Home: Your Allergy-Free Zone

How to send indoor allergens packing

Ever feel like you can’t get away from your allergies? Go to sleep sniffly and wake up stuffy? If you have indoor allergies, you’ve got a right to feel surrounded: There may be millions of allergens in your home, floating in the air or stuck to the carpet and the walls. The three most common: dust (including dust mites), mold and cockroaches.

Break the cycle! Make your home an allergy-free zone. But you don’t need to do everything at once: Encasing your mattress, pillows and boxsprings with an expensive hypoallergenic cover is great for protection against dust and dust mites. But if you’re allergic to mold, making your home drier than mold can stand is more important.

The first step is to identify your allergens. Get tested by an allergist, who can tell you exactly what you’re allergic to and what you’re not. It's time to make a plan:

If you’re allergic to mold:

  • Dial down the humidity. Mold can hardly grow when the humidity is below 50 percent. Buy a dehumidifier; in warm weather, run the air conditioner, which also cuts humidity.
  • Perform spot checks. Regularly check hidden nooks and crannies in your home for potential sources of mold, and the water it thrives on.
  • Mend any leaky fixtures, including those hidden behind cabinets.

If you’re allergic to dust:

  • Clean your home, with caution. Dusting or running the old vac might kick up dust, so wear a mask while you're doing it and then leave the house for half an hour to let any airborne dust settle. Better yet: Get a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which traps much more dust (and other allergens). Also beneficial is a multi-ply exhaust bag, which increases the amount of trapped allergens.
  • Keep your house clutter-free. The more clutter, the more surfaces for dust to settle on.
  • Pay particular attention to your bedroom, where you spend up to half your time. Avoid or replace fluffy pillows and heavily upholstered furniture. Where possible, replace carpeting with throw rugs that you can wash regularly.
  • Clean your bed. Dead skin cells that you slough off turn into dust. Wash your sheets, pillowcases and comforter at least every two weeks in hot water. Better yet: Buy hypoallergenic pillows and covers for your mattress and box spring.

If you’re allergic to cockroaches…

  • Seal it up! Don’t leave any food lying out on the kitchen counter and make sure food in your pantry is sealed in air-tight containers.
  • Call in the experts. Even the best store-bought roach traps may not work for you. If they don't, pest control specialists can treat your home with chemicals that repel roaches, one time only or on a regular basis.

If you’re allergic to more than one indoor allergen, of course, you’ll want to try a combination of approaches. The good news: With a little work, you can be waking up with fewer allergy symptoms in no time.

Reviewed by: Marc J. Sicklick, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI

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