Published on 04/07/08

Defuse indoor allergy triggers

By Allie Byrd
University of Georgia

Spring has sprung the pollen season. Little can be done to control allergens outside. But you can knock out the ones inside with a bit of cleaning and prevention.

Many everyday items in homes trigger allergies, said Pamela Turner, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension housing specialist.

“The best way to prevent allergies is to remove the cause,” she said.

The usual culprits of an indoor allergy attack are unwanted guests like dust, mold, insects and rodents. But items you welcome into your home such as pets, household cleaners and even stuffed animals can be the source, too, Turner says.

There are simple things you can do to eliminate these causes.

Throw out pillows once a year and wash your sheets every week to get rid of dust mites. Dusty stuffed animals can also trigger allergies in children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

“Stuffed animals are dust magnets,” Turner says. “To kill dust mites on stuffed animals, you can put them in a plastic bag and freeze them.”

Changing the air filters in your house every three months and replacing them with pleated filters, which catch more dust than regular filters, can make a huge difference in allergies.

Keeping your house below 60 percent humidity and cool helps prevent mold growth, Turner said. Mold grows better in warm, moist environments.

“You can bring outdoor allergy triggers inside,” Turner says.

The things you and your pets track into your house can cause reactions. Taking your shoes off when you come inside prevents you from bringing these contaminants into your home.

Many people sleep with their pets and have them in their bedrooms, Turner says. It is better to remove them from your sleeping space and bed to prevent them from triggering allergies.

In addition to removing the source of allergy triggers, the cleanliness of your house and the products you use to clean it also affect indoor allergies.

“Cleaning and getting rid of the dust in your house is a major way you can reduce allergic reactions,” Turner said. “Also, maintaining your house so you don’t have leaks and holes will prevent mold growth and keep pests from coming in.”

It also helps to declutter your home. A lot of stuff gives dust more surfaces to land on, Turner says.

Choose cleaning products wisely, she said. Some can cause reactions, too. Many people are allergic to volatile organic compounds in many household cleaners, even those found in what are called ‘green’ cleaners.

“Limit the number of cleaners you use,” she said, ”and don’t use too much of any product.”

Hepa vacuum cleansers also work well to reduce dust and dust mites, but just vacuuming regularly helps.

The most important part of keeping indoor allergies at bay is to keep your home clean and remove the sources of allergy triggers, she said.

Allie Byrd is a writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.