You may be great at dodging allergy triggers outdoors, but what happens once you’re inside? From walking in your front door to tucking yourself into bed at night, you’ll want to sidestep these common mistakes and keep your allergy triggers at bay.
Regularly allowing your bathroom to get too steamy can encourage mold and dust mites to grow, which may set off your allergy symptoms. “Mold thrives in warm, moist, and humid environments,” says Neeta Ogden, MD, an allergist and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
If you have an exhaust fan in your bathroom, use it every time to aerate the area. If you don’t have a fan, keep the bathroom door open to allow some steam to escape.
“Scrubbing your bathroom once a week will help you stay on top of mold growth, too,” Ogden says. “The moment you see something black, it means that the mold has probably been growing for a while and you should get rid of it.”
Use a bleach product to kill mold, and wear a mask and gloves while you scrub.
Wearing Your Shoes Indoors
Keeping your shoes and socks on beyond your front door can track more than dirt throughout your home.
“Pollen falls on the ground and sticks to your socks and shoes, which you then spread around your house,” Ogden says.
On high pollen days, slip off your kicks as soon as you cross the threshold.
Ogden also suggests that you go a step further -- shed your clothes and hit the shower. “Especially if you have a bad pollen allergy, removing your clothes will prevent pollen from transferring to other surfaces,” she says. “Taking a warm shower will remove the pollen from your hair, skin, and eyes to reduce irritation.”
Allowing Pets on Your Bed
If you’re allergic to pet dander, you need to keep them out.
“Unless you’re bathing your pet every night, bringing your pet into your bed where you spend 8 to 12 hours of your day is such a concentrated form of exposure,” Ogden says. “You’re allowing dander and pollen that sticks to your pet’s hair to sit there and affect you for a long period of time.”
Ideally, keep your pet out of the bedroom while you sleep, Ogden says.
Leaving Your Windows Open
There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly cut grass wafting through your windows in the springtime or the scent of crisp autumn air. But if you have allergies, that’s a no-no.
Keep your windows closed, especially during high-allergy times. You’ll prevent pollen, smoke, mold, smog, and other irritants from infiltrating your home.
“Once allergens find their way into your home, they land on surfaces where you can’t see them, and it’s really difficult to remove them,” Ogden says. During the warmer months, this means that you may have to run your air conditioning more often.
Be sure to replace filters in your central heating or cooling system at least once a month so they can continue to suck more of the bad stuff out of your air.
While regularly vacuuming your home is essential for removing sneeze-inducing particles, the type of machine that you use matters. Look for one with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
“The filter is extremely effective at suctioning smaller particles out of the air,” Ogden says. “With other types of vacuums, you’re just circulating the allergens into the air and inhaling it, which can worsen symptoms.”
Aim to vacuum weekly to keep dust, dirt, droppings, and other particles from piling up.
Cleaning Without Protection
“Wear gloves and a mask every time, even if you’re just wiping down the counters at the end of the day,” Ogden says. “Whenever you see a microfilm on a surface, there can be dust mites and other allergens gathering there that can trigger a reaction.”
The chemicals and fragrances in cleaners may also irritate your nose and lungs, so wearing a mask and gloves will help with that, too. If you still have symptoms when you clean, consider using a white vinegar and water mixture. It’s less harsh and so is less likely to cause irritation, Ogden says.
You’re Overdue to Change Your Sheets
“Your bed is a breeding ground for dust mites because they love warm, dark areas,” Ogden says. Plus, they feed off of skin cells that live on your sheets.
Fight back: Wash your bedding at least weekly using hot water and a high-heat cycle in the dryer to remove dust mite residue. Ideally, remove extra throw pillows and stuffed animals from your bed to minimize the surfaces on which dust mites can thrive, Ogden says.
Her other tips to keep your bedding allergy-free:
- Look for 100% cotton sheets, which are less irritating to the skin than other fabrics.
- Use allergy-proof covers on your mattress and pillow covers.
- Replace your pillow every 6 months to a year.