By Danielle Braff, Special to Tribune Newspapers
3:05 PM EDT, April 11, 2011
You don't have to look far to find environmental allergy triggers. In fact, nearly all of them can be found inside your home. Fortunately, they're relatively easy to lessen or banish. Follow these tips from allergy specialists to allergy-proof your abode.
What's going on: Mold is very common from the summer through mid-fall — and even longer in hotter climates.
Get rid of it: Get a dehumidifier, said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. Choose the right one for your home with a humidity gauge (Chaney Indoor Thermometer and Humidity Gauge, $13 at amazon.com), which will help you determine the size and strength your home needs. Set the dehumidifier to between 35 percent and 45 percent humidity to keep mold away, Bassett said.
Trigger: Open windows
What's going on: That breeze can drag in ragweed pollen, a known allergen. Some ragweed allergies surface in the spring, and some won't appear until fall, depending on your location.
Get rid of it: You don't need to have your windows closed all day, but make sure to keep them shut between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the high pollen-count hours, said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and allergist with the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. If it's warm enough indoors to turn on the air conditioning, do it — the air conditioner will filter out the pollen. Changing the heater and air conditioner filters frequently will also keep the pollen away.
Trigger: Pet dander
What's going on: Even if you don't have a pet, you can carry fur and other pet dander into your home, which can cause an allergic reaction. Pet dander accounts for 30 percent of all allergic reactions, Bassett said.
Get rid of it: If you're set on keeping your dog or cat, keep them out of bedrooms at all times, Bassett said. Washing your pet once a week will help, but the benefits are short-lived — and difficult to achieve if you have a cat. Taking allergy shots can also reduce your allergic reactions, as can air filters. Bassett recommends Rabbit Air purifiers, which are available in a range of sizes and prices at rabbitair.com.
Triggers: Carpet, drapes and clutter
What's going on: Dust mites, which are tiny insects that feed on human skin, are a very common allergen that can nestle into nearly everything in your home — but especially items that may not get thoroughly cleaned.
Get rid of it: Swap carpets for hardwood floors, horizontal blinds and drapery for washable shades and get rid of as much clutter as possible, including books and newspapers. If you have kids, put their stuffed animals into freezer bags and put them into the freezer for 5 hours a week to kill the mites, Bassett said.
What's going on: The dust mites love your bed, too.
Get rid of it: Many people can't seem to get rid of the dust mites in their bed because they're not washing their bedding in water that's hot enough to kill the mites, said allergist and immunologist Dr. Anju Peters. Make sure you're washing your sheets and blankets on the hot water setting, where the water should be at least 130 degrees, Peters said. Dry your clothing in hot heat, and keep the humidity in your room low.
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