Summertime is here, and for allergy sufferers, this means sniffling, sneezing and taking high doses of allergy meds which leave you feeling comatose. While you can’t control the weather, nor can you do much about the air quality of your office other than investing in desktop plants, you can control the amount of allergens in your home.
Reducing household allergens takes two parts good, old fashioned elbow grease and one part common sense. You’ll need to make like TV’s “Queen of Clean” to remove existing allergens. You’ll also need to experiment a bit to see what might be triggering your allergies other than the obvious pollen.
1. Dust (and Cover Your Nose While Doing So)
The first thing you want to do is clear those knick-knacks off every surface and give counters, end tables and entertainment centers a thorough dusting. But before you do, head to the dollar store and pick up some face masks, like the kind nail techs wear when giving a mani. This will help keep all that floating dust from entering your nose while you clean and sending you into a wheezing fit.
2. Vacuum Properly
Many people vacuum at least weekly, but those with allergies may need to do so more often. Additionally, carpets make up only one soft surface of your home. Be sure to vacuum furniture, especially pet furniture, thoroughly at least every other day.
3. Prevent and Treat Mold
Dusting your baseboards reduces allergens, but if you’ve got mold, you need more than a damp rag. But chemical mold cleaners can exacerbate allergies. To clean mold naturally, put distilled vinegar in a spray bottle and coat baseboards and bathroom cabinets thoroughly.
4. Get Your Ducts Cleaned
Have your air ducts professionally cleaned every five years, more often if you have pets or an indoor smoker. Change air filters out at least once per month.
5. Change Out Sheets, Drapes, Pillows
Approximately seven percent of the population experiences seasonal allergies, and when you suffer them at home, it’s likely pollen has flown right in the window the first time you opened up to air the house out after winter. Wash sheets, pillows and curtains regularly — or switch to blinds for window treatments.
6. Control Pet Dander
I don’t care what the experts say — my cats are my family, and I’m not surrendering them due to allergies! If you have furry friends, vacuum daily and try to keep them out of the bedroom (I know, I know, yeah, right, but try).
7. Replace Carpet With Hardwood
Carpet holds allergens in, and the thicker the pile, the worse it is. If money permits, replace carpet with tile or hardwood. If you have an older home, you may be in luck — I once tore up hideous green linoleum in an old condo to find the most gorgeous hardwood floors in need of nothing more than a good strip and polish.
8. Avoid Window Fans
If you lack air conditioning, opt for ceiling fans over window models. Window fans basically blow all the outside pollen all over you while you sleep. Keep ceiling fans well dusted, and reverse the flow in the winter to save on heating costs, especially if you live in a two or more story home.
9. Take off Your Shoes
Your shoes carry in trace amounts of urine, feces and vomit (ew!) as well as a ton of allergens. Make like the Japanese, and remove your shoes upon entering your home and ask visitors to do the same. Trust me, I felt awkward AF the first few times I asked friends to remove their shoes, but most people understand.
10. Do an Elimination Diet for Food Allergies
Still not feeling well despite giving your entire home a thorough anti-allergen cleaning? The issue could be in the products you use or the foods you eat.
Take note of foods that make you feel yucky after eating, and see if eliminating them eases your symptoms. If you’re experiencing rashes or acne breakouts, take a good hard look at the skin care products and cosmetics you use and eliminate one by one to find the culprit.
Enjoying an Allergy-Free Home
The warmer months can make allergy sufferers miserable. But while you can’t control the weather, you can control the number of allergens plaguing your home. By following the steps above, you’ll be sneeze free all summer long!
By Emily Folk
Conservation and Sustainability Writer