“Spring fever” isn’t all that’s in the air throughout March, April and May. Hay fever and other airborne allergy conditions are also on the rise during spring and summer, causing intense discomfort and fatigue for allergy sufferers throughout the U.S. According to a recent New York Times article, the spring/summer of 2010 has become a record-breaking year in terms of overall pollen count, and plenty are feeling the effects!
If you suffer from seasonal allergies and want to make your home a pollen-free zone asap, there are several actions you can take, as a homeowner, right now to reduce your home allergy risk. Read on to get our Top 10 Tips for Allergy-Proofing Your Home, as well as more information about seasonal allergy causes and prevention.
Where Do Plant Pollen and Allergens Live in Your Home?
To properly protect your home from invading allergens, and to adequately remove existing allergens, you first have to know where dust and pollen like to collect and hide in your home.
Airborne allergens like dust mites and plant pollen typically collect in humid, warm spaces. This is also true of other airborne home allergens like mold and pet dander. Allergens commonly congregate in:
- Bedding (sheets, pillows, comforters, mattresses, blankets)
- Clothing (sweaters, knit shirts and pants)
- Curtains and blinds
Fibrous materials especially tend to attract and house indoor allergens. Allergens also travel through ventilation systems and air ducts, and can more easily live and hide amidst clutter than in sparse, well-organized spaces.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that allergy-sensitive homeowners should at least allergy-proof rooms where the most time is spent (i.e. bedrooms, the kitchen etc.), if they’re unable to allergy-proof their entire home. Some allergy-proofing measures are simple DIY projects, and other home allergy-proofing projects should be performed by professional home contractors.
Top 10 Home Allergy-Proofing Tips
Later in this article we’ll list some specific allergy-proofing projects for homeowners, but first, we’ve listed 10 general tips for keeping your home allergy-free all year round. Here are our Top 10 Allergy-Proofing Tips for 2010:
- 1) Keep your home cool and dry: relative humidity should be no higher than 50%; temperature should remain stable at 70 degrees F (120 degrees C). In warm weather, running air conditioning and using dehumidifiers should keep your home at the right temperature and humidity level.
- 2) Choose non-allergenic landscaping and plants: avoid pollen-bearing male trees, shrubs and grasses (ash trees, elm trees, oak trees, hickory trees, yews, Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, etc.)
- 3) Place desiccants in small storage areas: desiccants (silica bead packets are most common) are moisture zappers that can prevent mold or allergen-friendly moisture from developing in medicine cabinets, shoeboxes, luggage, purses, camera bags, etc.
- 4) Keep doors and windows closed during warm, humid weather
- 5) Make your home a non-smoking environment
- 6) Keep your home clutter-free: old clothing, newspapers, magazines, cleaning rags, etc. are all dust-catchers and potential homes for allergens
- 7) Try to remove outer protective wear/gardening gear before entering the home: pollen, mold and allergen spores attach to garments while we’re outside. Try to store coats, gloves, hats, work aprons, etc. in a mudroom, gardening shed or garage.
- 8) Try to clean allergenic areas of your home weekly: Vacuum carpeting, mop floors, dust windows and hard surfaces with damp cloths, wash clothing and bedding, etc.
- 9) Clean or replace HVAC system filters monthly
- 10) Bathe pets weekly or more: dog and cat dander can be greatly reduced by bathing them once or twice a week. For added effect, use a specialized allergen-fighting pet shampoo like Allersearch.
Allergy-Proofing Home Improvement Projects
The 10 allergy-proofing tips above are, for the most part, simple changes or adjustments that homeowners can make immediately with little added costs, and without much outside help. However, homeowners with more severe allergies or asthmatic conditions should consider more extensive home allergy-proofing methods to protect themselves and their household.
Update your HVAC system
Since most harmful home allergens are airborne, a home’s air ventilation and filtration systems are extremely important for successful allergy-proofing. There are plenty of HVAC options to choose from today, and most of these options will be acceptable for general use. However, certain HVAC system types will be more appropriate for top allergy-proofing results. Confer with a licensed HVAC contractor to choose the right HVAC system for you.
Even if a homeowner’s current HVAC system is functioning properly, air filters should be checked regularly for cleanliness and quality. Many professional sources recommend a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to drastically reduce the amount of airborne allergen particles that can travel through your HVAC system.
Install Hardwood Flooring/Remove Carpeting
As mentioned earlier, carpeting is like a magnet for home allergens—especially high-pile, dense carpeting. Installing new hardwood flooring or linoleum flooring will remove a prime allergen habitat, not to mention eliminate the hassle of constant vacuuming and carpet shampooing!
Improve Home Insulation and Sealants
If your HVAC system and air filtering safeguards are solid, but your home has damaged caulking, insulation, window leaks, etc., airborne allergens can still infiltrate your home.
Sections of the home that are poorly sealed or insulated will allow outdoor air, and airborne allergens, to enter. Common home areas where allergens enter include basements, attics and garages. To make matters worse, air conditioning vents tend to be shut off for these rarely used areas. This increases the likelihood that warm, humid air will accumulate in these home areas, allowing dust mites and allergens to more easily collect.
Professional Home Allergy-Proofing Services
If you are interested in extensive home allergy-proofing measures, but feel deterred by the skill level or perceived cost involved, it might be helpful to ask a professional home remodeler or allergy-proofing contractor for their input and/or a project estimate.
Professional landscaping, floor installation, or HVAC installation services may seem like an unnecessary expenditure at first. But when a homeowner considers the cost, and inconvenience, of treating ongoing allergy conditions, home allergy-proofing services and projects not only become more reasonable, but even necessary.
Other professional home allergy-proofing services can include:
Schedule your home allergy-proofing appointment today with an experienced, licensed home contractor, and make your home an allergen-free zone asap!