Spring might be in the air, but that means so is pollen (achoo!), spores (achoo!), and other irritants that can make your eyes and nose water.
Seasonal allergies, or “allergic rhinitis” as they are formally known, affect nearly 8 percent of adults in the United States, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. These allergies typically ramp up in spring, especially on days when pollen counts are highest. (Check out this chart for a handy estimate of local pollen counts.)
There are 2 main ways to help keep seasonal allergens at bay in your home. First, keep out what you can. Then, manage what’s there.
How to keep out what you can
1. Use your AC
We hate to tell you to keep your windows closed because a fresh spring breeze can be magical … until someone in your house is sneezing like crazy. Unfortunately, fans aren’t the answer either: window fans can suck the irritants in and then ceiling fans can spread them around. Your best bet is to turn on the AC. If you prefer fresh air, at least keep windows closed when pollen counts are highest, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
2. Make your entry welcoming to you, not the irritants
An entry rug of rope or other natural material might look nice, but it can actually attract irritants, which are then spread throughout the house. Choose a doormat made of synthetic materials and wash it regularly. And make sure to shed your shoes at the door so as not to track allergens that might be clinging to them through the house.
3. Shower and change clothes when you come in
Obviously, it’s not realistic to do this every time you leave the house. But if you’ve been playing baseball or gardening, it’s wise to wash away any pollen that might be hitching a ride on your clothes.
4. Landscape wisely
You can’t control everything that’s flying around your neighborhood, but try to limit allergenic plants as much as possible to keep seasonal allergies under control. Some of the worst plants for seasonal allergies are flowers such as chrysanthemums, daisies, and sunflowers. Avoid shrubs like cypress, juniper, and wisteria, and steer clear of alder, beech, elm, oak, and willow trees.
In contrast, allergy-friendly plants that don’t produce include bulbs like crocuses, daffodils, and tulips. Boxwood and hydrangea shrubs are also considered safe, as are fruit trees like apple, cherry, dogwood, and magnolia.
How to allergy-proof the inside of your home
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution can be even greater than outdoor pollution since there’s nowhere for it to go once it’s in.
Here are some ways to control your indoor environment to keep seasonal allergies at bay.
1. Manage the air you’re breathing
You’ll want to make sure your HVAC system has a clean filter, not only to improve its performance but because the last thing you want is more dust and allergens circling. Also consider using an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, as well as using a dehumidifier to keep your humidity around 50 percent, which helps deter mold spores that like moisture and dust as well as other irritants that are more prevalent in dry air.
2. Wash bedding frequently
We know, sometimes you’re just too tired to shower before you fall into bed. (Please at least brush your teeth, though!) That’s why bed linens should be washed at least once a week to make sure you’re removing dust, pollen, etc. Use the hottest water possible to really rid them of those irritants.
3. Watch the carpet
Since carpets can trap allergens, hardwood floors or linoleum are better choices for people prone to allergies. If you use throw rugs, wash them regularly and if you do have carpet, vacuum it frequently. The most effective type of vacuum will have a special double-lined bag and a HEPA filter.