Debug Your House

Two experts offer tips for managing your allergies at home

Allergy sufferers know all too well how tough it is to be outdoors during certain times of the year. Unfortunately, staying inside may not be much better unless you take steps toward making your home as allergen-free as possible.

Two experts from the Department of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute offer some suggestions for keeping your house free of dust mites, mold and other common allergens that trigger respiratory problems.

First, take a fresh look at those sweet-faced stuffed animals atop your child’s bed. They may not appear as sweet when you consider that they could be harboring millions of dust mites, those microscopic creatures that also live in carpets and mattresses.

Susan Abouhassan, MD, suggests eliminating or at least limiting the number of stuffed animals in the bedroom and washing them in water that’s hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit once a week or putting them in the dryer on the hot setting, also once a week.

If you have a mold allergy, you want to avoid having any standing water in the home, which can create a breeding ground for molds, Dr. Abouhassan says. “It is recommended to keep the indoor relative humidity below 50 percent,” she says. If there is visible mold or the smell of mold in the home, clean the affected areas with a 10 percent bleach solution, and keep those areas well-ventilated, she suggests.

Lily Pien, MD, recommends the following tips to stop allergies before they start:

  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioning if you are allergic to pollen.
  • No carpeting is preferable if you are allergic to dust mites. “Otherwise, ask another family member who is non-allergic to vacuum. Or use a vacuum that has a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter or one that has a double-layered bag to decrease your exposure to dust mites.”
  • Avoid long drapes, as they collect dust. Replace old drapes and use window shades instead.

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