Are irritating indoor allergens like dust mites and mold making you miserable? Click through this interactive house to find out where allergy triggers lurk in every room — and how to get rid of them for good.
When seasonal allergy symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, and itchy eyes strike, you may be tempted to hole up at home and wait out the season. But staying inside isn't guaranteed to relieve your symptoms: Indoor allergens, including mold and dust mites, can also trigger an allergic reaction. The good news is that you can allergy-proof your home to breathe easier all year long. Try this room-by-room approach to remove the biggest allergy triggers lurking throughout your home:
Bedrooms and Living Room
Top allergens: Dust mites and pet dander
Studies show that dust mites are more prevalent in the bedroom than anywhere else in your home, and vacuuming isn't enough to keep them at bay — they tend to thrive deep inside mattresses, pillows, cushions, and carpeting. For this reason, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends that you use dust-proof zippered covers on your bed and pillows.
To remove excess dust, clean your bedroom and living room floors weekly with a good HEPA vacuum, which sucks up dust, pet dander, and other allergens from bare floors, rugs, and carpeting. (Note: Washable throw rugs are more allergy-friendly than carpets, and bare floors are even better if you have allergies.) Be sure to wash bedding and rugs in hot water weekly. If you hang pictures on the walls, keep them to a minimum, as they tend to collect dust.
To get rid of pet dander, turn the bedroom into a pet-free zone, keeping the door closed at all times. Minimize your pets' presence in the living room too by letting them out to roam in the yard as much as possible, and be sure to clean them before bringing them back in.
Finally, ensure air quality by using a free-standing HEPA filter in the bedroom and changing AC filters once a month.
Top allergens: Cockroaches and smoke
Roaches can trigger allergies, so be diligent about keeping your kitchen clean and crumb-free. Keep the sink empty, wipe down countertops often, and mop the floors weekly. It may also help to use natural, unscented cleaning products — some scented commercial cleaners can be irritating to people with allergies. Never leave garbage or food uncovered, and clean out the fridge weekly, tossing expired items.
To avoid an allergic reaction when cooking, vent smoke by turning on the exhaust fan.
Bathroom, Laundry Room, and Basement
Top allergen: Mold
Mold thrives in damp places, so reducing moisture is key to maintaining an allergen-free bathroom. Start with the walls: Mold can grow under wallpaper, so strip it and use paint instead. Then, scour the sink and tub at least monthly, since mold thrives on soap and other films that coat tiles and grout, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Also, be sure to clean or replace shower curtains regularly to prevent mold growth, and when showering, always turn on the exhaust fan. Don't leave magazines on the toilet — paper absorbs moisture, and mold can grow between the pages.
If you have a laundry room, check the plumbing often and repair leaks as needed. Clean the floor and hard surfaces weekly. Also be sure clothes and linens are thoroughly dry before you fold them and put them away — storing slightly damp items can promote the growth of mold.
If you have a basement, invest in a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air, and remove fabric furniture, which can hold onto moisture. Store all items in sealed plastic containers, and regularly check the foundation, windows, and stairwells for signs of wetness and mold.
Top allergens: Pollen and mold
Check the mold and pollen counts in the area where you live and limit your time outdoors when these counts are high. Keep your pets outside as much as possible to reduce pet dander in your home, and clean them before bringing them inside.
If you love gardening, you don't have to give it up because of allergies. Just be sure to plant smart. Fortunately, colorful, sweet-smelling plants rarely cause allergy symptoms, because insects and birds, not the wind, usually transfer their pollen, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. For more ideas on what to plant and what to avoid, check out this list compiled by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Last Updated: 02/09/2015