Controlling Indoor Allergens

Itchy nose, watery eyes, frequent sneezing, scratchy throat—these are all too familiar allergy symptoms to the over 40 million allergy sufferers out there. And often it seems to those affected by indoor/ outdoor allergies that they are at the mercy of Mother Nature. But there are many things you can do to make your home less likely to trigger allergies, mostly by enacting a course of action that involves cleaning up and reducing the number of hiding places for indoor allergens.

According to an Infographic on the website allergybegone.com, many common indoor allergens can be reduced by taking simple steps to make your home less friendly to these allergens. Common indoor allergens include:

  • Dust
  • Dust Mites
  • Pet Dander
  • Pollen
  • Cockroaches
  • Mold
  • Endotoxins

Treatment for dust includes mopping and vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter in it. Also adding an air cleaner with a HEPA or electrostatic filter can keep dust to a minimum.

Dust mites are often found in mattresses and bedding. By cleaning bedding every 7 to 10 days in hot water , and not using mattress pads these allergy triggers can be somewhat controlled.

Bathing your pets often and using an air cleaner can help to keep pet dander at bay.

Pollen in the home can be reduced by keeping doors and windows closed and using an air conditioner. Also showering or bathing before bed can help keep pollen at a minimum in your home.

Cockroach debris is another allergen found in indoor air. By following common cockroach control practices— keeping all food sealed, not keeping pet food out for extended periods of time, keeping all cracks and holes sealed— this allergen can be lessened.

Mold loves to grow in bathrooms. By regularly cleaning bathroom surfaces with bleach and water, removing houseplants, not carpeting bathrooms, and using mold-proof paint, mold can be kept to a minimum.

The same control methods for dust and mold helps reduce endotoxins, bacteria that can live in dust.

Keeping your home clean and reducing hiding places for allergens by eliminating carpeting and bulky drapes and furniture where possible helps make your indoor air friendly to allergy sufferers.

Prepare for a Longer and More Severe Fall Allergy Season

AllergiesFall is quickly approaching and it looks like allergy sufferers are in for a tough season. ABC News recently reported that “with record pollen counts already on the board for August, this fall is gearing up to be on the worst, and longest, allergy seasons yet. “  Allergy experts and scientists have noted that this allergy season may be a few weeks longer than the last few years.

Because  of a “a particularly wet summer, ragweed pollen levels are surging and standing water left over from summer flooding and Hurricane Irene has increased the amount of mold, a common year-round allergen, in the air.”

Pollen from trees and grass are the major triggers for spring allergy sufferers, but ragweed pollen is the typical trigger for most fall allergy issues. The fall allergy season “usually runs from mid-August until the first frost of the year, around early October, but if the frost is delayed, as is predicted for this year, the allergy season goes on indefinitely until it comes.”

Scientists have also argued that climate change is a source of the lengthening allergy seasons. Warmer weather leads to warmer, longer-lasting autumns, which in turn means that there’s less frost to destroy ragweed and prevent allergies.  In addition, higher temperatures lead to a similar problem with spring allergies, including spring starting nearly a month early.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, Medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, also notes that “single ragweed plant produces a million pollen grains, but if you expose it to greenhouse gases, it produces three to four times that much. So you have climate change making for a longer season, more plants and more potent pollen. It’s like a perfect storm.”

Allergy experts advise that you should take extra precautions this fall allergy season: “limit your exposure to the pollen, such as taking off outdoor clothing before coming into the bedroom or wearing sunglasses to prevent pollen from blowing into your eyes. Most importantly, if symptoms become severe or over-the-counter treatments don’t seem to be working, see an allergist.”

Is Your Indoor Air Affecting Your Allergies?

Staying indoors during allergy season may seem like a good strategy when you have allergies, but indoor air can be just as irritating to allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website, “dust mites, animal dander and even cockroaches can cause problems indoors.”

Dust mites are a chief culprit for allergy sufferers, affecting up to 8 out of 10 Americans. The best way to control dust mites is to minimize their effect  by keeping all surfaces in the home clean, and by minimizing clutter. The AAFA recommends eliminating carpet altogether, or at a bare minimum to use only washable throw rugs or a low-piled carpet. The AAFA goes on to say that:

The single most important method is to put zippered allergen impermeable or plastic covers on all pillows, mattresses and box springs. Encasing mattresses works better than air cleaners to reduce allergy symptoms. Every week, wash bedding, uncovered pillows and stuffed toys in hot water (130 degree F.) to kill mites.

Animal dander is another culprit, impacting up to 6 out 10 people in the U.S. Doctors recommend not having pets if you are allergic to pet dander. If you must have a pet, first take a break from the animal, either by vacation, or keeping the pet out of the house for at least two months, since pet dander can linger in homes that long. The AAFA recommends slowly introducing the pet back into the home, and seeing if symptoms are attributable to the pet. If so, they advise carefully considering if the pet is worth the discomfort. They also recommend keeping the pet out of your bedroom, and perhaps choosing a pet without fur or feathers.

By vacuuming once or twice a week using a HEPA filter or double-bagged vacuum, some allergens can be controlled. Also cleaning dust with a damp cloth is another good method for keeping irritating particles at a minimum in the home.

Keeping moisture out of the home wherever possible can help control mold, which is another offending allergen. Also keeping only a few house plants and using a dehumidifier will help as well.

Cockroach debris is another culprit that reduces indoor air quality. Following recommended methods for controlling cockroaches can limit the effects of their debris.

Finally, running air conditioning in warm weather, recycling the indoor air, goes a long way to control outside allergens from entering the home. Window unit filters should be changed often. Also, air purifiers and cleaners can help to keep allergens at a minimum.