Home Proofing for Allergies
Allergy-Proofing Your Home
Learn about home proofing for allergies, common allergens and pollutants, how to reduce your exposure to hidden allergens, tips for greatly reducing allergy symptoms.
Although we are addressing the topic of home proofing for allergies, be aware there is no home that can be 100% allergy-free. We can, however, become more aware of common allergens, pollutants, and triggers that precipitate most allergy and asthma problems for children and adults. With this knowledge, we can help to more readily diagnose our health problems, trace our allergies to their source, and alter our surroundings so that we can live in a more allergy friendly environment.
Allergies and asthma are becoming more commonplace in our society; the incidence of those suffering from these conditions is steadily rising. At the same time, people spend most of their time indoors—in their homes and offices. The fact that indoor environments frequently have higher pollution levels than the outdoors, due in part to the environmentally friendly, hermetic sealing of modern homes, greatly contributes to the incidence of allergies. We are thus “trapped” in a sealed environment for much of our living time, exposed to numerous contaminants that, on the surface, appear to be totally safe for ourselves and our children. Yet, we are not as safe as we once thought.
Common Allergies and Symptoms:
Allergens are substances, usually harmless, that can cause your immune system to react as if they were foreign invaders. The most common allergens include pollen (tree, weed, and grass), dust mites, mold, and cat dander. There are also common irritants, such as formaldehyde, that cause sneezing and watery eyes, but they aren’t considered to be allergens if they do not activate the immune system’s response. Again, the most common allergies and symptoms we experience within our home environment include:
• Pollen: symptoms include - runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchy throat and nose; worse in spring and summer
• Dust Mites: symptoms include - persistent runny nose, sneezing (not seasonal), stuffy nose or ears, post nasal drip
• Mold: symptoms include - runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing
• Cat Dander: symptoms include - runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, hoarseness
• Formaldehyde: symptoms include - burning eyes, nose and throat; skin rashes; tightness of the chest; wheezing; fatigue; headache
home proofing for pollen
Pollen; If you're not certain what it is, that's O.K., your nose will let you know. Pollen is just one of the many airborne particles in our environment. You hardly even know pollen is there...unless you have a pollen allergy. Although we usually don't notice various allergens floating in the air, we inhale more than two tablespoons of airborne particles every day and many of us develop allergies to these ubiquitous "flying foes."
How do you know if you have a pollen allergy? You will develop hay fever symptoms, or what we call allergic rhinitis. keep in mind that a good tip for diagnosing pollen sensitivity is that it can usually be identified by season. If your symptoms are worse during the following seasons, then you are likely to suffer from a pollen allergy: 1) in the spring when trees are pollinating; 2) in the early summer when grass and weeds are pollinating; 3) in autumn, when weed allergens are still potent.
Reducing Your exposure to Pollen
• Limit outdoor exposure when pollen counts are highest; between 5:00 am and 10:00 am
• Keep your windows closed as much as possible during pollen season
• Stay in an air-conditioned home and workplace. This greatly reduces pollen exposure
• Use HEPA air filtration in your home, especially your bedroom
• Wash pets often, since they carry pollen into the house
• Rinse your nose with saline spray after being outdoors
• Don’t dry your bedding outdoors, since pollen clings to fabric
• Do not keep large amounts of vegetation around your yard
• Mow grass before it grows tall, so it doesn’t produce seedheads and pollen
• Remove weeds from your yard before they have a chance to pollinate
• Exercise indoors during pollen season
home proofing for dust mites
About 10% of the population is allergic to dust mites, but it is as high as 25% in humid areas. In fact, this allergy is the primary cause of perennial, or year-round allergic rhinitis. As you consider home proofing for allergies, dust mites are an important consideration.
Dust mites (bed mites) are tiny insects of the arachnida class (along with spiders, scorpions, and ticks). They are very small, eight legged creatures that measure about 0.3 millimeters long. You probably won’t see any dust mites with your naked eye, but I assure you, there are plenty of them keeping you company. How do you know there are dust mites living around you? You might experience itchy eyes, runny nose, allergic rhinitis, and other symptoms that seems to get worse during the night while you are in bed.
Control Dust Mites in the Carpet
Reduce exposure by removing the carpet from your bedroom. A hard surface such as hardwood is a better choice, as it can be cleaned with a damp cloth. If carpets cannot be removed, special carpet treatments should be used to inactivate the allergen accumulated in the carpet and to reduce the mite population.
In The Bedroom
1) Encase pillows in zippered allergen impermeable covers or wash every two weeks in hot water (130 degrees)
2) Encase mattress and box spring in zippered allergy mattress covers
3) Wash all blankets, sheets, pillowcases, and mattress pads in hot water (about one hundred and thirty degrees) every two weeks
4) Wash comforters every two weeks and encase in allergen-impermeable interliners.
Frequent vacuuming is recommended for the removal of surface allergen from carpets. However, many vacuum cleaners leak, blowing
allergy-causing particles (allergens) into the air. Replace your standard vacuum bag with a high filtration multi-layer bag and add a vacuum exhaust filter.
If you are ready for a new vacuum, there are now excellent, hypoallergenic models that fully contain allergens you collect, retaining particles at 99.97% efficiency down to 0.3 microns.
home proofing for mold
Molds, the "furry" little culprits behind mold allergy. We’ve all seen the unsightly mildew that appears on shower tiles, or the strawberries left in the frig too long. Molds are tiny fungi that have hyphae, or threadlike filaments. Living mold, dead mold, and mold spores are the allergens that negatively affect our health.
Mold can be found in soil, in the air, and wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and some organic matter. You'll find mold in gardens, on some grasses and weeds, on grains like corn and wheat; It especially likes moist, shady areas in your home. Also, mold loves to travel; the wind can carry them for twenty miles or so.
Molds thrive at temperatures between 70 degrees and 90 degrees, but they are hardy and can live at lower temperatures. During the winter, most molds become dormant, although some molds can actually grow at temperatures below freezing. In warm climates like the west coast and south,
molds can grow all year, causing year-round allergy symptoms like rhinitis.
The best way to prevent mold in your home is by creating a situation in which mold finds it difficult to colonize:
- Use reputable allergy reduction products throughout your home
- store foods properly
- control the humidity in your home
- maintain/clean humidifiers and air conditioners regularly
- use an exhaust fan or open a window after bathing
- wash shower curtains, bathroom tiles, and grout regularly
- use a humidifier in your basement
- if painting your basement, use paint with a mold inhibitor
home proofing for cat allergen
Between six and ten million people in the U.S. have symptoms of cat allergy. These symptoms, however, are often misunderstood. You might think they come from the fur or cat dander (scales of skin), but this allergen comes mainly from saliva and sweat; a protein with a carbohydrate structure called “Fel d 1" allergen.
"Fel d 1" allergen is much smaller than pollen or mold spores. The small size of this allergen explains why it easily bypasses nasal passages and lodges deep in the lungs, where it can cause allergic episodes and asthma.
Fel d 1 allergen floats in the air microscopically. After a cat licks itself, “Fel d 1" allergen is deposited on its fur. Once it is deposited, dried specks of saliva can float off and drift around your home. This protein allergen can spread everywhere, attaching itself to walls, windows, and furniture. Amazingly, this allergen can still be present years after a cat leaves your home, so everything would need to be totally cleaned in order to remove the allergen.
If you have cat allergy and decide to keep your cat (the emotional bond between people and their pets can be quite strong), there are certain things you can do to reduce your allergies:
- Use reputable allergy reduction products throughout your home
- Improve the ventilation in your house. Since allergens float in the air, having a source of fresh air will reduce the allergen
- Use a Hepa air filter. Air filters work particularly well for particles of cat allergen
- Create a comfortable place outside where your cat can sleep. Make your cat’s place warm and cozy, include a dish with food and water, and maybe even so catnip!
- Consider removing all carpeting from your home, since this is where cat allergens can lodge themselves. Also, consider leather or vinyl covered chairs which clean easily
- Keep your pet out of the bedroom. If you can’t do this, cover the mattress and blanket with anti-mite covers
- If you have a male cat that is not neutered, consider getting him neutered. This reduces the amount of allergen
- Wash your pet regularly, but have someone else brush and groom the pet
dogs for people with allergies
The pet allergy problem in the U.S. is considerable; about 10 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to animals, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. For those persons afflicted with asthma, the rate is even higher - approximately 25%. Allergic
reactions to pets can range from bothersome (itchy or watery eyes) to downright dangerous, such as asthma attacks that constrict breathing.
10 - 25% of families that can not currently have a dog are searching for an answer; they would like a “best friend” for their home. But before we claim that there are dog breeds that are hypoallergenic, lets clarify that term. By “hypoallergenic” we mean breeds that result in a “reduced
allergic reaction” among allergy sufferers; thus a smaller likelihood of causing allergy symptoms. Clearly, we do not mean “non-allergic,” because non-allergic breeds simply do not exist.
That being said, check out our wonderful selection of dogs for people with allergies.
home proofing for allergies - formaldehyde
Formaldehyde can be a challenge when home proofing for allergies. It is a chemical widely used in many building materials and household products. According to some environmental organizations, it is ranked as one of the most hazardous compounds to ecosystems and human health. Products that may contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde agents include:
Click here to learn more about toxins in your home
2. air fresheners
3. cigarette smoke
5. floor polishes
7. carpet backing - responsible for many so called new carpet allergies!
10. liquid cleaners
12. some paper products
14. vinyl floors
15. wall coverings
16. toilet cleaners
home proofing for air quality
Install high quality Furnace / Air Conditioning filters. Replace disposable inefficient filters with an efficient electrostatic filter to improve the filtering capabilities as air passes through your system.
Home or Office Air Cleaners
We would advise you to check-out an unbiased consumer report
air purifiers . This report includes objective consumer ratings of the top air purifier products, including: AirFree Air Sterilizer, Allerair air purifiers, Austin air purifiers, Biozone air purifiers, Blueair purifiers, Clarifier air purifiers, Electrolux air purifier, Friedrich air purifier, Hamilton Beach air purifiers, Hunter Air Cleaners, Sharp Plasma Cluster air purifier, Sharper Image Air Purifiers. Pay attention to how they remove microbes, allergens, odors, gases, and smoke from your environment.
home proofing for other factors
Avoid using heavy curtains and draperies. Mold, Dust mites, and bacteria, thrive in thick curtains. Always try to use light weight curtains or window shades that can easily be cleaned.
- Minimize fabric surfaces, such as carpets and rugs. Carpets act as a continuous collector for house dust mites. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting. Replace with hardwood floors or tile
- Hard-surface flooring is the preferred choice of flooring in creating a low-allergen home. However, avoid grooved wood surfaces that become dust traps
- Ceramic tiles are excellent choices for 'wet' rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen
Furniture and Fixtures
Furnishing play a big part in home proofing for allergies; they take up a large part of the surface area of your home. The idea is to minimize your soft furnishings. Leather and vinyl are best for covering soft furnishings; they don’t collect dust well and they can be cleaned easily.