If someone in your family (and it may be you) suffers from air-borne allergens, you know that springtime is often a bad time for them. Summer isn’t much better. Fall can bring its own woes with leaf mold and wind. What can you do to help reduce their allergy symptoms?
It may be surprising to hear that there are some home maintenance tasks that can make a significant difference in reducing allergy symptoms. They aren’t unusual or glamorous tasks. They aren’t even hard.
- keep the air clean
- close the windows
- remove (or clean) allergen “traps”
- keep pets out of the bedroom
Keep the Air Clean
This is probably the single most helpful action. Lots of small tasks that can help remove allergens from the air you breathe.
- Change the filter on your HVAC regularly. When there is a lot of pollen in the air, you might need to change the filter more often than usual and/or use a filter recommended for removing allergens. See our discussion of furnace filters for some more information on MERV ratings and how to choose an appropriate filter.
- Clean the cold air return grills and the heating/cooling duct grates. These areas often collect dust and other particles that settle out of the air. Keeping them clean keeps the HVAC from blowing these particles through the house repeatedly.
- Use exhaust fans to keep moisture levels low in bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, and other areas where water is used. Mold and mildew need moisture to grow.
- Clean the exhaust fans often for the same reason as cleaning the duct grates. Cleaner fans circulate fewer allergens.
- Choose cooking methods that do not release particles into the air.
- Use a kitchen exhaust fan to keep kitchen air fresh when cooking.
- Clean (or replace) the filter in your range hood fan to keep it operating efficiently.
- Use spatter guards and lids to keep food particles in the pot rather than the air. Minimize cooking techniques that may cause a cloud of flour, spices, or other aromatic particles to be airborne.
Close the Windows
I know. Open windows and the cool breezes are good for the soul. But if they make your head throb, be sensible and close the windows to keep the inside conditioned air cleaner.
Conversely, if your problems stem from inside allergens (think pet dander, mold, mildew, house dust), open the windows to let the fresh air in. And then take some other steps to reduce the indoor problems.
Remove Allergens, Clean Allergen Traps
If you can identify an inside source of allergens and it is something you can remove, then get rid of it. This doesn’t mean Fido, of course. There are other ways to mitigate pet dander. But if you have a mold or mildew problem, allergens are just one reason to identify it, clean it, and dry it out so it doesn’t recur.
We tend to think of pollen and pets when we think of allergies but lots of other things release particles into the air. Cooking, for instance. Or various crafts that involve solvents or glues. Even new furnishings may “out-gas” particles that people find troublesome.
Regular home maintenance tasks and common-sense choices can make a positive difference in reducing allergy symptoms. Identify the culprit and then do as much as possible to remove the offender, air out the space, or clean it.
Housework is boring, but essential for keeping air-borne allergens under control. You have probably seen the usual lists of housework recommended for reducing allergens. Those lists center around cleaning.
- Vacuum everywhere (carpets, furniture, mattresses) with a good HEPA filter to trap allergens rather than just stirring them up.
- Vacuum rather than dust – or use a damp microfiber cloth – so that what gets removed from surfaces gets trapped – not redistributed throughout the room.
- Have the drapes and curtains cleaned. Or replace them with blinds that can be vacuumed.
- Clean the carpeting frequently. Consider replacing it with hard surfaces (tile, wood, laminate) that won’t trap allergens that settle from the air.
- Consider leaving shoes at the doorway to avoid tracking in allergens from outside.
- Remove clutter. With a minimalist approach to decor, there are fewer surfaces on which dust can build. With no piles of aging magazines and newsprint, no paper particles and printer ink solvents are filling your air.
- If you have pets, clean their bedding regularly. If possible, keep them off the furniture. If not possible, vacuum the furniture regularly. If the pet can be trained to sit or sleep on a towel (that you can launder regularly), so much the better.
Don’t Let Pets Into The Allergy-Sufferer’s Bedroom
If your allergen triggers include pet dander, this is a tough one. If your pets are used to being in your bedroom, it will be difficult to re-train them. You might even feel that the suffering from allergies and the effort of extra cleaning are worth it so you can have the comfort of your pets nearby when you are sleeping. Only you can make the right decision for your situation.
It is a fact, though, that there will be less bedroom cleaning required if the pets are not ever where you sleep.
Allergies may have to be lived with, but you can do home maintenance and home cleaning to reduce the severity of some symptoms.
You might also like:
- How to change your furnace filter
- How to clean your cold air return grills
- How to change your range hood filter
Download our Home Maintenance Schedule to keep up on this and other home maintenance tasks.