Did you know allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States? And that they affect over 50 million Americans? Allergies can cause various symptoms, from sneezing and congestion to itchy eyes and rashes. Though most people think of allergies as an outdoor problem caused by pollen, your own home may be the primary reason for bothersome allergy symptoms.
Mold, pet dander, and dust mites account for over 60% of all allergies, and you can suffer from more than one allergy. Typical treatments include lifestyle changes, antihistamine pills for quick relief, and sublingual immunotherapy for those who want to live allergy-free.
Though it’s best to get allergy tested to find your unique allergy triggers first, there are several simple steps you can take today to allergy-proof each room in your home.
Allergy Proof Your Living Room
The living room is often the center of the home, and it’s where many people spend their time. Because the living room is the most heavily trafficked area, it’s also one of the most important spaces for allergy-proofing. Nothing ruins a night of relaxing in front of the TV or enjoying time with family and friends than having a coughing, sniffing, or sneezing episode.
If you or your guests have allergies, take extra care in this room to reduce potential triggers. Here’s how you do it.1. Start by cleaning your floors. It’s too easy to bring allergens like pollen, dust, and dander into your home on the bottoms of your shoes or pet’s paws. Once those allergens enter, they get kicked around every time someone walks on the carpet, tiles, or hardwood floors. But sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming regularly can reduce how often allergens trigger your allergies.
When vacuuming, it’s best to use a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter to trap small allergen particles. And only use water on your hardwood floors if they’re sealed. Using water on unsealed boards will cause swelling and warping. How can you tell if your hardwood floors are sealed or unsealed? Simply rub your finger along the surface. If you notice a smudge, the floor may be unsealed, and it’s best to avoid water.2. Dust furniture, shelves, and other surfaces regularly. Dust mites live in warm, humid environments, so keep your living room as dust-free as possible. Use a damp cloth to dust surfaces like tables, chairs, bookshelves, and knick-knacks. Don’t forget ceiling fans and vents.
Mold is another allergy trigger that can develop in the living room. It often grows in places where there’s high humidity, such as near windows or in front of air vents. If you notice mold, clean it up immediately and fix the underlying problem that’s causing the moisture.
You can also designate your living room as a no-shoe zone. You’ll be able to enjoy your living space with fewer allergy symptoms because you’ll distribute fewer allergens while walking around. Keeping pets off of your furniture can also cut down on allergy symptoms.
3. Check your filters. Your home’s HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system circulates air and keeps your home comfortable. But if you have an old or dirty filter, it can recirculate allergens and cause sneezing fits. Most filters should be replaced every few months—more often if someone in your household suffers from allergies or asthma.
Many standard filters only trap large particles like dust and pet hair, allowing bacteria, mold, and certain types of pollen to sneak by. To really allergy-proof your HVAC systems, use a HEPA air filter and replace them monthly.
Allergy Proof Your Kitchen
The kitchen is another common place for allergy flare-ups. Kitchens are full of moisture and, therefore, perfect breeding grounds for mold and mildew. Mold is particularly troublesome because it can grow on food or dishes left too long in the sink. It can then detach from a surface, floating through the air for someone to breathe.
4. Check for spills and buildup in the refrigerator. Spills in the refrigerator can quickly lead to mold growth, so clean them up as soon as possible. Even if there are no spills, mold can grow from moisture. To prevent this, wipe down the inside of your fridge, including the shelves and drawers, at least once a week.
Also, keep an eye out for expired food and throw it out as needed to avoid mold formation. A dripping pan is another place for allergens to breed. Empty and clean it regularly, along with any moldy rubber seals around your fridge door.
If you can, remove the shelves and drawers while cleaning your refrigerator. After that, give the removable components and the fridge’s interior a good scrub with soapy water. Don’t forget to clean the coils at the back of your fridge, too. They can be dusted or vacuumed to remove buildup.
5. Wipe cabinets and countertops. To remove allergens from your cabinets and countertops, wipe down surfaces daily. This practice cleans food crumbs and minimizes the risk of mold.
Use a damp cloth and all-purpose cleaner. If you have granite countertops, use something that is granite-safe. For wood cabinets, use a wood cleaner or polish to avoid damaging the finish. You should also clean inside cupboards and drawers, especially if they’re full of dusty clutter. Remove everything from the interiors, then dust the surfaces.
Many cleaners use harsh chemicals that can trigger allergic responses in allergy-prone individuals or those with asthma. Use eco-friendly sprays and cleaners as much as possible. You can also try a mixture of vinegar and salt, which is effective and all-natural.
6. Wash dishes as needed. Yes, dishes are a pain, but it’s important to wash them as soon as possible. Mold loves to form on the rim and interior of damp dishes (especially those with lots of food particles), and it can grow quickly. Get into a routine of cleaning dirty dishes in the sink every morning or night.
Mold is also likely to hide under the sink or between the cracks next to the dishwasher. Clean out these areas once a month, making sure no leaks are coming from your sink pipes. A vinegar and baking soda solution is also an excellent method to keep your kitchen drain clean and smelling good.
Allergy Proof Your Bathroom
The bathroom may be your least favorite room to clean, but it is vital. Mold thrives around tubs and sinks, so disinfecting surfaces and removing soap scum or filth is critical for allergy-proofing your home. Also, consider eliminating plug-ins or spray air fresheners because synthetic fragrances can add to allergy problems in certain individuals.
7. Scrub your sinks and tubs with a bleach product or baking soda. Clean your tubs, showers, sinks, and faucets with bleach or another cleaner every week. Or use an all-natural cleaning scrub of baking soda, castile soap, and essential oils to remove dirt, mold, and slime. Remember to wash your shower curtain and plastic shower liner in the washing machine regularly because filth accumulates there, too. Wash both in warm water with vinegar, baking soda, or a mild laundry detergent.
Apart from weekly cleaning, remember to clean as you go daily. For example, as you wash and dry your hands, water droplets might fall around the sink. If you take a few seconds to wipe them up before leaving, your bathroom stays cleaner longer and has less moisture.
8. Don’t forget to clean the toilet. A quick swipe with the toilet brush daily removes nasty buildup. Once a week, clean the toilet with bleach or a toilet cleaner (remembering to get the outside) and check for any plumbing leaks.
9. Wash rugs and bath mats. Rugs and bathmats are useful for soaking up water near the shower or tub, but they can also become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. When shopping for bathroom rugs, buy ones that are machine washable so you can pop them in the washing machine weekly. Or, if you don’t want to do a full wash, even placing them in the dryer helps remove excess moisture and prevent allergens.
If you can, open a window in the bathroom a few times a week to reduce the room’s humidity and moisture levels.
Allergy Proof Your Bedroom
You and dust mites have one thing in common—you both love your bed. Mattresses, sheets, comforters, and pillows are ideal places for dust mites to set up camp because they feed off the dead skin cells you naturally shed each night. If you’re not allergy proofing your bedroom, these little critters can cause problems like sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, and asthma attacks.
10. Wash and cover your bedding. Dust mites are microscopic and can’t be seen by the human eye. Because you spend around a third of your life in bed, it’s critical to keep your beds clean to prevent allergy symptoms. To keep your sleeping space free of dust mites, change and wash bedding weekly and invest in dust-proof or allergy-proof pillow and mattress covers.
Pet dander is also a problem in the bedroom. Though sleeping with your furry friends is wonderful, if you’re struggling with pet allergies, it’s best to designate your bedroom as a pet-free zone.
11. Don’t hang onto your mattress forever. Here’s a startling fact: mattresses can be home to 10 million dust mites. Mattresses aren’t meant to be lifetime purchases, and yet many people hold on to them way past their prime. Since dust mites can severely affect those with asthma—causing health problems like trouble breathing, chest tightness, or sleeplessness from shortness of breath—it’s best to replace your mattress every seven to 10 years.
12. Wipe curtains and blinds. Curtains and blinds are additional hot spots for dust accumulation. Cleaning them regularly removes buildup and prevents allergens from circulating in your bedroom. Every month, use a brush attachment on the lowest suction setting to gently vacuum curtains and drapes. Next, use a damp duster or cloth to remove dust that accumulates between blind panels.
An air purifier is also a great device to use in the bedroom because it traps airborne allergens before they latch onto your curtains or bedding.
Allergy Proof Your Child’s Room
Let’s face it, children can get messy! They rarely have a filter when it comes to touching things outside or putting objects in their mouths, and they may spread allergens more than you release. Keeping up with cleaning your child’s room is necessary when you’re suffering from annoying allergy symptoms. Start by setting aside time each week to do a deep cleaning.
13. Keep toys clean. Toys are often one of the dirtiest items in any room, so it’s important to regularly wash them or wipe them down with a damp cloth. Most allergy specialists advocate cleaning toys at least once every two weeks if your child is prone to allergies.
If possible, put stuffed animals in the washing machine on a gentle cycle every few weeks (or as needed). You can also freeze stuffed animals that aren’t washable for a few hours to kill dust mites. Other toys can be wiped down with a vinegar solution made from one-part water and one-part vinegar.
14. Wash blankets and other textiles. Blankets, bedding, and other linens should be washed every one to two weeks in hot water (or according to the care label) to kill dust mites. When you’re not using them, store blankets and other textiles in airtight containers or bags to prevent allergens from collecting. Use mild detergents, cold water, and a garment bag to preserve any old or delicate stuffed animals and blankets.
15. Store toys and kid items in bins. Using bins and baskets to store your child’s toys, clothes, and other items keeps everything tidy and protects them from gathering allergens on their surfaces. Bins with lids prevent dust from settling in, and they make it easier to clean. When you’re allergy-proofing your child’s room, choose storage bins made of durable, easy-to-clean materials like plastic or metal.
Sort through play bins regularly and get rid of things your youngster outgrows or no longer uses. Fewer items mean less area where germs and allergens can collect.
But you don’t have to do all this cleaning alone! To get your child interested in helping. Make it a game or turn on some fun music to make the task more enjoyable.
Reduce Pet Allergies
Pets are lovable, fun, and a major part of the family. But if you’re allergic to them, they can also be a major source of allergy symptoms. If you have pets and suffer from allergies, there are a few extra steps to take when allergy proofing your home that can reduce pet allergies.
16. Groom your pet regularly. If you’re like most pet parents, you probably already spend time each week grooming to prevent matted fur. But did you know that regular grooming can also reduce allergy symptoms? When you brush your pet, you remove any loose hair or dander that could cause problems. Be sure to do this outside, if possible, to prevent allergens from spreading in the air.
Another handy tip is to keep several lint rollers around to remove bothersome and itchy pet hair from blankets, clothes, and furniture as needed.
17. Bathe your pet regularly. How often you bathe your pet depends on their hair length, activity level, and any skin issues or allergies. Take precautions and trim your cat’s nails before attempting to get them wet.
Most veterinarians recommend washing your pet every four to six weeks. Use lukewarm water and pet-safe cleansers and shampoos. Where you wash them depends on their weight and size. A small dog or cat can be bathed in a sink or pet tub, while a large dog requires a larger shower or outside space.
There are a variety of hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners available if your pet is prone to allergies or has sensitive skin.
18. Don’t let pet toys accumulate dirt, dust, and hair. Your pet’s toys are another area where allergens quickly build up. To keep them clean, wash toys in hot water (or according to the care label) every week or two and let them air dry. Avoid harsh chemicals because they’ll be in your pet’s mouth during playtime. You can also pop them in the freezer for a few hours to kill any lingering dust mites. Toys made of hard plastic, rubber, or metal are easier to clean and don’t hold on to allergens as easily as stuffed animals or plush toys.
Bonus tip: Install a simple washing station near your front door where you can clean dirty paws and wash toys after being outside. All you need is a storage container full of water and a drying towel.
How to Have Fun While Allergy Proofing Your Home
Most folks hate cleaning because it can be a long, tedious process. But allergy proofing your home can save you agony and reduce allergy triggers. The best way to tackle the above list is to enlist your family’s help by turning weekly chores into fun activities and friendly competition.
Make It a Game
Whether or not you have children, making cleaning fun is a great way to get everyone involved and allergy-proof your home quickly. Turn on some upbeat music, set a timer, and see how much you can get done in five or ten minutes. If you have kids, make it a race to see who can pick up the most toys or dust the most surfaces. The winner gets a prize like extra screen time or choosing what’s for dinner.
Become a Cleaning Detective
You and your family can compete to see who can find the most areas in the house that are still dusty or might need to be cleaned. This activity is great to help kids become more aware of messes and feel motivated to clean them up.
When Should I Get Tested for Allergies?
If you’re still experiencing difficult allergy symptoms after allergy proofing your home, it’s time to get tested. You can test your allergies at home with a simple kit sent straight to your door to avoid long waits at the doctor’s office or uncomfortable skin prick tests.
An allergy test can help determine what you’re allergic to and whether your symptoms are because of an allergy or another condition, like a cold or sinus infection. Once you know your triggers, you and an allergy specialist can develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Live Allergy Free With Wyndly
While following the above tips and keeping up with your household cleaning can reduce symptoms, it won’t completely stop allergic reactions. And traditional allergy medicine can only offer short bursts of relief. If you’re tired of dreading the changing seasons and suffering from a constant sniff and scratchy throat at home, you may be a candidate for sublingual immunotherapy.
Sublingual immunotherapy gradually exposes your body to tiny doses of allergens until your body becomes desensitized. The treatment results in long-term immune-system modifications and freedom from allergy symptoms. Even better, sublingual immunotherapy can be administered at home without frequent physician visits or weekly injections.
Get on the path to an allergy-free life and see if Wyndly is right for you by taking our brief two-minute assessment!