When people start sniffling and sneezing,
they assume they have a cold. But often
they're actually allergic to dust mites, animal dander,
or mold. "Indoor allergies are associated with the
development of asthma, so it's important to identify
and treat them appropriately," says Alan Goldsobel,
clinical professor of allergies and immunology at Stanford
University School of Medicine. To make your home
a sniffle-free zone, you need to eliminate the allergens
that have moved in. Try these five easy ways.
- Build a barrier
Dust mites are one of the most
common allergens found in homes, according to Linda
B. Ford, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. These microscopic
creatures live in beds, carpets, pillows, and
upholstered furniture, feeding on our dead skin cells.
But it's their droppings that some
people are allergic to. "Getting rid
of dust mites completely is diffi cult,
so you need to put a barrier between
you and them," explains Goldsobel.
Cover your mattress, box spring,
comforter, and pillows with special
allergy cases. They're woven in
such a way that the dust-mite droppings
can't get through. (Look for
AllerCare products, $10 to $100;
- Wash in hot water
Korean study showed that washing
linens in 140°F water killed nearly all
dust mites, whereas warm (104°F)
or cold (86°F) water eliminated only
10 percent or less of them. For fabrics
that can't tolerate hot water, use
warm or cold, but you'll need three
rinses to effectively remove the dust
mites. And since strong scents can
aggravate allergies, use a fragrancefree
detergent like All Free Clear
($6; at grocery stores). Pop non machine-washable items-like a
stuffed animal-into a Ziploc bag
and leave in the freezer overnight.
The lack of humidity kills mites.
- Make a clean sweep
all floors weekly, especially carpets,
which "are a reservoir of dust mites,
mold, and animal dander," says Ford. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filter) vacuums trap particles
and don't spew them back into the air. Also make sure
your carpet cleaner contains tannic acid, a chemical
that helps destroy dust mites.
- Admire nature from afar
Tulips, daffodils, magnolias and hyacinths are beautiful signs of spring, but
they're also sources of pollen and mold spores. If you
take off your shoes each time you enter your house,
you'll avoid tracking in any outdoor allergens.
- Manage your pets
When your dogs or cats come
in after spending time outside, wipe down their fur so
they don't carry in mold or pollen. "Plus, studies show
that bathing pets at least twice a week can help
decrease their dander," says Ford.