How to Deal with Home Allergens?
Fall and Winter’s cold weather give us a reason to stay in, even if you live in a region like the Deep South where it’s unusually warm the rest of the year. As temperatures begin to drop and snow and rain dampen our plans for going out, the quality of air in our homes will greatly affect how we enjoy our holiday season.
This is especially important for allergy sufferers, because even though the summer is over and sinus allergies are gone, they have an entire roster of villains waiting to attack them in the house including mold, dust, and pet allergies that could trigger their next allergy attack.
One particularly ubiquitous allergen to be wary of is mold. It can grow nearly anywhere and needs almost nothing except water and oxygen to survive and spread throughout the home. Check the humidity level in your house; if it’s greater than 45%, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier.
Run exhaust fans regularly in kitchens and bathrooms while cooking or showering to keep moisture levels at a minimum. (Reducing the humidity will also reduce your dust mite population.) Certain molds can be extremely dangerous to individuals with weakened immune systems, including children and elderly persons, so check sleeping areas and clothing storage for mold spots. Also make sure that plumbing fixtures aren’t dripping; mold thrives in areas with water leaks.
Also, keep children away from play areas where mold commonly accrues – leaf piles, damp wooded areas, basements, attics, or old structures such as barns or utility sheds which have been exposed to moisture are all hot spots that should be avoided. A good frost usually kills off molds outdoors, but some mold varieties are resistant to cold, so some precaution is still advised.
Air Filtration Systems
Using proper filters in your home appliances and HVAC systems can cut down on dust allergens in the air dramatically. By using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate absorbing) filter, you can remove more than 99% of airborne particles in the cleaned area. Check and replace the filter screens on your furnace or HVAC system every two to three months, as well, to prevent these particles from recirculating through your home via existing duct work. Proper dusting and cleaning is essential to prevent dust mite buildup in carpets and seldom-cleaned areas, especially places where old books or stuffed animals are stored (these are prized breeding grounds for dust mites).
If you have pet allergies, it goes without saying that you should avoid homes with animals. If you’re one of those people who can’t live without your fuzzy friends even though it sometimes hurts to love them, at least consider restricting pets from accessing your bedroom during the colder months. Even with regular anti-allergy medication, exposure can cause health complications, and with less ventilation from open windows and doors and more time spent indoors, the cold part of the year is an invitation for buildup of pet dander. It’s best to keep the animals away from places where you sleep or spend a lot of time, especially plush furniture or thick carpeting that can absorb dander.
[box type="note"]Despite the fact that summer is over we need to realize that all our fears are not completely over if you are an allergy sufferer. If you keep an eye open for dust, mold, or pet hair though, you can better ensure that the holiday months are much better for your allergies than any other time of the year.[/box]