Best Ways to Fight The Most Common Home Allergens

January 8, 2021

If you’re sensitive to indoor irritants, this may be a particularly itchy-sniffy-sneezy time of year.” Many individuals spend a lot of time indoors, so their exposure increases to indoor allergens,” says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, author of New Allergy Solutions. Read on to learn about common culprits – and smart ways to help control them.

Dust Mites
As the thermometer goes down, watch out for these eight-legged critters (cute).” Since floors are cold and carpets are warm, condensation can occur and dust mites like high humidity,” says Dr. Estelle Levetin, a biologist at the University of Tulsa. Another hot zone: your bed, which you’re likely to hang out more often in the colder months. Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that everyone sheds.

Get rid of them.” Dust mites tend to proliferate in the fall,” says Andrew Murphy, MD, a researcher at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Remove accumulated dust mites by vacuuming (with a HEPA filter) at least once a week. Or better yet, switch to a washable area rug. And zip your mattress and pillows to the Protector; we like the Allergy Guardian mattress encasements ($81-$128; amazon.com). Then swap out your duvet for a blanket you can wash weekly with your sheets in hot water.

molds
There are two reasons why this nasty fungus can become a problem in the winter. Windows are closed and humidifiers are turned up. When the moisture in the air in your home rises, mold can thrive. For example, you may notice it crawling through your shower curtain or notice a moldy odor.

Control it. Rub the nasty stuff from hard, impervious surfaces (like tile) with a 15 percent bleach solution, says Levetin. (“For serious contamination from a flood or spill, you’ll need a professional,” she adds.) You can also keep an eye on the conditions of the mold growth. Start by picking up a gadget called a hygrometer-such as AcuRite’s Monitor ($12; amazon.com)-to keep tabs on the humidity level in your home. You want it to be between 30 percent and 50 percent. Most mold growth is limited to less than 50 percent; it’s that much less likely you’ll have a problem. And keep ventilating the bathroom, says Dr. Bassett.” Always turn on the fan when you take a shower, and leave the door cracked open as well.”

Pet dander.
When it’s frosty outside, some dogs or cats are less likely to hang out in the yard and more likely to play or nap indoors. This means more pet dander (tiny particles shed from an animal’s skin) inside the house.” Pet dander is a sticky protein, so it grabs onto clothes, bedding, walls, windows – anywhere,” Dr. Murphy says.

Set boundaries. Make your bedroom a no-go area for your furry friend.” This may help lower allergen levels there,” says Dr. Murphy. You may also want to invest in a HEPA air purifier, says Dr. Bassett. These devices can capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles.