How to Allergy-Proof Your Home

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It can be difficult for people with allergies to avoid exposure to certain allergens when they're outside. But there are many specific, effective steps they can take to make their homes as allergy-proof as possible. Here are some basic recommendations for how to allergy-proof your house.

Keep things dry. A humid environment is a breeding ground for mold and dust mites. It's wise to keep the temperature below 72 degrees and the relative humidity below 50 percent (hygrometers, which measure humidity, are a great and inexpensive investment in your health). Keep your doors and windows closed during hot weather, and use dehumidifiers in the basement and other rooms inclined toward dampness. Monitor the roof and ceiling for leaks, as well as other potential problem areas like the pipes under your sinks. Ventilate your bathroom. If you can keep moisture to a minimum, it will go a long way toward making your home less hospitable to allergens.

Create a safe sleeping area. Wash your sheets and pillowcases every week in water that's at least 130 degrees to eliminate most pollen and dust mites. Dry your linen with high heat rather than a clothesline, which can leave your clothes exposed for long periods to the very allergens you want to avoid. If possible, keep your pets out of the bedroom. Also, since bedrooms can accumulate a lot of clutter — under the bed, in the closet, around the nightstand — it's wise to be especially vigilant about keeping the area clean. Keep the air filtered and the surfaces well-dusted.

Bathroom advice. Since your bathroom is prone to moisture, it's particularly important to allergy-proof it as best as possible. Wash your shower curtains often; even better, purchase anti-mold curtains. When you're showering, make sure to ventilate the room as much as you can — an exhaust fan is best, but crack open the door at the very least. Afterward, dry off surfaces. Be sure to clean your towels often. If you keep magazines or books or newspapers in the bathroom, don't let them stay there indefinitely, since paper can get moldy, too. If you do find mold on any surfaces, use a mold-killing cleaner (not just soap and water).

HEPA helps. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters trap many of the most common allergens (like pollen), which can prevent exposure to triggering substances. If your air conditioning does not come with HEPA, consider getting a portable air purifier with HEPA for the room or rooms where you spend a lot of time, especially your bedroom. Meanwhile, HEPA-equipped vacuums can help with dust mites and other non-airborne allergens. Change the filters every three months.

Prioritize weekly cleaning. There are obvious benefits to cleaning your home often, but it's especially important to do so if you want to mitigate the effects of indoor allergens. Dust surfaces with a microfiber cloth, clean out your fridge and monitor it for excessive moisture, and clean your linen (as mentioned above). If you have upholstered furniture, use a HEPA-filtered vacuum. Remove clutter and do everything possible to discourage dust and other potential triggers from gathering. Take out the trash daily: Food waste can attract insects and other pests, so don't let it sit. Avoid leaving dishes in the sink for extended periods. Scrub your sinks, countertops, and interior refrigerator surfaces to prevent mold.

Additional considerations to allergy-proof your home:

Safe storage. Make sure your food is stored in well-sealed containers that will be less vulnerable to unwanted pests.

Clean green. As you clean your home, try to avoid synthetic household cleaners with chemicals that could themselves trigger a respiratory or skin reaction. Opt for non-toxic, natural products.

Vigilance with visitors. Use doormats so people are less likely to bring allergens in with them. For even more safety, ask friends and family to remove their shoes when they enter your home.

Window wellness. Heavy, pleated drapes can trap tons of dust and other allergens. If possible, switch them out for machine-washable curtains or blinds you can wipe down.

HVAC maintenance. Be sure to change the filters in your heating and air conditioning units as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Protection from plants. Household plants don't just beautify your home — some of them can also purity the air. But be sure not to inadvertently create a new problem! Leaves and soil can harbor mold, so keep the plants in a well-ventilated area, and monitor them for mold whenever you water.

While it can be a bit of a hassle at first to allergy-proof your home, over time it becomes second nature — and the benefits are huge. While a 100 percent allergy-proof home may not be feasible, you can significantly lower your risk of exposure to allergens by taking these steps.

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