Allergy season approaches, and it’s the part of spring that no one really enjoys. Runny noses, itchy eyes, sniffles and coughs aren’t exactly helpful in basking in warmer temperatures and balmy breezes. The home itself isn’t allergen-free either. In fact, indoor pollution can actually be more than double the level of outdoor pollution! How then do you keep a home relatively allergen free? What are you even looking to reduce to prevent consuming allergy medications by the handful?
What is an allergen? It’s a substance foreign to the human body which causes adverse reactions when it’s been consumed or entered the system.
Everyone thinks of pollen when they think of allergies, but pollen itself isn’t the most common. As we’ve already mentioned, dust mites- microscopic insects that live off of human skin flakes- are the most common allergy trigger. They thrive in temperatures that humans prefer and are often found in upholstery, mattresses and pillows.
Another incredibly common allergen is pet dander. A person may not be allergic to cats or dogs, but their skin flakes are more potent in triggering allergic reactions than their fur. A build up of any dander can cause an allergic reaction even in people with no history of pet allergies. House plants give off spores and pollen that act as allergens, and those grown in baskets have a higher chance of growing mold than ceramic or plastic.
House dust isn’t just tracked in dirt or sand accumulating due to a gust of wind sneaking in through an open window. It actually consists of mold spores, pollen, animal dander, human dander, crumbs and insect parts from indoor-thriving insects such as the aforementioned dust mites and cockroaches. Having house dust doesn’t mean that a home is wallowing in filth; it accumulates in every home in the world. What it does mean, however, is that allergens are present and can cause a reaction at any time.
With allergens prevalent and often caused by things that can’t be seen by the naked eye, how do you combat allergens? One of the first steps is to keep a home dry. Mold, mildew and cockroaches thrive in damp environments. Examine your ceiling, bathrooms, kitchen and windows for any sign of leaks. Dripping faucets can indicate a plumbing issue where a hidden pipe could be leaking water into a wall and encouraging the growth of mold. A dry home reduces the possibility of health-damaging molds.
If you’re taking your first steps into making your home as allergen-free as possible, call in professional carpet cleaners to give your carpeted areas a deep cleaning treatment. This will eliminate a large number of dust mites and help clear out embedded pollen spores, dander and collected mold spores. A professional cleaning can also include handling furniture such as couches and upholstered chairs. This will reduce the available allergens even further.
Spring cleaning is actually helpful against allergens as washing down walls and ceilings removes clinging dander and house dust. Every homeowner should examine windows for proper sealing to prevent drafts carrying in pollen and mold spores. For bedrooms, invest in hypoallergenic casing for pillows, mattresses and box springs. Using only washable bedding allows you to clean the linen regularly.
HEPA air filters are not air purifiers, but they do filter out particles as tiny as viruses which aids in reducing the number of circulating allergens in the air. Having one in each bedroom can greatly reduce the chance of waking up with allergy symptoms. For kitchens, discourage cockroaches by keeping food stored in sealed containers and trash cans covered and emptied regularly. As cockroaches are high on the ‘allergy trigger’ scale and gravitate towards areas where food is consumed, limit eating to a single room to prevent encouraging cockroach activity in bedrooms.
It’s not possible to utterly eliminate the presence of allergens, but they can be reduced with regular cleaning, maintenance of the home to keep the indoor environment as dry as possible and a few habit adjustments that will become second nature sooner than one thinks. For homes with asthmatic children or allergy-prone family members, these steps will result in a healthier, happier family even if they are taking the trash out every other day as a household chore.