Pass the tissues and antihistamine please -- 'tis the season for holiday allergies. Like unwanted gifts, sneezing and congestion arrive, making allergy sufferers miserable and putting a damper on holiday fun.
Fortunately you don't have to be sidelined from the festivities. Whether it's symptoms to food, pets, mold or mildew, allergies during the holidays can be beat -- with lifestyle changes, medication, and a few simple tips.
Here are some ways to keep your house clean and your allergies under control.
Vacuum once or twice a week. Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter. Some allergens are so small that they pass right through a regular vacuum filter. That means that every time you vacuum, you could be sucking them off the floor and shooting them into the air, where you breathe them in.
Cut clutter. Piles of boxes or clothing can trap dust and hide allergens like dust mites and cockroaches.
Wear a mask when you clean. And when you're done with your housework, leave the house for a few hours. It will limit your exposure to allergens you kicked up into the air.
Keep the bathroom free of mold. Scrub the tile regularly. Don't forget the shower curtain, too. You may be able to toss it in the washing machine.
Wash sheets weekly in hot water. Make sure it's at least 130 F. That's hot enough to kill dust mites. If your child has allergies, do the same with any washable stuffed animals.
Don't use scented cleaners or detergents. If you have allergies, the fragrances in cleaners can trigger symptoms. Look for fragrance-free products instead.
Don't air-dry laundry. Clothing left outside will pick up pollen and mold. Use the clothes dryer instead.
Use a damp cloth and mop when cleaning. They'll trap allergens instead of knocking them into the air.
Clean outside entryways. Sweep or vacuum. The cleaner your path or patio is, the less likely someone is to track dust or pollen into your house.
Don't shampoo carpets. The leftover moisture could cause mold growth or increase dust mites.
Ask another family member to take over some chores. It's better if you avoid jobs like dusting or vacuuming if you are allergic to dust mites.
Other Changes to Make at Home
These aren't cleaning tips, but they'll make cleaning easier and may help prevent allergy flare-ups.
Say goodbye to your rugs. Rugs and carpets can trap allergens. Having vinyl, tile, or hardwood floors reduces your exposure to triggers. Get smaller, washable rugs that you can toss into the laundry.
Get special bedding. Use dust-proof covers on your mattress and pillows to keep dust mites out.
Get rid of your drapes or horizontal blinds. They trap both dust and allergens. Switch to roll shades.
Take shoes off before you go in the house. That way pollens or other triggers won’t get tracked in.
Keep pets out of the bedroom. It's a key way to protect yourself from dander. Don't ever let pets sleep on the bed if you have pet allergies.
Use air-conditioning. Instead of opening windows when it’s hot, use the AC. An air conditioner will filter the air, preventing dust, dirt, pollens, molds, and other triggers from getting in.