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How to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Are you one of the 50 million people known to struggle with allergy symptoms? Whether you have a persistent runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, headache, or dry cough, allergies can sure make it harder to get through your day.

While many people are aware of classic outdoor allergens and their seasons, indoor allergens can cause just as many problems, and they typically last year-round. You can minimize your exposure to outdoor allergens when they are at their worst, but what can you do if you are allergic to classic indoor allergens?

Allergy-proofing your home is a comprehensive look at where indoor allergens may be concentrated in your home and removing them. Reducing allergens in your home will improve your symptoms and may even let you stop or at least decrease your use of over-the-counter allergy medications.

Allergic rhinitis is the most common chronic disease in children and the fifth most common chronic disease in the U.S. overall.1 According to the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC), the number of people suffering from allergy symptoms is increasing.2 If you are unsure what you are allergic to or even whether allergies are responsible for your symptoms, book a virtual consultation with a healthcare provider at Telegra MD.

Allergy testing

Identifying Common Allergens in the Home

Dust mites, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, household chemicals, tobacco smoke, fungal spores, and even cockroach or rodent droppings and dander are common allergens in homes. Exposure to these allergens can trigger allergy symptoms in susceptible people.

Any individual or combination of allergens could be causing your symptoms. The first step in identifying whether you are sensitive to common household allergens is to schedule an online appointment with a Telegra MD virtual doctor to receive an online diagnosis and determine whether you are a good candidate for allergy testing. The best way to determine whether you have allergies and develop a treatment plan is to have an allergist review your medical history, symptoms, and exposure to allergens and make a diagnosis.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are eight-legged members of the arachnid class that have a three-month lifespan, during which they feed on human skin scales, cellulose (textile fabric), and chitin (fungi).  

Dust mites require humidity to survive, and researchers theorize this is why they are more commonly found in an occupied bed than in a carpet. A relative humidity of less than 50% reduces dust mite concentrations.3 Dust mites also avoid sunlight.

Dust mite skeletons and fecal material can cause allergic sensitization and symptoms. Accidentally consuming mite-contaminated food or having a cross-reaction when consuming shrimp or snails can cause systemic allergy symptoms.4

Dust mites are most commonly found in bedding, mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture.5

A woman sneezing

Pet Dander

About 12% of the general U.S. population is allergic to cats and dogs. Proteins found in urine, feces, skin, and saliva can trigger allergy symptoms in susceptible people. Pet allergies are most commonly associated with dogs and cats.

Allergenic pet proteins can last for months in your home when they attach to carpets and upholstered furniture. Since they can stay airborne and adhere to clothing, pet allergens can be carried into any home. Pet allergens are ubiquitous in public settings.6

Mold

Mold thrives in damp and humid conditions. Kitchens, bathrooms, and damp basements are the most common household locations to find mold spores.

Over 100,000 molds have been identified indoors and outdoors. Outdoor molds come indoors through open windows and doors and are carried on clothing and pets.

Most molds do not harm human health, but some have been linked to asthma and allergies, with about 8% to 14% of the U.S. population having mold sensitivity. Sensitivity to molds is associated with an increase in asthma symptoms, coughing, and severe asthma exacerbations.6 Understanding mold allergies and their effect on allergies, asthma, and overall health is essential.

A close-up of a woman sneezing

Implementing Allergy-Proofing Measures

While removing all allergens from your home is impossible, implementing effective measures to limit your exposure can decrease your allergy and asthma symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

Allergy-Proofing Your Bedroom

You spend between 7 and 9 hours a day in your bedroom. If you have allergies or asthma, start here in your quest to allergy-proof your home.

  • Allergen-proof mattresses and pillows: Dust mite proof your pillows, mattresses, and box springs by encasing them in dust-mite-proof covers.
  • Reduce allergens on bedding: Wash sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in water heated to at least 130 F (54 C) at least once a week.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom: Keep pets out of the bedroom to reduce pet allergens.
  • Reduce clutter: Minimize clutter to reduce dust mite accumulation on surfaces. Use furniture with easy-to-clean surfaces. Avoid having upholstered furniture in the bedroom.
  • Curtains and blinds: Choose blinds over curtains to minimize allergen accumulation. Keep windows closed during peak allergy seasons.
  • Control humidity: Maintain humidity levels between 30% and 50% to discourage mold growth.
  • Avoid carpets and rugs: Choose solid surface floors that are easier to clean and do not collect allergens. Vacuum regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
  • Air purifier: Use a portable air filtration system with a HEPA filter.

Allergy-Proofing Your Living Areas

Many of the steps to allergy-proofing your living areas are similar to allergy-proofing your bedroom.

  • Avoid carpets and rugs: Choose solid surface floors that are easier to clean and do not collect allergens. Vacuum regularly with a vacuum that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs weekly and shampoo wall-to-wall carpeting regularly.
  • Furniture: Choose solid surface furniture over upholstered to reduce dust mites and pet allergen accumulation.
  • Curtains and blinds: Choose blinds over curtains to minimize allergen accumulation. Keep windows closed during peak allergy seasons.
  • Limit indoor plants: Reduce your exposure to indoor plants, as the soil can accumulate mold spores.
  • Reduce clutter: Minimize clutter to reduce dust mite accumulation on surfaces.
  • Air purifier: Use a portable or whole-house air filtration system with a HEPA filter.

Allergy-Proofing Your Kitchen and Bathroom

Kitchens and bathrooms typically have higher humidity than other rooms in your house, which makes them high-risk zones for mold accumulation.

  • Ventilation: Use an exhaust fan in the bathroom to vent out excess humidity. Exhaust fans above the stove reduce cooking fumes, smoke, and excess humidity.
  • Surfaces: Wipe all surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom regularly with bleach or an appropriate cleaner to reduce mold growth. Remove any moisture from these surfaces.
  • Avoid carpets and rugs: Choose solid surface floors that are easier to clean and do not collect allergens. Vacuum regularly with a vacuum that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Sink: Wash dishes regularly and scrub the sink and drain to remove mold spores.
  • Refrigerator: Check your refrigerator for excess moisture to avoid mold growth. Check the seals around your refrigerator door for mold growth.
Allergy word cloud

Regular Maintenance and Cleaning for an Allergy-Free Home

Reducing allergens in your home is a time-intensive project, but it pays off with better health for everyone, especially those with allergies or asthma. Establishing and prioritizing good hygiene practices can also protect your family from common illnesses.

Importance of Regular Cleaning

Every time people or pets walk into your home, they carry allergens. Have people remove their shoes when entering the home and wipe their pet’s paws. Regular cleaning can help control allergen buildup.

  • Floors: Damp mop hard surface floors. Use a vacuum cleaner with a small particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Surfaces: Wipe and dry all solid surfaces, including furniture, windows, windowsills, and shades. Dust furniture and fan blades.
  • Pests: Check for pests in the trash, around the periphery of your home, and in the basement.
  • Kitchen and Bath: Scrub all surfaces with bleach or an appropriate cleaner and dry thoroughly.

Schedule Professional Cleaning

The Centers for Disease Control recommends enlisting professional mold remediation services if you suspect or see mold in your home.6 If you have mold sensitivity or concerns about mold growth, have a reinspection every 6 to 12 months.

Experts can also help remove cockroaches and mice and prevent re-infestation. Air duct cleaning every 3 to 5 years can reduce allergens throughout the home.

Professional home and carpet cleaners use high-quality equipment to reduce allergen accumulation.

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References:

1. Seidman MD, Gurgel RK, Lin SY, Schwartz SR, Baroody FM, Bonner JR, Dawson DE, Dykewicz MS, Hackell JM, Han JK, Ishman SL, Krouse HJ, Malekzadeh S, Mims JW, Omole FS, Reddy WD, Wallace DV, Walsh SA, Warren BE, Wilson MN, Nnacheta LC; Guideline Otolaryngology Development Group. AAO-HNSF. Clinical practice guideline: Allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Feb;152(1 Suppl):S1-43. doi: 10.1177/0194599814561600. PMID: 25644617.

2. Asher MI, Montefort S, Björkstén B, Lai CK, Strachan DP, Weiland SK, Williams H; ISAAC Phase Three Study Group. Worldwide time trends in the prevalence of symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in childhood: ISAAC Phases One and Three repeat multicountry cross-sectional surveys. Lancet. 2006 Aug 26;368(9537):733-43. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69283-0. Erratum in: Lancet. 2007 Sep 29;370(9593):1128. PMID: 16935684.

3. Calderón MA, Linneberg A, Kleine-Tebbe J, De Blay F, Hernandez Fernandez de Rojas D, Virchow JC, Demoly P. Respiratory allergy caused by house dust mites: What do we really know? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Jul;136(1):38-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.10.012. Epub 2014 Nov 22. PMID: 25457152.

4. Miller JD. The Role of Dust Mites in Allergy. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2019 Dec;57(3):312-329. doi: 10.1007/s12016-018-8693-0. PMID: 29936683.

5. Wise SK, Lin SY, Toskala E, Orlandi RR, Akdis CA, Alt JA, Azar A, Baroody FM, Bachert C, Canonica GW, Chacko T, Cingi C, Ciprandi G, Corey J, Cox LS, Creticos PS, Custovic A, Damask C, DeConde A, DelGaudio JM, Ebert CS, Eloy JA, Flanagan CE, Fokkens WJ, Franzese C, Gosepath J, Halderman A, Hamilton RG, Hoffman HJ, Hohlfeld JM, Houser SM, Hwang PH, Incorvaia C, Jarvis D, Khalid AN, Kilpeläinen M, Kingdom TT, Krouse H, Larenas-Linnemann D, Laury AM, Lee SE, Levy JM, Luong AU, Marple BF, McCoul ED, McMains KC, Melén E, Mims JW, Moscato G, Mullol J, Nelson HS, Patadia M, Pawankar R, Pfaar O, Platt MP, Reisacher W, Rondón C, Rudmik L, Ryan M, Sastre J, Schlosser RJ, Settipane RA, Sharma HP, Sheikh A, Smith TL, Tantilipikorn P, Tversky JR, Veling MC, Wang Y, Westman M, Wickman M, Zacharek M. International Consensus Statement on Allergy and Rhinology: Allergic Rhinitis. Int Forum Allergy Rhinol. 2018 Feb;8(2):108-352. doi: 10.1002/alr.22073. PMID: 29438602; PMCID: PMC7286723.

6. Ahluwalia SK, Matsui EC. Indoor Environmental Interventions for Furry Pet Allergens, Pest Allergens, and Mold: Looking to the Future. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2018 Jan-Feb;6(1):9-19. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2017.10.009. PMID: 29310769; PMCID: PMC5763515.