Do allergies bother you all year round? Not just the tree pollen in spring, the grass pollen in summer, and the ragweed in fall, but also in your own house in late fall and winter? Some smart cleaning tips could help alleviate some of your sniffles this season.
When temperatures dip and we spend more time indoors, the plant-related pollens that can drive allergy-sufferers crazy can become less of an issue. However, allergens inside our homes can cause allergy symptoms to persist all year round.
You can help put an end to this cycle with these strategies for reducing allergens indoors.
What causes indoor allergies?
Pet dander, dust, insect droppings, and mold can all contribute to indoor allergies. If you deal with allergies all year long, it’s likely something in your house making you sniffle and sneeze.
If you also have seasonal allergies, allergens from outdoors can get into your house and cause problems inside as well as out. Keeping common allergens out of your home is another important element of reducing allergy symptoms.
Chemical cleaners may make allergies worse
A 2017 study found an association between the use of chemical disinfectants and changes in children’s gut flora, which can affect immune system function. Research suggests that the rise in allergies in recent decades may be linked to our aggressive use of chemical disinfectants, which destroy both harmful and beneficial microbes.
In addition, many common ingredients, including ammonia, chemical fragrances, and antimicrobials, can irritate airways and trigger asthma. Allergies aside, many of these ingredients are also probable carcinogens and are linked to endocrine disruption.Your health can benefit in numerous ways from switching to cleaners made with plant-based ingredients.
You can make your own simple cleaners from common household staples like vinegar and baking soda, or you can purchase plant-based cleaners.
Keep out fall allergens
If allergens from ragweed or fall leaves (which can harbor mold) are the primary driver of your sniffles, taking steps to avoid bringing them indoors should help. Many people don’t realize they may spread allergens around their homes when they come in from outside. Focusing on eliminating the sources of these allergens can keep them from aggravating symptoms once you’re indoors.
- Shoes: Leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking whatever they picked up through your house.
- Clothes: Toss your clothes in the wash when you come in for the day.
- Hair and skin: Pollens and mold spores that irritated you outside likely landed on your hair and skin, so removing them before you get into bed will prevent them from irritating you all night long. Take a shower before bed to remove them, using shampoo and soap made with natural ingredients.
Many indoor allergies are caused by dust, together with the mites, dander, and droppings often found in it. Keeping a handle on dust buildup requires a multi-pronged approach:
- Frequent vacuuming, using a machine with a HEPA filter
- Dusting surfaces often with a damp cloth
- Changing your furnace filter regularly and using a filter designed to remove allergens
- Getting ductwork cleaned periodically
- Running an air purifier with a HEPA filter and adding filters to heating vents
Keep an eye on humidity
Higher indoor humidity can promote mold growth, which can contribute to indoor allergies. Though heating season can make indoor air drier, mold can still grow in areas where moisture builds up, especially bathrooms. Be sure to run your vent fan after showers, and consider a small dehumidifier if humidity in certain areas of the house remains a problem.
Be wary of running humidifiers too much. During cold season, many people run humidifiers constantly to combat the dryness of indoor air, but they can elevate moisture levels in the rooms where you put them and provoke mold growth.
If you have a whole-house humidifier, be sure to adjust settings and keep an eye on the humidity levels in your home with a simple humidity meter to prevent mold growth.
Natural relief for indoor allergies
We can’t get rid of every possible allergen, but we can help our bodies respond to them in less aggravating ways. Helping your immune system function appropriately could help your allergy symptoms improve. In addition to avoiding chemical cleaners, consider these natural strategies for getting your misfiring immune system back in order:
Nourish gut health: Research suggests that your gut flora plays a large role in how your immune system functions, so eating plenty of prebiotics (fibrous whole foods like those found in leeks, onions, and oats) and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir may help it work more effectively.
Focus on omega-3s: By helping to promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body, omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce allergy symptoms. You can find them in fatty fish, flax, chia seeds and fish oil supplements.
Vitamin C, quercetin, vitamin D and bromelain are being studied for their abilities to dampen allergic responses. If you eat a varied, whole-foods diet, you’re likely getting some of these nutrients from food, but to get sufficient amounts to alleviate allergy symptoms, you might need to consider supplements. Be sure to speak to your doctor before taking supplements, as they may be contraindicated for some conditions or medications. †
Try these natural ways to lessen your exposure to allergens and your responses to them, and sniffle and sneeze less this season.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
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