Unfortunately spring isn’t the only season we have to be on high allergy alert. Winter brings a whole new set of hazards for allergy and asthma sufferers. We’re talking about indoor allergens, such as dust mites, mold, pet dander and cockroaches. In winter we spend around 90 percent of our time inside, so it’s crucial that we keep our indoor air as healthy as possible. The following are some simple ways to reduce potential allergens in your home:
Move in on mold Even during the depths of winter, mold can linger in damp, humid indoor areas such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements. Attack visible mold with a diluted bleach solution and use dehumidifiers in extremely moist areas. Keeping relative humidity down to less than 50 percent will help to reduce both mold and dust mites. Fix leaks and other sources of damp, clear, moldy firewood, leaves and weeds out of your yard.
Allergen-proof your bedding Keep dust mites out by using zippered allergen-proof covers on all your pillows, mattresses and box springs. You should also wash bedding, uncovered pillows and stuffed toys in hot water and dry them on high heat once a week.
Rip up the carpet It sounds drastic, but allergens get trapped in carpet fibers, while hard-surface flooring can be easily dusted and mopped. Bare floors and walls are best, particularly in the bedroom where you sleep. If that’s not feasible, consider washable throw rugs or low-pile carpets, and get your carpets and rugs regularly steam cleaned.
Buy an asthma-friendly vacuum Poor quality vacuums can actually increase dust in the air, so look for models that are certified to be asthma and allergy friendly. You should vacuum and dust once or twice weekly, and use a damp or treated cloth for dusting. If you suffer from severe allergies, wear a dust mask and leave the house for several hours after cleaning. Or even better, pay for a professional cleaner if you can afford it.
Evict the cockroaches Cockroach droppings can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms in some people, another reason you don’t want a roach infestation in your house. Call an exterminator who uses allergen-sensitive materials. Or tackle them on your own with poison baits, boric acid and traps, rather than chemical agents, which can exacerbate rhinitis and asthma. Keep your home clean and a tight lid on your food and trash bins.
Tackle pet hair You love your pet, but not their sneeze-inducing dander. If possible, keep pets out of the bedroom. You could also have them sleep in the basement or garage if there is a spot that is warm enough. Otherwise, you’ll need to be vigilant with vacuuming and you could also consider an indoor air cleaner, such as a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) air cleaner which can pick up fine particles such as pet dander.