Put Out the Welcome Mat
Many allergy triggers -- such as dust, mold, and dust mites -- get tracked into your house on your shoes. Put out a large welcome mat so friends and family will wipe their shoes before coming inside. Choose a rubber mat that can be cleaned easily. Better yet, ask visitors to leave their shoes at the door.
Clean the Air With HEPA Filters
A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter can capture 99% of the tiny particles (allergens) in the air. These portable filters range from tabletop to room-size. HEPA filters work best for removing pet dander and pollen, but not as well for dust mites. Look for units tested by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers that list the clean air delivery rate (CADR). Make sure the number listed is at least 2/3 of the room's square feet.
Use an Allergen-Trapping Filter
Typical furnace filters don't catch smaller allergens. Pleated paper filters with a MERV (efficiency) rating of 8 to 13 can be almost as effective as HEPA filters and can cost around $10. Electrostatic filters use charged fibers to trap allergens and can cost about $15 or more. Change filters every three months to keep your furnace working well. A whole-house HEPA or electrostatic filter unit can be added to your HVAC system, but the cost can be more than $300.
Electronic Air Cleaners
Electronic air cleaners don't use filters or fans. Instead, they change the electric charge on polluting particles. Some electronic air cleaners produce ozone, which can sometimes make allergies worse. These air cleaners can be portable or can be installed in your furnace or mounted on your ceiling. Portable cleaners may cost a few hundred dollars. Ceiling and furnace models can be $1,000 or more. There's no standard measure of effectiveness for electronic air cleaners.
Neti Pot: Clean Your Nasal Passages
Using a neti pot to irrigate your nasal passages may help ease your allergy symptoms. Fill the pot with lukewarm saline solution made with sterile or distilled water or boiled and cooled tap water. Tilt your head over the sink, then pour the salt water into one nostril and let it drain out of the other. The pots, which are available at health food and drugstores, sell for around $10 and have instructions. You can also use a bulb syringe or rinse bottle.
OTC Allergy Medications
Over-the-counter allergy medications come in pills, eye drops, and nasal sprays. Antihistamine pills help relieve allergy symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. Decongestants help with a stuffy nose. Antihistamine eye drops help itchy eyes. Allergy nasal sprays prevent sneezing and nasal symptoms. Decongestant nasal sprays aren't the same thing. Using them more than three days can make your congestion worse.
Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers
Dust mites -- tiny creatures that live in your bed, sofa, and carpet -- can cause nasal allergies. Keeping indoor humidity low helps control dust mites, which thrive in moist, warm air. But too-dry air can irritate nasal passages and make allergy symptoms worse. Strike a balance by keeping the humidity in your home between 30%-50%. You can monitor it with a hygrometer (about $10). Tabletop humidifiers and dehumidifiers are available at discount and drugstores for about $30 to $100.
Remake Your Bed
Keeping dust mites out of mattresses and pillows can help prevent allergy attacks. Choose pillows and comforters filled with synthetic hypoallergenic material instead of mite-friendly feathers. And cut back on throw pillows.
Cover Your Mattress
Encase pillows, mattress, and box springs in allergen-proof covers. Prices can range from $20-$150 depending on your bed size.
Upgrade Your Dust Cloth
Trade in your old cloth, which stirs up allergy-causing particles while you dust, for a microfiber cloth. Unlike a cotton towel or old T-shirt, this cloth's fibers have an electrostatic charge that attracts and traps dust. It can be machine washed. You can get microfiber mitts for hard-to-reach or delicate items, and special wipes for electronics.
Wear A Mask and Gloves
Housework and yard work stir up a lot of potential allergens, from dust and pet dander to pollen and leaf mold. Prevent an allergy attack by wearing an inexpensive safety mask and gloves. Use work gloves for outside and gloves when using household cleaners.
Use a HEPA Vacuum
Vacuuming once a week can help allergy proof your home, but you'll need to use a vacuum with a replaceable HEPA filter or use a double bag. That's because standard vacuum cleaners stir up dust into the air, while HEPA filters or double bags trap the dust and allergens. Be sure to vacuum upholstered furniture, too. HEPA filter vacuums can run anywhere from $100 to more than $1,000.
Steam Clean Allergens Away
Steam cleaning helps get rid of dust mites that have set up housekeeping in carpets and upholstered furniture. You can rent a steamer at a grocery or home improvement store for about $25 a day, or buy your own (about $75 and up) at department and discount stores. Some manufacturers offer cleaning solutions specially formulated to control allergens. Vacuum after you steam clean to get rid of dead mites.
Mold & Mildew Killers
Mold is a common allergen that loves warm, wet places like the kitchen and bathroom. To get rid of it, you have to clean, disinfect, and dry. Scrub mold and mildew away with soap, water, and a stiff brush. Disinfect with a mold-killing product that has 5% chlorine bleach, or use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. Check for leaks and use an exhaust fan to prevent mold from coming back.
Pet Beds & Shampoos
There are no hypoallergenic pets, but you can reduce pet allergies by keeping your exposure to pet dander to a minimum. Use a mild shampoo to wash your pet often. If your cat doesn't like baths, at least wipe his fur with a damp washcloth. You can also buy pet wipes at pet stores. Use plastic pet beds that can be wiped down, or wash pet bedding in hot water at least once a week.
Buy Washable Toys
Stuffed toys collect dander and dust mites as well as dirt. Check the labels when you buy toys to make sure they're washable. Toss them in the washing machine and wash in hot water every week. Store stuffed toys on shelves or in a hanging net -- but not on the bed. Wipe down plastic or wooden toys with a damp cloth.
More Reading on Allergies
Reviewed by Stanley M. Fineman, MD, MBA on Friday, October 03, 2014
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