Health & Wellness Articles

Allergy-Proofing Your Home

Reduce Dust Mites, Dander, Mold and Pollen

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Allergic reactions to everyday substance in the home can make life uncomfortable, no matter how much medication you take. Avoiding known allergens and making your home as allergen-free as possible can help minimize your symptoms and increase your quality of life. While no home can ever be 100% allergen-free, with the right steps you can reduce your exposure to common substances like dust mites, pet dander, mold and pollen.

Reducing Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic, eight-legged insects that are mainly found in bedding, curtains and carpeting. Dust mites are a significant cause of indoor allergies—up to 10% of the U.S. population is sensitive to these tiny organisms. An allergic reaction to dust mites can include itchy eyes, a runny or chronically-stuffy nose and other symptoms that often worsen during the night.

The first step to reducing your exposure to dust mites is to remove the carpet from your home, especially in the bedroom. A hard surface such as hardwood is ideal, as it can be cleaned with a damp cloth or a sponge mop.

If you can’t remove all the carpeting, you should vacuum daily and use special carpet treatments that inactivate the accumulated allergens and reduce the dust mite population. Frequent vacuuming is needed to remove surface allergens from carpets, however many vacuums simply blow allergens into the air. Replace your standard vacuum bag with a high filtration multi-layer bag and add a vacuum exhaust filter.

To reduce the number of dust mites in your bedroom:
  • Use zippered covers on all mattresses, box springs, and pillows.
  • Wash all blankets, sheets, and pillowcases in hot water (set your water heater for one hundred and thirty degrees) at least every two weeks.
  • Replace down comforters and feather pillows with synthetic fibers.
  • Keep your bedroom as dry as possible by using an air conditioner during hot, humid weather. (Dust mites need humidity to thrive.)
Control Animal Dander
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not animal fur itself that causes allergies, but a protein in the saliva, urine and skin flakes (dander) that remain on an animal's coat. To minimize your exposure to this protein:
  • Keep your pet out of the rooms you use most frequently, such as the bedroom and the living room.
  • Have other family members bathe and brush your pet as often as possible.
  • If you are severely allergic, you may have to keep your pet outside or separated from you more often.
Minimize Mold
Mold spores thrive in warm, moist, and humid areas. Take the following steps to reduce the amount of mold in your home:
  • Remove and discard any curtains, carpeting, or wallpaper that show visible signs of mold.
  • Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom and use them frequently.
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas like basements to remove water from the air. Keep the humidity in your home below 50% to prevent the growth of mold. Humidity gauges are available at any hardware store.
  • Clean shower curtains, tiles and grout regularly to prevent mold from building up.
  • Avoid storing clothing or other items in damp areas like the basement.
  • Don’t lay carpet in damp areas such as kitchens or bathrooms. Use ceramic tiles, vinyl flooring or laminates instead.
  • Use interior paints that contain an added mold inhibitor whenever you paint in a damp area, especially in the bathroom, kitchen and basement walls made of brick or cinderblock.
  • Place a chemical moisture-remover, such as calcium carbonate, in moist closets to prevent mold growth, or add it directly to damp shoes and boots.
  • Store firewood outside, as it is naturally covered in mold.
Mold can be removed from surfaces and walls by using a solution of one part bleach to 20 parts water. Dead mold can still cause an allergic reaction, but bleach has been found to reduce the severity of the reaction in susceptible people.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • You can also try Tencel sheets. They're made from eucalyptus fiber, which repels dust mites, who don't like to live on them.

    If you have to have carpets and rugs, and you don't want to vacuum everyday, consider getting a Roomba or other brand of vacuum robot. You can find them on craigslist and ebay for cheap. They are good for everyday vacuuming, even if you still need to use a more powerful vacuum once or twice a month.

    Also, whatever kind of floors you have, don't wear your shoes in the house. It spreads pollen and mold spores everywhere you step. - 3/21/2014 9:16:47 AM
  • This was really good. Got the same info from my allergist. I found another thing that helps. After returning from outside wash your eyebrows, eyelashes, inside your nose and around your mouth. This has helped reduce the number of episodes of allergy setbacks. I hope that this helps someone. - 7/5/2013 10:39:22 AM
  • PUGGLEMONKEY
    Some good tips but banish my four hairy children (dogs) from my bedroom? No way. - 6/14/2013 9:55:26 PM
  • Thanks to all for the good information. - 6/13/2013 6:56:39 AM
  • Great article. Saved it. - 6/11/2013 8:26:38 AM
  • We have wood floors but I still have to take shots. I make sure to dust ceiling fans and try to remember to dust the blinds....I honestly forget though. What do you use to spray the stuffed animals? Would love to know. We hate taking unnecessary meds if we don't have to. - 4/28/2013 10:06:36 AM
  • HALLERATME
    Haha this type of articles always make me chuckle. I'm severely allergic to dust but can only afford to live in a dumpy carpeted apartment. And vacuum every day? No normal person who works has that amount of time. Ah well. - 11/16/2012 2:12:08 PM
  • I'm surprised they didn't mention not to have windows open late in the day. That's pollen counts are usually highest, until dew has a chance to pull pollen down out of the air. - 10/21/2011 10:40:10 PM
  • How about instead of leaving your pet outside more, you get tested to see if your pet is causing allergy issues and then get shots if that will help? A family pet is exactly that, a part of the family. I have terrible allergies because of my animals, but I made a commitment to them, and that commitment should be honored. - 10/21/2011 11:30:25 AM
  • We took up the "plush" carpeting (what was I thinking when I selected it when our house was being built?) We then had hardwood installed in the master bedroom - last fall - at the advice of my allergist.

    What a huge difference! I thought I had it vacuumed really well - should have seen the dust flying when the installers pulled it up! Not only does it look better - I do not have the congestion when I wake in the morning. Our next home will be all hardwood flooring.
    - 10/21/2011 7:24:42 AM
  • AZURE-SKY
    We're in the process of removing all carpeting in the house and replacing it with tile - I live in the Southwest and hardwood floors aren't good here. The humidity is too low. I once thought that moving from the humid & pollen-filled Northeast to a drier environment would help my allergies. It did for a while, but I developed allergies to the local flora. They aren't as bad, but I'm not allergy free. - 7/16/2011 2:00:24 PM
  • I am wondering if the mold isn't what is causing me to rash out and my face swell. Very interesting article. - 2/18/2011 11:49:48 AM
  • I already do some of the things to keep reactions to a minimum and they work!!! - 12/25/2010 11:17:36 PM
  • We found some great things along the journey to getting our daughter healthy and it doesn't involve hot water which seems to shrink everything and costs a fortune to use. We use products that are safer for the environment and for us. We still have plastic on the mattress but we spray her bedding and stuffed animals with a spray that dustmites don't like but we do. Great stuff. We've also done different things to avoid destroying her immune system while building it up using healthy foods and supplements. She is completely off her expensive, side-effect filled drugs.

    It was a long and painful journey but what a blessing to have a healthy little girl again.

    Allergies can be so tough! But at least there is hope. - 1/31/2010 9:40:56 AM
  • great - 4/2/2008 10:36:17 PM

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