Many allergy sufferers feel they are waging a battle with the great outdoors this spring season, trying to keep watery eyes, runny noses and itchy throats from keeping them down. But the truth is, allergies can be triggered just as much by allergens hiding inside your home as they can by the ones outdoors. Before you lock yourself indoors to avoid the spring allergy season, the team at American Family Care wants to make you aware of the terrible trifecta lurking behind closed doors: pet dander, dust mites and mold!
Non-shedding pets are in high demand, but animal owners should know there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. All animals have skin and all animals shed skin cells, just like humans. Those dead skin cells are the dander, and that is what causes allergic reactions, along with the protein that is found in animal saliva, sweat and urine. The pet dander and proteins can certainly attach and spread through pet hair, but the hair itself is not an allergen. In addition to the obvious places pet dander can be found, like carpets and soft furniture, it clings to a few hidden spots like:
- Non-upholstered furniture
That’s right, air. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, when the pet dander is flung into the air (petting, grooming, shaking), those particles can hang suspended in the air for long periods of time, making it impossible to avoid. Pet dander even travels to non-pet homes on other people’s clothes.
- Change clothes after prolonged exposure to a pet.
- Keep pets out of bedrooms with doors closed. You spend one-half to one-third of your day in your bedroom.
- Clean and vacuum all surfaces in the home, including walls and woodwork.
The good news: Dust mites don’t bite and thankfully, you can’t see or feel the eight-legged creatures crawling on you.
The bad news: The average adult sheds enough skin each day to feed one million dust mites. Your mattress and pillow alone harbor, literally, millions of dust mites. To up the “ick” factor a notch, it’s not the bugs people are allergic to, but the dust mite feces. Yes, it’s all pretty disgusting. Other less thought-of spots dust mites hide:
- Soft toys
- Under the carpet
- Beneath and behind furniture and appliances
It is impossible to prevent dust mites from hiding in your home but there are things you can do to reduce exposure.
- Use allergen-proof coverings on all pillows, mattresses and blankets.
- Wash bedding and soft goods at 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit weekly to get rid of mite allergens.
- Freeze non-washable items for 24 hours to kill mites. Shake off the dead bugs after freezing.
Molds, like dust mites, are microscopic in size but large in quantity. Warmth, moisture and oxygen are the necessary ingredients for growth. For allergy sufferers, it’s the mold spore particles the mold produces that triggers the reaction. Bathrooms and basements are notorious places for mold growth due to moisture. Some other sneaky places mold can creep in:
- Refrigerator drip pan
- Dishes and cabinets
A great case for having a dish dryer is that if wet dishes are stacked, it’s the perfect environment for mold growth in your kitchen cabinets.
- Apply white distilled vinegar to any surface where mold grows, and wipe it down.
- Sunshine is a natural mold killer. Let the ultraviolet rays kill it, then vacuum the mold off items.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity in your home under 50 percent.
Buying a simple hygrometer to measure humidity can help keep close tabs on the moisture level in your home and help control dust mites and mold.
Even the most diligent house cleaners will not be able to eradicate all allergens produced by pet dander, dust mites and mold. At AFC, our experienced medical team can provide allergy treatment therapies for the whole family. Our urgent care centers are open every day of the week, so you can walk in anytime and get relief fast.