Spring and fall are the most notorious allergy seasons, but as any of the estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies know, winter can be just as uncomfortable.
As we move our lives back indoors, we often seal up our homes to prevent the cold from seeping in. While that’s good for energy bills and staying warm, if you don’t take some precautions, it can cause problems for those with indoor allergies.
To make sure your home is a healthy one throughout the season, start taking action against allergens as you winterize your house.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, some of the most common indoor allergens are mold spores, dust mites and pet dander—so pay special attention to preventing those. As the weeks pass, keep to a schedule of cleaning that will maintain a lower level of allergens.
Here are some tips to help you make your home a haven where allergy sufferers will feel comfortable.
• Don’t let towels pile up. Whether in the kitchen or the bathroom, it’s important that damp towels aren’t left to sit in a pile. The moisture they retain can create perfect conditions for growing mold or provide an ideal home for mites.
Hang towels so they can dry fully and launder them in your washing machine at least once a week to get rid of mold spores.
• Stop the fur from flying. AAFA notes that cat dander is the most common pet allergy. But whether you have a dog, cat or other furry critter, they can cause discomfort for any members of your household with allergies, as well for any guests who come to town for holiday celebrations.
To cut down on allergens from both dander and saliva, be sure to wash your pets’ toys and beds regularly. Vacuuming up pet hair is also an essential step. Giving your pets regular baths and brushings can also help to cut down on the amount of hair and dander that they shed.
• Make your bed and sleep in it. If your sleep is being disrupted by allergy symptoms, you need to make sure that your bedding isn’t part of the problem.
Mite-proof bedding and mattress or pillow cases can help cut allergens, but you should also remember that washing, cleaning and replacement are important.
Some washing machines feature the Allergiene cycle, a specialized steam cycle that helps to kill dust mites and their eggs; it’s the only such cycle that has also been certified by AAFA.
While you’re washing your sheets and comforters, take time to vacuum your mattress with a HEPA-filter equipped vacuum. Pillows should be replaced every two years and it’s suggested that mattresses be replaced every 10 years.
• Don’t forget decor. Vacuuming your floors is a given, but to really make an impact on the allergens in your home, you need to pay attention the rest of your decor as well.
Area rugs in the living room or bedrooms, as well as kitchen and bath floor mats need to be vacuumed often and, if possible, laundered regularly.
Cleaning the upholstery on your couches and chairs is another essential step—pet hair and dust mites can settle there and irritate people with allergies.
Large-capacity washing machines that are certified “asthma & allergy friendly” are ideal for large items like throw rugs and slip covers from your couch or easy chair.
If they can’t go in the washing machine, have them professionally cleaned. And while they beautifully frame your views, your window treatments might be making your life uncomfortable. Make sure that you vacuum and launder them as well.
“It’s important to remember that even in cold weather, allergies don’t go away,” said Mike Tringale, vice president of external affairs for AAFA.
“And while cleaning your house to remove allergens won’t eliminate your allergies, it will have a significant impact on your health, during the winter and throughout the year.”