5 DIY Tips for an Allergy-Free Home

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I'm Allergic to My House!

Spring means warmer weather, longer days and that summer is right around the corner. While most of us are elated to bid farewell to the winter, for people with allergies spring means suffering. Blooming plants mean pollen galore, which triggers otherwise dormant hay fever symptoms for millions of Americans.

Staying inside is not a good solution, either. In addition to pollen, many people are allergic to dust and mold. Frequently the air inside your home is dirtier than what's floating around outside. Exposure to unclean air can trigger asthma or allergy attacks, so your home may literally be making you sick. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to prevent and ease your suffering.

If you think you have allergies, confirm your suspicions with a doctor. A simple skin test will reveal what triggers your allergies. Severe symptoms should be treated by an allergist with immunotherapy sessions, as over the counter medications won't be as effective.

  1. Get Rid of the Carpeting
    Carpeting keeps the room warm and cozy, but it's also an allergen net. Dust mites, mold and, pollen get caught in carpet fibers and can make you miserable. Vacuuming frequently provides relief, but those with severe allergies should consider ripping up the carpet and replacing it with hardwood, tile, linoleum, or any hard surface flooring. (Join our forum on ripping up carpeting.)

    Limiting the number of throw rugs and blankets lying around the house can also help. Make sure the textiles you choose are washable and sturdy. Allergens tend to stick to softer, fuzzier fabrics.

    Jane Tip: When considering new furniture, opt for leather, vinyl or wood. Upholstered furniture traps allergens and is difficult to clean thoroughly. If upholstered furniture is a must, go for couches and chairs with removable slipcovers that can be laundered.
  2. Install Shades
    Dust and dirt tend to collect on blinds and window blinds are also difficult to clean. Maintaining privacy may be better achieved through washable roll-up shades.

    Window shades are as easy to install as blinds and are relatively inexpensive. Choose a cotton or synthetic fabric that can be removed and thrown into the washing machine. To kill dust mites, you'll want to wash the textiles frequently and in hot water (about 130 degrees.)

    Though elaborate window treatments and drapes are beautiful and elegant, they are also a hotbed for dust mites. If you are highly allergic to dust, consider simplifying your windows to eliminate possible allergens from your environment.

  3. Rethink Your Air System
    When you turn on the heat or air conditioning in your home, air isn't the only thing that comes out—dust particles do, too. To keep dust at bay, cover the vents with cheesecloth or mesh. (It may not look great, but it does work.) Don't bother to have your air ducts professionally cleaned solely for dust's sake—it won't make much of a difference. The best thing to do is change out your air filters about every three months.

    Electric space heaters and portable air conditioners are also viable options. Air conditioners are especially useful on those hot spring days; they keep pollen from coming in through the windows and dust mites can't survive in the cold.

    Jane Tip: : If your home is outfitted with radiators, clean them regularly with a damp cloth as dust tends to build up on and under them.

    Allergy experts also recommend using an air purifier to help relieve symptoms. Purifiers, especially those equipped with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arrestor) filter, help rid the air of allergens and pollutants, but don't heat or cool the air. The purifier's filter, like the other filters in your heating and cooling systems needs to be cleaned regularly in order to work efficiently.

  4. Bid Farewell to Junk
    There's a reason why spring cleaning takes place in the springtime: allergies!

    Clutter generates dust so if you were ever thinking about going minimalist, here is the perfect excuse to do it now.

    Get rid of any old books, magazines or children's toys that are no longer being used. Ultimately, you are looking for clean, bare walls, shelves, and tables. Clean your closets. If you can't bear to part with some of your belongings, store them in the garage or a storage unit. (For those stuffed animals that must stay, wash them in hot water or stick them in the freezer for a couple of hours to kill dust mites).

    Get rid of any old books, magazines or children's toys that are no longer being used. Ultimately, you are looking for clean, bare walls, shelves and tables. Clean your closets. If you can't bear to part with some of your belongings, store them in the garage or a storage unit. (For those stuffed animals that must stay, wash them in hot water or stick them in the freezer for a couple of hours to kill dust mites).

    Wipe down all surfaces with a damp cloth at least once a week to prevent dust build up. Dusting frequently is a drag, but keeping those pesky allergens at bay is well worth the effort.

  5. Clean Regularly
    Cleaning religiously is a vital part of controlling your allergy symptoms. If you can't replace your wall-to-wall carpeting, make sure to vacuum it weekly. There are HEPA-filter vacuums available that prevent dust and dirt from becoming airborne while you vacuum. Still, people with severe asthma or allergic reactions to dust should not be operating the vacuum.

    Washing sheets, pillowcases, rugs and drapes regularly in hot water will help prevent a build up of dust, but inevitably dust mites will return. Invest in dust-proof slipcovers for your mattress and pillows. (Vacuuming your mattress monthly for at least a couple of minutes will help, too).

Spring into Action

If you love spring but hate the way you feel during those pollen-heavy months, these fairly simple precautions will help to alleviate your symptoms. Staying inside is one option, but indoor allergies can be pretty dangerous, especially for asthmatics. Preventing dust and mold from settling is critical in winning the war against your allergies. Avoiding upholstered furniture, carpeting, dusty blinds and radiators, as well as fitting cleaning into your weekly routine will keep your body happier and healthier.

Related Links:
More about air conditioning units and finding the right one for you.
Living with a Pack Rat
Tips for cleaning the air in your house

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