Environmental Controls for Allergies

We joke that if your doctor suggests you get rid of your cat to control allergies, then you’re more likely to get rid of your doctor.  This is probably very true, however many of the things we can do to control our environment are fairly painless and may be things you haven’t thought of before.
Pet allergy (without getting rid of the pet):
  • Remove dander by bathing your pet more frequently.  Consider a “wet-nap” wipe down for those hard to bathe pets.
  • Limit time your pet spends in bed with you.  Sleeping on top of a cat you’re allergic to is asking for trouble.
  • Similarly, limit the amount of time the pet spends in your bedroom and bathroom.
Mold allergy:
  • Consider an evaluation for mold growing in your walls / drywall by a mold or building inspector.  Especially consider this in older homes, basements, homes with prior flood damage, or areas that “stay damp”.
  • Living plants, while generally very healthy, usually harbor some type of mold in their pots on on their leaves.  A home with many living plants may be a home with mold.  Consider reducing plants, or frequently cleaning the water-spillover pans and planter pots.  You can try fungicides on the plants as well, but it will likely return.  At least keep the plants away from the AC intake vents.
  • Similar to plants, dry up other areas that tend to stay damp – under the sink, in the laundry, the basement, etc.
  • Mold also grows outdoors, so consider that you may have huge mold colonies right outside your door or window that can get in.
Dust mites & general indoor allergy control:
  • A thorough cleaning of your AC ductwork, usually bu a professional, can be very helpful, especially for older homes.
  • Keep AC filters clean, either monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer.  HEPA-certified filters are the best.  Be cautious of long-term non-disposable filter systems.  Just think where all that dust and debris goes…
  • Keep floors clean.  Wood floors are best because they are easier to clean than carpet.  Carpet should be frequently vacuumed with consideration of a “wet vac” every 6-12 months.  There are also powders and sprays for carpet that control dust mites.
  • Some people have installed UV light air sterilizer in their AC units.  This may help reduce allergen exposure, especially for mold.
  • Spot air purifiers can be placed throughout the house focusing on areas where you spend the most time (bedroom! living area).  Remember that all of these have some kind of filter or pan to keep clean.
  • Bed bugs.  Older mattresses may be infested with dust mites (gross I know).  Using plastic or vinyl mattress covers can greatly help your exposure risk.
  • Dust Dust Dust!  Dust is made of skin debris, pet hair, pollens, and light dirt.
Outdoor allergens – pollens, mold again:
  • Keep windows closed!  Keeping an open window or door allows the outside in, including pollens and mold.  Many times windows overlook a shrub or flowerbed that may be teaming with mold.
  • Worst time for pollen outdoors is in the dry afternoon.  Usually the mornings and immediately after rains are the best time to be outside and limit pollen.
  • Wear a mask when doing yard work or gardening.  Usually a cheap flimsy mask will do, but for the extra-sensitive very high quality respirators are available.
  • Perform a nasal rinse with an irrigation bottle or Netti pot right after coming back inside.
  • Try taking your antihistamine or nasal steroid an hour or so before going outside; as this may help to limit inflammation some.