier.
Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month. Choose an air filter that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Try adjusting your air filter so that it directs clean air toward your head while you’re sleeping.
Consider investing in house plants known for purifying the air. Examples include: Boston ferns, garden mums, spider plants, aloe vera and bamboo palm and dracaena. Some of these may be toxic if ingested by pets, so do your research first. Above all else, ban smoking in and around your home!
Get a handle on pet dander and pests
People with pet allergies have overactive immune systems that react to normally harmless proteins in the pet’s urine, sweat, saliva or dander (dead skin cells). This causes allergy symptoms such as congestion, watery eyes or nose, coughing and wheezing. To make matters worse, fur or feathers can collect pollen, mold spores and other allergens.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no truly “hypoallergic breeds,” according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Allergic dander in cats and dogs is not affected by length of fur, nor the amount of shedding, and again, allergic reactions can also be caused by a pet’s urine, sweat or saliva.
For those who can’t imagine life without Mr. Fluffy McFlufferson, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawback of pet allergies. Still, bathing your pets at least weekly may help reduce the amount of fur or dander they shed, which can stick to walls, carpeting and fabric. It might help to create an allergy-free zone, such as a person’s bedroom, where a pet is not allowed.
Despite their small size, the hair, dander, saliva, droppings, etc., on mice can set off a person’s allergies. And scientists long ago found a correlation between asthma and the presence of cockroaches.
Control cockroaches and mice with inexpensive traps from the hardware store. If that’s not effective, hire a professional exterminator. To remove allergy-triggering insect and mouse residue, thoroughly vacuum carpeting and wash hard surfaces. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other possible entryways.
Upgrade your home the allergy-safe way
For people with extreme allergies, it might be helpful to give your home an upgrade with eczema symptoms in mind. If possible, remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint. Switch out carpeting with hardwood or linoleum flooring or washable area rugs. Install and use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while taking baths or showers.
If upgrading your home is not feasible, clean wallpaper with a damp cloth, and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter. Shampoo the carpet at least once a month. Reduce the frequency of mold growth by towel-drying your shower and bath tub after each use.
Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least weekly. Invest in comforters that are easy to remove and wash. Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades. Avoid upholstered furniture and opt for easy-to-clean chairs, couches, ottomans, desks or headboards made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.
If renovating your home feels out of the question, remember, these upgrades don’t have to happen all at once. Making a few smart purchases throughout the year can significantly reduce allergy symptoms, or at the very least, make your home easier to keep clean.