If you’re one of the 50+ million hay fever sufferers in the US, you know when spring arrives. The budding trees, neighbors mowing lawns, frequent rainstorms, and professional golf on television again are all signs that you know what’s coming: allergies.
Seasonal allergy flare-ups are caused by an increase in tree pollen, as the trees attempt to propagate, and by mold spores generated from the excess rain we get in Ohio in the springtime.
As an allergy sufferer, there are many things you can do to improve your chances of surviving another allergy season without too much discomfort. These might include:
- Close windows and doors and use air conditioning to keep pollen out.
- Avoid using an indoor fan, it can stir up dust, pollen brought in on shoes and clothing, and blow pet dander around inside.
- Stay inside, especially on windy days, avoiding the excess pollen in the air.
- Wear a mask while mowing the lawn.
- Wear sunglasses. The lenses can help keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Nasal irrigation – use saline nasal spray to keep your sinus passages clear of debris.
- Change clothes as soon as you come inside, helping to prevent pollen and mold spores from spreading inside your home.
- Shower at night to remove any pollen, mold and dust that has attached to your hair during the day. This also has the effect of not releasing those same irritants on to your pillow and bedspread, which can further aggravate your allergies.
Indoor Air Quality
One of the most important things you can do for allergy mitigation is to improve your home’s indoor air quality. According to the The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality is frequently worse than outdoor air because allergens can be concentrated and recirculated. They recommend three methods to improve indoor air quality
- Use air cleaners and filters to clean indoor air
- Ventilate your indoor areas well
- Minimize contact with indoor airborne allergens.
The EPA notes that 60% of people in the USA are exposed to pet dander. Eighty percent are exposed to dust mites. Many others are exposed to cockroaches and have allergic reactions.
By improving the air quality in your home, school, office and car, you can help minimize allergy and asthma triggers.
Why Are Allergens a Problem?
As defined by Science Daily:
an allergen is any substance (antigen), most often eaten or inhaled, that is recognized by the immune system and causes an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction is a misunderstanding, or over-reaction, by the body’s immune system, attacking the allergens as an invading foreign object, whether the object is a real threat or not.
Allergens tend to be microscopic in size and can be brought in from outside, produced indoors, and blown around by a heating and cooling system, settling on furniture, carpets and other indoor surfaces.
How to Control Indoor Allergens
There are two parts to controlling indoor allergens: cleaning to eliminate them, and filtering the air to prevent their spread. There may be more allergens on indoor surfaces than in the air, but the moment the air conditioning kicks in, they get spread around. Allergens can also be stirred up when you dust or vacuum.
How Can Air Filters and Cleaning Help Reduce Allergens?
The best method to improve indoor air quality is to remove the sources of allergens and irritants from your home, and take measures to avoid and reduce contact with allergens. You can also increase the flow of outdoor air into the home and reduce humidity to an acceptable level. Having the right HVAC filters, and having an air cleaner and dehumidifier installed can aid greatly in reducing the number of allergens in your indoor air.
An air conditioner can help as well, since one of the jobs of an AC system is to remove moisture from the air. Reducing moisture can reduce dust mites and mold growth. And running the AC, versus opening windows, can help reduce outdoor allergens like pollen and mold.
How Can I Control Indoor Allergens?
Dust Mites. By eliminating dust, you can go a long way to reduce dust mites, which feed on the dust. If you suffer from severe allergies, bare floors and walls are optimal; avoid wall-to-wall carpet if possible. Avoid heavy drapes and overstuffed fabric furniture. Reduce fabric drapes and blinds with shades or washable curtains. To eliminate dust mites in your bed, use allergen-resistant covers on your pillows and mattress. Using a mattress cover actually does a better job of reducing allergy symptoms from dust mites than air cleaners. Wash bedding weekly to kill dust mites.
Vacuum Frequently. Of course, vacuuming helps reduce atmospheric allergens. However, a poor quality vacuum could just stir up dust and push smaller particles back out into the air. Look for vacuums that are certified allergy and asthma friendly; they have been specially built and tested to reduce airborne allergens.
Masks. If you do have allergies, you can wear a mask while performing household chores like dusting and cleaning, and doing lawn work.
Cleaning. When cleaning and dusting, use a cloth dampened with furniture polish or a product like Endust Free that actually collects and helps eliminate the dust.
Eliminate Pet Dander. Most allergy doctors suggest that if you have an animal allergy, don’t own pets with fur or feathers. Animal dander is cells shed from an animal’s skin, which sometimes collects in the fur. Some pets are considering hypoallergenic, but in reality, they just shed fewer skin cells, appearing to eliminate allergy symptoms. Many allergy doctors suggest you prevent pets from entering your bedroom. Keep doors closed when not at home. And wash your pet’s bedding and toys often. In addition, allergy specialists suggest replacing carpeting with bare floors or low-pile carpeting; avoiding bathing and brushing your pets (or wear a mask); and avoid long-haired pets that can also bring pollen inside during spring and fall.
Keep Doors and Windows Closed. This is especially true during the spring and fall when there is a high pollen count. Use air conditioning in warm weather to control dust mites and reduce humidity. Change your HVAC filters frequently.
Reduce Humidity. Moisture from the bathroom, kitchen and basement, or anywhere else there is a lot of water being used, can significantly increase the humidity in your home. Here are some tips to reduce humidity in your home.
- Fix any leaks and other sources of moisture.
- Don’t run showers without an exhaust fan in the bathroom.
- Keep bathtubs and sinks free of mold by cleaning often with a disinfecting agent. Wear a mask if you have mold allergies.
- Install and run a dehumidifier if you live in a particularly humid climate.
HVAC Tips to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
There are some things you can do yourself to improve the air quality of your home from a heating and cooling equipment perspective, while others require professional expertise. If you suffer from seasonal allergies or asthma, we recommend your perform the following steps.
- Replace Air Filters Often. During peak allergy season, monthly is best.
- Get a Higher MERV-Rated Filter. The higher the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value of a filter, the more particles it catches, and the more restrictive the airflow.
- Service Your Heating and Air Conditioning System Annually. Your air conditioner should receive a tune-up in the spring, your furnace in the fall. Keeping the system running at peak efficiency ensures it can keep clean air circulating throughout the home.
- Get Your Ductwork Cleaned. This one step can eliminate a LOT of dust and particles collected in the system that carries air throughout your home. An annual or biennial ductwork cleaning is best.
- Air Purifiers. This type of system removes additional particles from the air that a simple air filter cannot.
- Install a Dehumidifier/Humidifier. This helps keep your air at the ideal level of moisture. The dehumidifier can help eliminate too much moisture and prevent mold from growing; a humidifier adds moisture to the air to keep it at an ideal level and helping reduce sinus irritation during the winter.
- Install an Ultraviolet-C Device. This device, installed in the ductwork just above your furnace, kills airborne viruses* and bacteria, reducing the recirculation of those pathogens into your home’s air.
- Get an Indoor Air Quality Evaluation. Contact the experts at Dor-Mar Heating & Air Conditioning to perform a free on-site indoor air quality evaluation, then make recommendations on the best solutions for you.
About Dor-Mar Heating & Air Conditioning
In continuous operation since 1962, our expertise goes beyond just the mechanicals of your HVAC system. We’re pretty handy when it comes to ductwork and system-wide maintenance as well. For top-notch service keeping your home’s heating and cooling system clean and your family breathing clean, filtered air, contact Dor-Mar today.
Our team offers a wide array of routine maintenance and emergency services for your heating and cooling system, allowing your family to breathe fresh, safe, clean air and be comfortable year-round. We also offer a number of add-ons to your HVAC equipment that can improve your home’s IAQ, such as electrostatic air filters, whole-house humidifiers, duct cleaning, Ultraviolet-C lighting systems, and more.
Schedule an appointment for HVAC system troubleshooting or maintenance with us today by using our online contact form, or call one of our seven neighborhood offices listed below. We pride ourselves on our customer-focused service, and our reviews show it.
Dor-Mar…Your Climate Hero!
*Please note: neither the Centers for Disease Control(CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), nor the manufacturer of our UV-C Devices have officially announced whether UV-C kills the current strain of Corona Virus (COVID-19). We urge you to err on the side of caution until we have a definitive answer, and take other measures to prevent the acquisition or spread of this virus.