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How to clean if you’re allergic to dust mites, mold or pet dander



Cleaning the house is one of those must-haves of adulthood that falls somewhere close to filing taxes on a fun scale. (Unless you’re an accountant or a cleaning fanatic, in which case, let your secrets out.)

And it’s even more essential if you have allergies, because it’s part and parcel of “environmental control,” says John James, a Colorado-based allergist and immunologist and spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “It’s something very important in the treatment of allergies,” he says. It’s “the first step, and then the medical treatments, like doing antihistamines and nasal sprays and such. And then the third step is to do allergy shots or immunotherapy.

Some of the most common allergens you will find in your home include pet dander, dust mites, and mold spores. Typical reactions are similar to hay fever symptoms, James says. (Think nasal drainage, sinus pressure, headaches, itchy eyes, and fatigue.) In some cases, they can also cause allergic asthma, with chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

While it’s impossible to eradicate all allergens from your home, cleaning will help mitigate and reduce your exposure. And if you have any allergies, you might want to consider wearing an N95 mask while cleaning and leaving your house for about an hour after you’re done because you’ll have stirred up some of the allergens.

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It’s not the dust you’re allergic to; these are the dust mites that live in said dust. 90% of the dust in your home is made up of dead skin cells, which house dust mites eat, says Janna Tuck, an allergist in Santa Fe, NM, and spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

To minimize exposure, use dust mite covers for your pillows, mattresses, box springs and duvets. Dust mites can settle in the fabric and padding of your bed, and blankets create a barrier between you and allergens. Tuck recommends washing and changing your sheets at least once a week. You don’t need to wash them in hot water, but dry them on high heat to kill the mites. And replace your pillows every year, she says, because they accumulate dead skin cells over time: “If you have a 20-year-old feather pillow, it’s disgusting how much that weight of l pillow isn’t feather anymore,” Tuck says.

You don’t need to use a pesticide, like a miticide spray, to get rid of the mites, says James; wiping the surfaces with a damp cloth once or twice a week should suffice. This includes surfaces in rooms you don’t typically frequent, such as a basement, storage closet, or formal living room. And wipe down your headboard. (If you have an upholstered headboard, use a hand-held vacuum.) It’s also helpful to reduce clutter, as piles of clothes or toys can collect dust.

Use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter to clean floors, rugs, carpets and any other upholstered items, such as furniture or draperies, at least once a week, Tuck says. Allergens are “protein particles, and they’re very small,” she says. “So unless you’re using a really good filtering system on your vacuum, you’re just moving those particles around.” Empty the vacuum canister each time you use it; otherwise, you will only have to put soil back in the house.

Tuck also recommends selecting air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Ratio Value (MERV) of nine or higher and changing them every few months, as well as using a dehumidifier, as dust mites thrive in dampness. high.

People who claim to be allergic to dogs and cats are often allergic to the protein in the animal’s dander, which accumulates in its fur or hair. (You may also be allergic to proteins found in pet saliva, urine, and feces.)

Not having pets is the easiest way to combat a pet dander allergy, says James. But let’s face it: we love our pets. Instead, try to keep the pet out of your bedroom, he says, and limit your pet’s access to just a few rooms so you can contain the dander.

Many dusting techniques also work for pet dander: wash and change your sheets and vacuum weekly, wipe down surfaces once or twice a week, and reduce clutter. Wash your pet’s bed at least once a month and dry it on high heat. (You can wash it more often if you have an easy-to-wash bed. James recommends buying one with a removable cover.) Bathing your pet frequently might also help, James says, but consult your veterinarian for make sure it won’t work. t irritates the animal’s skin.

Pet allergen proteins are lighter than those associated with dust or mold, Tuck says, so they’re more likely to be airborne. “That’s why if you have a dog and someone is allergic and they walk into your house, within minutes they’re like, ‘Do you have a dog?’ and they start having symptoms,” she says. Pet dander particles are small, so using an air purifier in a confined space could also help reduce symptoms, Tuck says.

The good news: “There is exceptionally more mold outside your home than inside your home,” says Tuck. “Your home is your refuge if you are allergic to mold.”

But if you have an allergic reaction to mold spores, you’ll want to be more careful. Luckily, mold prevention doesn’t require too much work. “I don’t recommend that patients do anything special for the mold other than just keeping [things] dry, and don’t have high humidity, high humidity, or water damage,” says Steven Cole, an allergist in Dallas.

Pay attention to basements, showers and tubs, kitchens, window sills, laundry rooms, garages with refrigerators or freezers, and the area under the sink. Regularly check these areas for standing water, wet sections, or leaky faucets and pipes. (And if you keep vegetables in your fridge, clean out the drawers often, Tuck says.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping your home’s humidity level between 30 and 50 percent. (A dehumidifier can help.)

Also check the inside of your washing machine. If it smells weird, that means it’s time to clean it up, Tuck says. You can use a special cleaner or put bleach in the dispenser and run an empty cycle with hot water. And pay attention to your indoor plants. If you water them too much, mold can start to grow on the top layer of soil. In this case, take the plant out and repot it.

Clean bathrooms weekly and, if you have a fan, always turn it on after showering. Use a solution of bleach (10%) and water (90%) to remove mold from a tub, Tuck says. People with allergies should take special care when using bleach, as it can cause coughing and congestion, as well as asthmatic reactions. “Test it in a larger, ventilated area,” says Tuck. “If, one, it works well for you, meaning it cleans well, and two, you’re doing well, it’s not causing you symptoms, then great. But he has to do both of those things.

And while it’s good to clean up a small spot of mold, more extensive or structural damage – for example, widespread mold on a bathroom wall – requires professional help, because large amounts of mold can affect even those without allergies.

Mimi Montgomery is a writer and editor at DC