Now that summer is in full swing, my Facebook feed is crowded with sorrowful tales of allergy attacks. This time of year, outdoor air is full of pollen and spores that can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma symptoms.
Many people choose to avoid allergens by hiding indoors, but our homes, cars and even offices can harbor plenty of things just waiting to set off an attack. In fact, a survey published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that at least six allergens were detectable in more than more than 50 percent of homes.
“Allergen particles are carried in the air, but they will settle onto furniture and floor surfaces. They vary in size and are measured in microns (also called micrometers). The larger the particles, the faster they will settle out of the air,” explains the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA). “Controlling the air quality in your home, office and car can reduce allergy and asthma symptoms.”
That’s right, air pollution isn’t only an issue for the outdoor environment. Studies of human exposure to air pollutants (including known allergens like mold and pollen) by the EPA indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels.
So how is a seasonal allergy sufferer to survive (aside from swallowing OTC allergy medicines on a daily basis)? Here are seven easy-to-implement tips that can help you reduce allergy attacks and improve indoor air quality:
1. Get a Doormat
Pollen, chemicals and nasty pathogens often enter your home the same way you do — through the front door. Adding indoor and outdoor mats at every entrance will drastically reduce the number of allergens that end up on your floors and in the air. Look for one that’s washable, or try something fancy like this anti-microbial doormat. Double your protection by taking shoes off after wiping them on the mat.
2. Make an Allergen-Free Bed
Dust mites, a major allergy trigger, love to hang out in bedding and on pillows. “At least once a week, wash pillowcases, sheets, and blankets in very hot water — at least 130 degrees — and dry them in a hot dryer to kill dust mites,” explains EverydayHealth.com. You might also consider wrapping mattresses and non-washable pillows, comforters or other bedding in allergen-proof covers, just make sure they’re non-toxic.
3. Get Rid of Rugs
Like bedding, floors are a haven for the dust, pollen, and chemical residues that trigger allergy attacks. If you have area or throw rugs that can be rolled up and put away, do it. If your rug really ties the room together, plan on washing it regularly. At the very least, vacuum once a week with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
4. Keep Windows Closed (and Clean)
Gorgeous summer weather makes us want to throw open our windows, but doing so only invites an allergic disaster. Hot, windy and dry are ideal conditions for pollen, and if you’ve got your windows open, expect to see a thick layer of pollen all over. Likewise, avoid sleeping with windows open, as allergen levels are higher in the early morning. Keeping your windows closed and using an air conditioner with an allergy filter is the best way to stay cool and avoid an attack.
5. Time Your Outings Appropriately
No one wants to be trapped inside when the weather is nice. To minimize allergy attacks, “avoid going outdoors in the early morning hours, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when pollen is usually emitted from plants. Also, avoid being outside in general when the pollen count is high (get updates for your region at www.pollen.com). Get in the habit of changing your clothes and taking a shower once you’re back inside, to eliminate any pollen picked up while outdoors.
6. Up Your Pest Control Efforts
A recent survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association and AAFA found that pests like cockroaches, rodents and stinging insects can all trigger allergic reactions. Ninety-seven percent of allergists surveyed indicated a pest free home is important in preventing asthma and allergy symptoms. If you’ve noticed any vermin in or around your home, check out our 7 Tips for Chemical-Free Pest Control, or call a non-toxic pest management company immediately.
7. Clean Green
If you’re constantly cleaning every surface in your home, but still experiencing allergy attacks, if could be because you’re using the wrong products. “If you are sensitive to allergens, switch to green, environmentally friendly cleaning products, which have natural and plant-based ingredients,” advises EveryDayHealth.com. Check out our 10 Quick Tips for Green Cleaning and 10 DIY Green Cleaning Recipes.
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