Clearing the Air
Here’s how to win the allergy battle on the home front.
Florida is an inhospitable environment for allergy sufferers. A year-round growing season and high humidity mean that pollen and mold—two common allergy triggers—are ever-present. Although such over-the-counter and prescription drugs as antihistamines, decongestants and nasal inhalers may relieve the symptoms, they do not address the causes of allergic reactions.
Those causes can range from pet dander to dust mites, and there’s a lot you can do to reduce such environmental allergens in your home. Here are five ideas you can implement right now. Of course, these steps won’t alleviate other types of allergy triggers such as food and chemical sensitivities, but they can help make your home a place where everyone can breathe a little easier.
›› 1. Windows Wide Shut
When the weather’s cool enough to turn off the A/C, you’re letting in more than fresh air if you open the windows. Microscopic pollens can sail right through an open window, even if it’s screened. Air quality is even worse if a lawn mower passes by an open window, as the rotating blades can fling pollen and dust inside your home. Either shut those windows tight or invest in micro-mesh screens that prevent airborne particles from passing through them. And if the humidity’s high, resist the temptation to open the windows, micromesh screens or not. An air conditioner can reduce humidity, but the air inside your home can become damp when it’s not running; opening windows will only increase the dampness, which can encourage mold growth. If dampness is an ongoing problem, a dehumidifier can dry things out in a hurry. WindChaser Personal Dehumidifier ($86.42, pureairproducts.com )
›› 2. Clear the Air
There are a jillion or so A/C air filters, air purifiers and air cleansers on the market, but they’re not all equally effective. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there can be more pollutants inside your home than outside, making for an unhealthy environment for anyone, but especially so for allergy sufferers. So select an air-purifying product that has been evaluated by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and proven to remove airborne allergens. Amway Global’s Atmosphere Air Purifier ($971.50, amwayglobal.com )
›› 3. Zip It
Mattresses and pillows are favorite breeding grounds for dust mites, and the waste they leave behind can be a problem for those with allergies. Consider encasing your mattresses and pillows in covers that are specially designed to come between you and these microscopic creatures.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and Allergy Standards Limited have developed a certification program to help sufferers identify products that may reduce triggers in the environment. Log on to asthmaandallergyfriendly.com to find covers as well as other products that have been certified by this program. Protect-A-Bed AllerZip pillow and mattress encasements ($36.99 – $129.99, protectabed.com )
›› 4. Here Comes the Groom
If you have pets and someone in the household has a sensitivity to pet dander, ridding your home of pet hair goes beyond mere aesthetics. Frequent floor-cleaning, including the thorough vacuuming (use a vacuum with a HEPA filter) of floors and upholstered furnishings, is a must, but it’s not enough. It’s also critical that you keep your pets well groomed, combing out loose fur before it has a chance to become airborne. FURminator DeShedding tool ($32.99-$59.99, furminator.com )
›› 5. The Hotter the Better
Your bedding isn’t exempt from allergens, so wash everything—sheets, blankets, comforters and the like—in the washer on the hottest setting possible. A second rinse cycle isn’t a bad idea, either. Washers and dryers that feature a super-hot steam setting are ideal for ridding bedclothes of common household allergens such as dust mites and pet dander. And for items that can’t go in the washer or dryer, consider buying or renting a steam cleaner to rid those items of allergens as well. Whirlpool Duet steam washer and dryer ($1,499 and up, whirlpool.com )