Pollen, dust, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria, and many pollutants are so small that they float through the air. When people breathe in, touch, or consume these particles, the body recognizes them as foreign invaders and releases histamines. This natural chemical is produced in white blood cells and released into the body triggering allergic reactions such as sneezing, itchy eyes and runny nose. Sometimes, people have a dangerous reaction called anaphylaxis, which can involve swelling of the airways.
If you have a cough, itchy skin/eyes, or a runny nose throughout the year, then you are likely allergic to a substance within your own home. This puts unnecessary stress on your immune system and may sap your energy.
A clean home is essential to health, but how do you know when your home is clean? Common allergens range in size from 0.1 to 5 microns and most of us can’t see anything smaller than 40 microns without the aid of a microscope. For comparison, a typical human hair has a diameter of 70 microns. No wonder there can be a jungle of allergens inside our homes.
How do you reduce allergens?
- First, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter and follow the manufacturer’s directions to clean or replace the filter.
- Clean your indoor air with a HEPA filter air purifier.
- Carpeting harbours all sorts of allergens, so ideally, replace wall-to-wall carpeting with solid floorings such as wood or vinyl. If that is not an option, vacuum often and steam clean in the summer months when the warm, dry air speeds up the drying process.
- Fabric curtains also attract allergens, which get stirred up each time the drapes are opened and closed. Better options include smooth slat blinds and washable curtains made of non-porous, synthetic fabric.
- Solid wood, plastic, leather, or metal furniture is easy to keep clean compared to upholstered styles; however, consider using washable slipcovers if you like the comfort of plush couches and chairs.
Mold thrives in humid environments such as bathrooms and basements. You can purchase a hygrometer for as little as $20 online or at your local hardware store. According to the Mayo Clinic, the ideal relative humidity is between 30-50% humidity, which means that the air holds between 30-50% of the maximum amount of moisture it can contain. If your indoor air is too humid, be sure to run the bathroom fan when showering and install a dehumidifier, if needed.
Mammals naturally shed tiny flakes of skin. These flakes typically contain proteins secreted by sweat glands and these proteins are what cause allergic reactions in some people. If you love animals and can’t imagine life without them, try washing your pet frequently, keep your dog or cat out of your bedroom, vacuum your home often with a HEPA filter vacuum, and use a HEPA filter air purifier.
This is one of those times we can be thankful we can only see items as small as about 40 microns! Dust mites are frightful pests that live in warm, relatively humid areas such as our beds and pillows and feed off our dead skin cells. Although they do us a service by tidying up after us, many people have allergic reactions to proteins in the dust created by dust mite feces, urine, and their decaying bodies.
To reduce dust mites
- Use airtight covers for your pillows and mattress
- Vacuum your mattress with a HEPA filter vacuum
- Wash your bedding in hot water
- Lower the heat and humidity in your home
Trees, grass, and flowers can all release pollen, making spring and summer challenging for allergy sufferers. In addition to using a good quality air purifier, especially in the bedroom, close your windows on days when the pollen count is high. Many weather stations provide daily information about the local pollen concentration.
Allergens are Common
According to the Cleveland Clinic, approximately one in six people suffer from allergies, but it is possible that many more people unknowingly suffer from mild, ongoing reactions to allergens in their homes.