High pollen counts in many parts of the country have quite a few people paying close attention to their allergies and keeping medication or inhalers close at hand. But allergens lurk both in the home and outside. You can take these steps to minimize allergens in your life and find some respiratory relief.
KEEP YOUR HOME SEALED
The best prevention is making sure allergens don't get into your home at all. Keep windows closed and use air conditioners that are well-sealed and maintained with regular filter changes. Keeping windows sealed at night is particularly important, as pollen counts from trees typically peak in the morning.
ALLOW AIR TO MOVE THROUGH THE HOUSE
The more you run air across surfaces, the cleaner it remains. Ceiling fans or portable fans keep air circulating all the time, without needing to open windows or doors. You can also run your HVAC fan with the heat and air off, which cleans allergens out of the ductwork and sucks it back into the filter. This also prevents moisture from developing in vents, which can allow mold to flourish.
KEEP YOUR HOUSE CLEAN AND TIDY
Regular house cleaning prevents allergens from sticking around and makes sure mold and microbes can't grow. A bit of Lysol disinfectant at the bottom of your HVAC filter will help kill microbes. A vacuum with a HEPA filter helps kill microbes, and you should clean dust using a wet cloth rather than a feather duster to avoid spreading it around.
CHANGE YOUR PERSONAL HABITS
When you've been outdoors, change clothing as soon as you get inside. This prevents you from bringing outdoor pollen into the living area. Consider decluttering personal knickknacks for the season – pollutants can collect, and this makes dusting easier. Regularly wash your bedding in hot water to kill dust mites. Use allergen-proof casings on pillows and mattresses.
CALL IN PROFESSIONAL HELP
Numerous pros can make your life easier in allergy season. A pest control company can get rid of pests such as cockroaches and mice, who create allergy symptoms. A housecleaner can help get your area spic-and-span and get into all the nooks and crannies. Outdoor yard workers or landscapers can cut grass, prune bushes or rake leaves without exposing you directly to pollen and mold spores.
UPGRADE YOUR FILTER
Not all HVAC filters are the same. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter is the most effective one, removing nearly all particulates from the home. However, these are also large and sometimes require a professional to retrofit your system.
To get the best value for your filter dollar, check the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. The higher the rating, the more effectively it blocks. Standard filters have a MERV between 1 and 4. A high-efficiency filter has a rating between 5 and 12. Consult your owner's manual before installing a filter rated 13 through 16. A filter with a higher MERV rating than your system can handle might restrict airflow or damage the equipment. HEPA filters range from 17 to 20, the highest efficiency.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.