If you have allergies to trees, grasses, and other pollen-producing plants, it may come as a surprise to you that your home can also have allergens. In fact, some of the worst culprits may be in your home. But the good news is that since you have more control over your home than the outdoors, you can reduce household allergens.
Of course, if you are a pet-owner and you are allergic to pet dander, you are already aware of this allergen. You can help reduce pet dander by washing your pet weekly, and by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter every couple of days.
Other allergens include dust mites, mold spores, and even cockroaches. Although these can bother allergy sufferers and people with asthma year-round, winter can be even worse. In winter we spend more time retreating indoors with the windows shut and the air conditioner off, and exposure to these allergens over time can even lead to asthma symptoms or perennial allergic rhinitis. If you can run the air conditioner from time to time, this will reduce humidity and filter the air. An air cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter can also help clean out dust, pollen, and other allergens. There are also many things you can do to keep allergen levels down. Look at the list below and make sure that you are on top of these potential problems.
- In cooler months, we need to be especially careful to keep fresh, dry air circulating through the house and keep surfaces dry.
- Clean any surfaces that may get moldy, such as under sinks and the corners of the shower. Using a cleaning solution that is one part bleach to ten parts water will kill surface mold.
- If there are any leaks you have neglected in warmer months, now is the time to fix them before they cause mold problems.
- Keep bathroom rugs dry by hanging them up after showers.
- Get rid of clutter that collects dust. Book shelves and papers seem to collect the most dust, but clean on top of cabinets and under the bed. Wear a dust mask when you clean up the house to prevent breathing in too many allergens.
- If possible, replace carpeting with flooring and throw rugs, which can be washed in hot water.
- Put covers on mattresses and pillows that prevent dust mites from getting in or out. “Non-allergenic” cases can be found at department stores, specialty stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or online.
- Consider the dust that accumulates on kids’ collectibles, books, and stuffed animals. There are stuffed animals that can be washed to keep dust levels down.
- Vacuum or sleep the floor after meals, take the garbage out frequently, and clean under ovens, refrigerators, and toasters.
- Block areas where cockroaches can enter the house, such as wall cracks, window or floor cracks, cellar doors and outside drains.
- Keep food in containers with tight lids.
Many allergic people know by now that it is not really the animal’s fur that we are allergic to, but rather the dander. Dander is a much smaller particle than fur, so it is easier for dander to get into a carpet or between floorboards and stay there.
Dander is the tiny particles of skin and hair that are constantly being produced and shed from cats, horses, birds, etc. The etc. can include mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs.
Having a pet in the house can cause problems for kids, but there is also the possibility that exposure to pets from birth can lessen reactions to pets as a child. However, it’s a good idea not to let a pet sleep in a child’s room or on his or her bed. If there is a possibility that your child is allergic to pets, don’t introduce a pet into the house, especially while the child is very small.
Keeping a list of fall cleaning tasks keeps me on track to clean the house thoroughly before the onset of the winter months.