If you've noticed yourself sneezing, coughing, wheezing, blowing a runny nose, rubbing itchy eyes, wincing at a scratchy throat or struggling with similar asthma symptoms, don't worry: According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), you may simply be more sensitive to ordinary household particles, including dust, dust mites, pet dander (dead skin flakes), mold and mildew. Here are some tips on how to reduce allergens in the home.
Eliminate Fabric Surfaces and Clutter
It's not usually the dust itself that causes an allergic reaction, but rather a sensitivity to tiny particles left by dust mites — which feed on dust components like human skin scales, pet dander, pollen and other minute debris that collects in soft household surfaces, according to the ACAAI. When you walk past curtains or across the carpet, or sit on upholstered furniture, you release these allergens right into the air you're breathing.
To solve this, remove unnecessary clutter. Use wood or plastic blinds, leather or faux-leather seating and hardwood or tile flooring. Protect all pillows and mattresses with allergen-reducing covers as well, and you will effectively reduce places these minute particles can hide.
Clean With a Steam Mop
Did you know you could go beyond just cleaning with a cloth mop? You can actually remove dust mites, bacteria, viruses, pollen, mold, pet urine and pet saliva with something as simple as a steam mop. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a steam mop is a "pesticide device," which means it uses electric energy to kill common home allergens. It includes no additional chemicals that sometimes cause their own allergic reactions.
Use a Humidifier If Air Is Too Dry
The EPA advises you keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent to help reduce allergens in the home. If you think humidity or lack thereof may be exacerbating your allergies, check your home's humidity levels with a humidistat. In particularly dry climates, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests adding humidity to the air to help alleviate irritated, congested or scratchy noses and throats. A warm-mist humidifier can help you cough and blow your nose more effectively to break up and remove congestion at night. Try a cool-mist humidifier during the day, especially if your skin, nose and lips are also dry or cracked.
Use a Dehumidifier If the Air Is Too Moist
In an overly humid climate, mold, mildew and dust mites thrive. Under the circumstances, removing some humidity from your indoor air can reduce your symptoms. Dust mites die at humidity levels below 40 percent to 50 percent, according to the Allergy & Asthma Foundation of American of America. Based on a humidistat reading, if levels are higher than 50 percent, you should use a whole house dehumidifier to decrease the humidity and stop dust mites, mold and mildew from proliferating.
Remove As Many Particles From Your Indoor Air As Possible
If you're allergic to pet dander and dust mites (and your home is filled with people, pets and clutter) a whole home air purifier helps filter out as many allergens as possible throughout the home — day and night. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration system, as described by the EPA, is designed to trap and remove the very smallest remnants of pollen, dust, dust mites, mold spores and pet dander, but you still have to clean regularly to remove the larger particles that don't float in the air.
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