How to control allergens in your home
Allergies can control our lives when they are at their worst, and generally be a pain in the neck at their best. They’re even worse when the pesky allergens that cause your sore eyes and itchy skin to flare up are present in your home. Unfortunately, figuring out which allergen is affecting you is only half the battle but getting it out of your home for good is the biggest challenge. Allergens like pollen, mould and dust can hit hard any time of the year but thankfully there is plenty that you can do to limit their ill-effects.
If you want to learn the many ways which you can control allergens in your home, read on.
What is an allergen?
First off, let’s clear up what an allergen is for those who are unaware. An allergen is something which can cause an allergic reaction. They are usually harmless substances unless you have an allergy, or sensitivity to the allergen[i] which triggers an immune system response.
Symptoms of an allergy
Are you unsure whether you are allergic to an indoor allergen? If you have been experiencing the following symptoms, you might well be experiencing one[ii]:
- Runny nose and/or congestion
- Watery eyes
In some more severe cases, you might also find yourself experiencing:
- Asthma symptoms
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
Your symptoms could vary, but if you have any concerns you should always visit your GP.
Common house allergens
Allergens can be present in food and many other places, but we’re going to focus on the kinds of allergen which are most commonly found in the home.
If your allergies worsen when you are indoors, you are probably allergic to one of these common house allergens.
- Dust/dust mites – These are tiny mites which live indoors amongst dust. They can’t be seen by the human eye and normal cleaning like hoovering and dusting doesn’t get rid of them. They love humid, warm spots and their presence doesn’t mean your house is dirty.
- Mould spores – Mould is a kind of fungus that might appear in your house for a range of reasons. You can’t always see mould, but it generally appears in bathrooms, round window seals and in any damp environment.
- Pets – Our best furry friends can set off the worst of our allergic reactions. It isn’t actually their fur that causes the issues though but is actually set off by dander (dead skin flakes) and sometimes saliva. These allergens release into the air and latch onto house dust, which can then be breathed in by an allergic person.
- House plants – Any plant than can produce pollen (the allergen you may know for causing hay fever), which means houseplants are a big no-no in spaces where people with allergies are present. This usually worsens in the springtime, and pollen spores can also easily get in from outside through doors and windows.
Of course, people may have other specific allergens that they need to avoid throughout the home – these are just the basics to be aware of.
How to allergen-proof your house
Cleanliness and air purity is the key to ridding your home of allergens, or at the very least limiting them to a controllable level. It can sound like an impossible task when you get started but once you have the foundations of an allergen-free home in place it is much easier to keep up and maintain.
Limit Humidity & Monitor Temperatures
Mould & dust mites are much more likely to appear in humid and hot houses. To keep them at bay, you should make sure your house is kept between 20C and 22C as often as possible. Humidity should stay below 50%. There are plenty of ways you can check the humidity of your home, but the easiest way is to invest in a hygrometer.
If your homes temperature is too high: you should invest in temperature controls for your home.
If your homes humidity is too high: you should increase ventilation, make sure extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom are fully functioning and look at buying a good dehumidifier.
Clean thoroughly and regularly
Having a good deep cleaning routine is a sure-fire way to keep dust mite levels down.
- Use an efficient hoover to vacuum floors frequently. You should choose washable rugs where possible.
- Mop tiled, lino and wooden floors at least once a week.
- Clean ledges, window frames and door tops with a damp cloth. Unlike dusting, this will limit dust particles being disrupted.
On top of this, keep up a complete cleaning routine around the house. Wash curtains, cushion covers and other upholstery regularly.
Limit the risk of mould
It’s easy for mould to appear, but once it has it need to be treated quickly and vigorously to eliminate it. In addition to following the above advice for limiting humidity and keeping a neutral temperature, you should:
- Keep windows and doors closed whilst it’s warm outside. Use air conditioners, fans and dehumidifiers instead.
- Treat any instances of mould in kitchens, bathrooms, around doorframes and window seals as soon as you spot them.
- Throw away affected materials that can’t be washed.
- If the cause of the mould isn’t obvious and it appears to be recurring, call in an expert to complete a survey and come up with a plan to eliminate it.
Getting rid of allergens by room
These tips will help you to ensure each room in your house has as few allergens present as possible.
- Wash your bedding every week in hot water – 54 C as a minimum.
- Choose synthetic materials rather than natural materials for any fabrics.
- Place a good air filtration system in the house to run during the night when you are asleep.
- Don’t let pets in your bedroom if you have them.
- Limit clutter and items which can collect dust in the bedroom.
- Don’t use carpet in the bedroom. Only place flooring that can be easily mopped and dried. Bathroom carpets are breeding grounds for allergens.
- Make sure bathroom extractor fans are running at full capacity and any filters are replaced on a regular basis.
- Replace grouting and sealant that are showing any signs of mould and mildew.
- Try to dry bathtubs and shower cubicles after they have been used to stop standing water encouraging mould.
- Keep the extractor fan above your stove clean and clear of grime.
- Clean above, inside and underneath all cabinets and cupboards.
- Sweep and mop underneath standing appliances like fridges and washing machines when you can. Choose integrated appliances where possible to limit the chance of food getting underneath them.
- Wipe down surfaces after preparing food to get rid of any remaining food and spillages.
- Dust settles in carpets, so replace them with hard flooring where possible.
- Swap wooden, plastic and metal blinds for easy to wash, lightweight curtains.
- Remove houseplants – damp soil can promote a higher air humidity.
Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). ALLERGEN DEFINITION. Retrieved from Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: https://www.aaaai.org/Old-Master/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/allergen
Medicine Net. (n.d.). Why Are My Allergies Worse Indoors? Retrieved from Medicine Net: https://www.medicinenet.com/indoor_allergens/article.htm#what_are_symptoms_and_signs_of_reactions_to_indoor_allergens