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How to reduce allergies indoors

It's hard to escape the effects of asthma and hay fever - even indoors. Find out if your environment is to blame and how you can reduce your symptoms with a few quick fixes.


Dog wrapped in blue and yellow blankets

Could I be allergic to my home? The answer may be yes if your home is full of common indoor allergens such as mould, pet dander and dust mites, not to mention pollution that blows in through windows. Allergies can easily be worse at home, so cleaning to reduce these triggers is important.

Remove dust carefully from surfaces with a damp cloth. Aim to trap the dust and prevent it from dispersing into the air and causing further irritation.

How to get rid of common indoor allergens:

  • Keep bathrooms free of mould. Scrub tiles, shower curtains and dry out damp areas.

  • Vacuum frequently and thoroughly. Use a vacuum with a bag or hygienic disposal, and where possible a HEPA filter which will trap microscopic particles of dander and mould spores and prevent them being released back into the air via the vacuum exhaust system. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, or high-efficiency particulate arresting and is a type of filter that is used in medical facilities and must conform to rigorous standards.

  • Wash sheets and bedding frequently in hot water with hypoallergenic laundry detergent or a trusted brand that doesn’t trigger allergies.

  • Dust mites thrive in grime, so it’s best to get rid of it However you need a careful approach, as disturbing dust and creating clouds of it can make problems worse. Wipe surfaces carefully with damp cloths to trap the dust and allow you to remove it.

Common indoor allergens include:

  • Dust and the mites that feed on it.

  • Pet dander, which is tiny specks of skin shed by animals with fur or feathers, including rodents. Pet dander is everywhere as the flakes weigh little and can stick to human hair and clothing, and easily be transferred to upholstery on public transport or in restaurants. Proteins in pet saliva and urine can trigger allergies or asthma too.

  • Pollen.

  • Insect excrement. A protein in cockroach droppings can trigger allergies. Look into eradicating insect or rodent infestations.

  • Particles and gases from domestic appliances.

  • Smoke.

  • Mould spores.

  • Industrial particles.

  • Exhaust emissions from cars and other vehicles.

  • Volatile organic compounds found in paint, furniture and plastics.

Indoor allergy symptoms include sneezing, sniffling, watery or itchy eyes, eczema and difficulty breathing, so it is essential to address the problem. Sustained allergic reactions can lead to secondary infections such as sinusitis or bronchitis.

Why are my allergies worse indoors?

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Unfortunately, many allergens can collect in the home. According to 2015 figures from the World Health Organisation, household air pollution is a problem for around 3 billion people globally.

The air in your home could be up to 5 times more polluted than the air outside, and up to 6 types of allergens can be found in around half of homes. They enter via ventilation, on people and on clothing, and can congregate on furniture, carpets and other surfaces.

Other strategies to get rid of allergens in your home:

  • Don’t air-dry laundry as mould spores and pollen can settle on it.

  • Tumble dry laundry at a high heat to kill dust mites.

  • Reduce clutter that can collect dust.

  • Get an air purifier with a HEPA filter.

  • If your home is too damp it will be a mould magnet, so consider a dehumidifier. A recommended level of humidity is 40%.

  • Dispose of any mouldy carpets in wet areas or basements and clean thoroughly.

  • Don’t let pets sleep in human beds.

  • Keep windows and doors shut when pollen counts are high, particularly between 5 am and 10 am, when plants release pollen.

  • Shower and change when you arrive home to wash off as much pollen and other pollutants as possible.

  • Be mindful of your own health while cleaning and wear a mask to minimise your own reactions.

If you’re a long-term hay fever sufferer, then there will be a sense of relief in a home environment that reduces these symptoms. You may be surprised how much better you feel. However, if allergies continue to cause significant discomfort, then it is always best to seek medical advice.

Originally published