It may not feel like yet, but spring is just around the corner. And, just before the weather warms up allergy season kicks in. Fortunately, you can start reducing allergens in your home before it hits.
People who suffer from seasonal allergies, or hay fever, know the drill: Starting around February or March, they start getting itchy eyes, runny noses and a cough. This often flares up through the summer.
The culprits are allergens, which trigger these reactions. One of the most common is pollen, the powdery substance that plants produce and send off into the air to land on female plants. Another is mold, which is more common in the warmer weather because it thrives on humidity and warmth.
These substances with year-round allergens like dust mites and pet dander. And, since they can be anywhere, it’s difficult to avoid them outside. That’s especially so if you have a lot of grass or fields near your home.
Of course, there are medications that can help manage your allergy symptoms. But, a great way to avoid them altogether is to reduce the allergens in your home. The less you are around allergens, the less they can irritate you.
There are dozens of ways to reduce allergens in your home. We’re focusing on a few that involve your home heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems. And, we’ll look at a few other easy ways.
Close your windows.
A good first step toward reducing allergens in your home is not letting them at all. The first line of defense is your windows. Keeping them closed keeps pollen, especially, out.
Of course, that’s pretty easy to do in the wintertime. In fact, you can avoid plenty of those early seasonal allergy troublemakers while saving a few dollars on your heating bill.
For this, buy a simple window sealing kit for less than $20. They’re essentially large sheets of plastic that stick to the wall around the window. They prevent drafts and block particles.
Once it gets warmer, of course, things get a little trickier. If you have central air, use it as much as you can instead of opening the windows. It will cost a little more in energy bills. But, if you’re especially sensitive to seasonal allergies, it may be the best way to go.
Filter your air
This is a big — and sometimes costly — step toward reducing the allergens in your home. What you want is a “high-efficiency particulate air,” or HEPA, filtration system or air purifier.
A HEPA system can filter out particles as small as .3 microns. To earn the HEPA designation, a system has to pass the U.S. Department of Energy standard of filtering out 99.7 percent of particles that small or larger.
To put it in perspective, a piece of paper is 70 to 180 microns thick. In terms of allergens, a dust mite is around 100 microns, bacteria particles are anywhere from .3 to 60 microns and a mold spore is 10 to 30 microns. And, a pollen particle is anywhere from one to 100 microns.
HEPA filters come in a variety of packages. Depending on your need, you can spend $100 or less for a portable room filter. Or, you can go all the way up to nearly $3,000 for a filtration system that treats your whole house.
Ventilate your bathroom
Mold thrives in warm, moist places. That makes your bathroom an ideal breeding ground. All the steam from hot water lingering can make it the most humid room in the house.
That moisture can also trap allergens such as pollen. And, since many times bathrooms are small rooms that sometimes don’t have windows, allergens can really build up.
Making sure you have proper ventilation in your bathroom goes a long way toward reducing allergens in the home. If you don’t have a bathroom window, you should already have a fan. Make sure it’s cleaned-out and working properly.
Consider a new one if yours is starting to work too slowly. Or, you can upgrade to a stronger model or HEPA-certified product if allergens seem to be a major problem in your bathroom.
Mind your blinds and curtains
If you followed our tips on keeping your house warm in the winter, you might consider blinds and curtains as part of your HVAC system. They can also play a role in reducing allergens in your home.
For starters, avoid horizontal, or Venetian, blinds. Dust and pollen can settle on them very easily. And, they take a long time to clean since you have to wipe each blade one by one.
Instead, invest in cloth curtains or roller shades. They don’t allow nearly as much to settle on them. And, you can wipe them off much easier or even throw them in the washing machine.
Establish a routine
Of course, all these tactics can’t keep your house 100 percent allergen-free. Therefore, it’s important to take a few, regular steps to further reduce the allergens in your home.
It’s a good idea to get into a good, weekly cleaning routine during allergy season. This is much more effective than cleaning once a month or when you start getting allergy symptoms.
It doesn’t take too much. Just be sure to use a damp mop to clean linoleum, wood and tile flooring. Similarly, run a damp cloth over window sills, counters, tabletops and tops of doors,
Vacuum your rugs every week, too. Be sure to use a vacuum cleaner with a small-particle or HEPA filter to capture as much as you can. And, remember to change your HVAC air filters at least every three months.
These steps may add an hour or so to your weekly schedule. But, they will go a long way toward reducing the allergens in your home.