Spring and summer mean allergy season is in full swing. Allergens like pollen, pet dander and mold are common in warm weather. And, when people keep their windows open, more of them can enter the house.
As a result, many sufferers use medication to manage symptoms such as sneezing, runny noses and watery eyes. But, they can also reduce those flu-like symptoms — often called “hay fever” — by reducing the number of contaminants they encounter.
There’s not much you can do about the great outdoors. But, there are plenty of ways to reduce the pollen, dander and dust in your home. Since most people spend around 90 percent of their time indoors, that’s a great place to start.
Here are five quick ways to get started reducing allergy-causing pollutants in your home. We’re looking at ones that revolve around your hvac system, items that are already in your house and simple, inexpensive strategies.
This strategy isn’t complicated at all. And, it doesn’t require any special tools or cleaning products. It’s just about where, when and how you clean.
For starters, establish a time to clean the house once a week. If you’re on a monthly schedule most of the time, you’ll need to increase the frequency during the warm weather.
Each week, clean counters, the tops of doors, tables and window sills with a damp cloth. Using moisture, as opposed to dusting, ensures you’ll pick up as many particles as possible, rather than kicking some up by dusting.
Similarly, mop all linoleum, wood and tile flooring. And, use a vacuum cleaner on all rugs. Do the same for couches and similar surfaces.
Adding extra cleaning will take up more time each week. But, it’s important to get rid of any hay fever-causing contaminants that have built up in the house. Once they settle, they can stick around for a long time. And, they’ll trigger symptoms when they get disrupted and end up back in the air.
Close your windows to shut out allergens
One way to keep your home allergen-free is to stop them from entering in the first place. That makes your windows the first line of defense.
Keeping them closed in the winter is easy enough. The weather’s cold and the heat is running. From there, you can block even more particles and save some money in the process.
You can do so with a window sealing kit. These often cost under $20 and are easy to use. They’re essentially large sheets of plastic that attach to the wall around a window.
Once you’re ready to close your windows for the winter, seal them using these kits. They’ll prevent dust and other particles from making their way inside.
Window sealing kits also help you save money on your heating bills. That’s because they also block drafts. Keeping the cold air out means less work your heater has to do.
You can do the same during the summer as well. That’s the time when it’s more important to keep particles like pollen from getting in. Of course, you’ll need air conditioning to make this work.
In these cases, you’ll also need to change your hvac air filter regularly. Some experts recommend replacing the filter every three months. If you’re suffering from allergies, consider moving that up to once a month when using the air conditioner or heater. You can also take your filters a step further.
The right hvac air filter can prevent many allergy symptom-triggering particles from getting into your home. Already, a heater or air conditioner uses an air filter. These block out dust and small debris. But, they’re often not enough to block smaller contaminants.
That’s because those particles are much smaller than dust and debris. Therefore, they pass right through the average screen. Therefore, you’ll need to look into specialized products to block them.
Look for ones with MERV or HEPA ratings. That tells you what size contaminants they will block. They’re gauged by units of measurements called microns.
A micron is one-millionth of a meter or one-thousandth of a millimeter. To put that in perspective, a human hair is 10 to 200 microns wide. Pollen, bacteria and mold spores range from .3 to 100 microns.
HEPA, short for “high-efficiency particulate arrestance,” means the filter blocks 99.7 percent of particles .3 microns or larger. To do so, they have tiny pores that prevent contaminants from passing through.
The downside, however, is that this greatly impacts air flow. Therefore, an hvac system will need much more energy to push air through the home. In many cases, it won’t have as much as power.
Therefore, HEPA filters are often found in commercial buildings or separate air purifiers. More often, home hvac systems use MERV, or “minimum efficiency reporting value,” ratings.
MERV uses a rating scale from one to 16. The higher the rating, the less, and smaller, particles, they prevent from passing through.
These come in a variety of packages. You can use these with your heater or air conditioner, or invest in an air purifier. These start at $100 or less for a portable room filter. Or, you can spend nearly $3,000 for a system that treats the entire house.
Bathrooms are an ideal place for mold to grow. It thrives in dark, moist areas. Steam from showers and excess water make it possible for mold, fungus and bacteria to develop in the nooks and crannies of a bathroom.
As mold and fungi grow, they generate spores that release in the air. The spores allow these pollutants to spread and grow in other places. They’ll also trigger allergic reactions.
Pollen and other contaminants will collect in the bathroom. These airborne particles will stick to surfaces thanks to the moisture there. Proper bathroom ventilation can prevent this from happening.
First, open a window when you are taking a shower or using the bath. It’s best to let the steam escape immediately. That way, it doesn’t condense and coat the entire room.
A bathroom without a window should have an exhaust fan. Be sure to clean yours out from time to time. Dust and debris will build up in there. That makes it run less efficiently.
If your fan is making weird noises or running slowly, it may be time to replace it. That’s an opportunity to upgrade to a stronger fan.
Buying and maintaining the right kinds of blinds and curtains will help reduce contaminants in the home. You want to invest in the ones that don’t allow dust and other contaminants to settle. And, they should be easy to clean.
For these reasons, Venetian, or horizontal blinds. On the one hand, they are convenient because you can adjust the slats for varying brightness and air flow. On the other, dust and pollen quickly settle on the slats.
They’re also difficult to clean. That requires siping down each blade individually and working around the string that holds it together. If you’re already cleaning more often, this adds a lot of time to your schedule.
Cloth curtains and roller shades are much better options. Dust and pollen don’t settle nearly as much on them.
They’re also much easier to clean. You can use a dustbuster or handheld vacuum on the cloth curtains. If they’re getting especially dirty, throw them in the washing machine.
Roller curtains are even easier. Just wipe them with a damp cloth. Then leave them all the way down so they dry properly.
Do you need to make your home allergen-free? Contact us, and we’ll find the best filters, air purifiers and hvac solutions to alleviate your allergy symptoms.