Spring means warmer days, longer evenings, and the promise of summer, but for many of us it also has a serious downside: allergy season.
And that’s nothing to sneeze at! The World Allergy Organization found that 400 million people worldwide suffer from allergic rhinitis (i.e. illness causes by indoor and outdoor allergens), and in 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 million Americans were diagnosed with hay fever in the previous year.
If itchy eyes, a runny nose, and constant sneezing is part of your spring routine, today’s post is for you. While pollen and allergens are pretty much unavoidable when you’re outside, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize the allergens in your home, and that’s what we’re sharing in this post.
Many people turn to Immunotherapy in an attempt to win the battle over allergens, which involves giving the person small incremental amounts of the allergen so their body can build up “blocking antibodies” which help to decrease the allergy symptoms.
However, this isn’t the solution for everyone, and many people just want to make sure that they can be home without wanting to scratch at their eyes of have a sneezing fit.
Keep reading to discover how you can make your home a haven from frustrating seasonal allergens.
While it may be tempting, staying inside for the duration of allergy season probably isn’t ideal. But you can make things a lot easier for yourself by choosing the right times to stay indoors. Typically, pollen counts are higher first thing in the morning, so if you can avoid going out then, that is best. You can also monitor pollen counts online and adjust your activities so you’re inside when counts are particularly high.
Pollen.com will let you know when allergy season starts in your area, and it provides a 4-day forecast for pollen levels. You can also sign up to get alerts when pollen levels are especially high.
When you do go outside, it’s advisable to take your medications preventatively rather than after you’re already experiencing symptoms, according to David Rosenstreich, MD, the director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. He says, “these medications almost all work better to prevent allergy symptoms than they do to treat them, so people should not wait until they’re having symptoms to start taking their medicines.”
(This is a general statement- check with your health care provider to see how they recommend you take your medications).
While it’s very tempting to open the windows and doors once the weather turns warm, doing so is of course, not ideal for allergy season. To prevent the outdoor allergens from coming in, make sure to keep them closed- window screens aren’t enough to keep allergens out, so you’ll have to keep them closed altogether.
Simply being inside isn’t enough because outdoor allergens can easily get into the home (and indoor allergens can easily spread). The solution? Use the proper air purification tools to keep you breathing easy.
If you’re using an HVAC, it’s important to regularly change and clean your filters. Different filters are also better than others, and you want to look for something with a MERV rating of 9 to 13 as they are able to properly filter out smaller particles like pollen and smoke.
Standalone air purifiers are also great, and if allergies to mold are a concern, make sure you have a good quality dehumidifier up and running.
Your air ducts can house more dust and allergens than you’d expect, and if they’re not cleaned properly, they can sabotage your best efforts to keep your home allergen free. A twice per year cleaning, ideally in the spring and fall, will help to keep your air quality clean.
You want to make sure that as little pollen and allergens as possible are tracked into your home, so it’s a good idea to sweep, vacuum, or otherwise clean your porch and balcony. Also, make sure that everyone in the home leaves their shoes and jackets in the front entry way so they don’t carry the allergens into the home.
For all cleaning, but especially cleaning outdoors, you can wear a mask to minimize contact with allergens. Ideally, another family member who doesn’t suffer from allergies should do the cleaning, but if that’s not an option then a mask is a good alternative.
So not only do you have to deal with allergies, but you need to clean more too? We don’t want to be the bearers of bad news, but it is true. Keeping your home clean is one of the best ways to whisk away allergens and keep your environment free from what’s causing you grief.
Dr. Todd Mahr, president of president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) said in a press release that it’s not just outdoor but also indoor allergens that can be causing the trouble: "A thorough cleaning helps get rid of things like dust, mold, pet dander and other allergens, which may have been making you miserable all winter. Many people think spring and fall is when their seasonal allergies kick in. They might not realize indoor allergens can also cause chaos with your nasal passages and lungs and that a thorough cleaning can help."
When you’re cleaning, pay extra attention to the areas of your home that can really hold on to particles, such as your bedding, carpets, upholstery, and curtains. Regularly vacuuming and machine washing these items (when possible) will help to significantly reduce the allergens in your home.
The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America highlights the following as the main sources of indoor allergens,
Our down duvets and pillows are excellent for anyone who suffers from allergies- all of the materials are meticulously cleaned to remove microbes and allergens, and the feathers are wrapped in an organic cotton shell, so you don’t have to worry about sensitivities to the chemicals and dyes found on commercial cotton products.
For more tips on keeping your room clean, check out our post on How to Create a Non-Toxic Bedroom.
Note that the majority of cleaning products on the market are filled with harmful chemicals that many people react to. To make sure that your cleaning efforts aren’t further aggravating your allergies, we recommend using natural alternatives. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Cleaning for lots of great tips and advice.
Allergy season can be a real pain, but with these tips you can make your home a comfortable reprieve from the outdoors!
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