What You Need to Know About Allergens Hiding in Your Home

Home: It’s all about love, family, safety, comfort – and allergies.

Wait, what?

While outdoor pollens are a common cause of the sniffles and watery eyes during the spring, summer and fall months, millions of people battle year-round symptoms caused by indoor allergens, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. These can range from sneezing and an itchy, runny nose to coughing and chest congestion.

Common indoor allergens include pet dander, types of cockroaches, pest droppings, dust mites and molds. They can spread through the air in your home, settling into furniture and floors throughout the house.

In fact, a recent study found that a majority of bedrooms in U.S. households contained at least one allergen, and nearly 75 percent harbored three to six allergy-inducing culprits.

According to the Mayo Clinic, allergens are not merely annoying. They can also cause allergic asthma, the most common form of asthma. The condition causes the airways to become clogged, making breathing difficult. In serious flare-ups, it can be fatal. 

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Dr. K. Dionne Posey, National Medical Director of Clinical Operations, Population Health Solutions and Prevention at Optum, says, “We don’t often think about all of the allergens in our homes that we may react to, making us sneeze or cough. Unfortunately, allergens are common, but the good news is that there are ways to combat them!” Here are just a few preventive measures Posey suggests to help reduce indoor allergens.

  • Wash all bedding in hot water once a week to help kill microscopic creatures (also known as dust mites) that can flourish in bedding, furniture, carpet and even your kids’ stuffed animals!
  • Use dust-proof or allergen-impermeable pillows, along with hypoallergenic pillow and mattress covers.
  • As much as possible, reduce fabrics in your home with tile or hardwood floors instead of carpet. Replace curtains or drapes with blinds or other non-fabric window treatments.
  • Place stuffed toys in a mesh bag or zippered pillowcase and wash them in hot water.
  • Bathe and brush pets often. Mop hard-surface floors every week.
  • Vacuum regularly, using a vacuum with either a double-layered microfilter bag or HEPA filter. Wear a filtering mask while you vacuum and stay out of the room for 20 minutes afterwards while dust and allergens settle.
  • Mold grows in moist and humid conditions, so use dehumidifiers or ventilation fans in the kitchen, basement and bathrooms.
  • Remove as many water and food sources as you can to control rodents and cockroaches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vacuuming or sweeping areas that might attract pests every two to three days.

No one wants to share their home with critters and molds that make us sneeze, wheeze or cough. Being proactive can help you and your family avoid allergies caused by indoor triggers. In addition, if you suffer from asthma, ask your doctor for more information about treatments and prevention to help keep the condition under control.