After an unusually mild winter, allergy season started early this year for many Tennesseans. But high pollen counts might not be the only reason you’re sneezing, coughing and feeling as if your head is two sizes too large. There could also be allergens lurking in your home.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), most indoor allergies are caused by animal dander, mold and pests.
Where are these culprits hiding in your home, and how can you get rid of them? Try these spring cleaning tips:
Allergy-Proof Your Bed
Dust mites are microscopic creatures that thrive in warm, humid environments. They particularly like bedding. To reduce mite levels, the AAAAI recommends encasing mattresses and pillows in allergen-proof covers or airtight plastic covers. Wash sheets and comforters once a week in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer.
Rethink Your Carpet
Carpeting collects dust mites, pet dander and any outdoor allergens that get tracked inside. Instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, allergists recommend hardwood or linoleum flooring with washable area rugs.
If that isn’t an option, shampoo carpets frequently. Vacuum at least weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Clean the Windows
During warm, humid months, use air conditioning and keep windows closed. This will help keep pollen out while also reducing indoor humidity that leads to dust mites and mold. When you’re washing the windows, don’t forget the curtains and the blinds.
Whenever possible, use curtains made of plain cotton or synthetic fabric. These are easier to wash on a regular basis. Also consider replacing horizontal blinds with washable shades.
Give Fido a Bath
As much as we love our furry friends, their saliva, dander and urine can worsen allergy symptoms. If you have an indoor pet, bathe him or her weekly to reduce dander. During pollen season, wipe them down with a damp cloth before letting them inside to reduce the allergens they bring with them.
Cockroaches, mice and other household pests also can cause indoor allergies. To keep out these unwanted guests, inspect the outside of your home and block off all areas where pests could enter, including crevices, wall cracks and windows.
Keep food in sealed containers, and clean under stoves, refrigerators, cabinets and any other areas where crumbs might be hiding. Also, consider hiring an exterminator to spray.
Look For Mold
Indoor mold and mildew grow in damp areas such as basements, bathrooms or anywhere with leaks. Check for leaks in your roof, under your house and under all sinks, and repair any broken or damaged pipes.
To remove mold on hard surfaces, use water, detergent and 5% bleach, and then towel dry the area completely. If mold covers an area greater than 10 square feet, the AAAAI suggests hiring an indoor environmental professional to clean it.
If your indoor allergies persist, talk to your doctor or allergist about medications or therapies that could help. Also, read some tips for surviving spring allergies in Tennessee.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.