PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – As we get closer and closer to winter, you might be thinking about ways to reduce allergens in your home.
However, don’t shell out a ton of cash because some of the cheapest and easiest things often work better than those high-priced solutions.
If you or a family member suffers from allergies, you know it’s not just those pretty spring flowers or grainy tree pollen that can affect you.
Allergies can be just as severe in the winter when often, the source of the problem is inside your house.
You could invest your time and money in endless efforts to make your home as allergy free as possible.
“It can be costly, and if you’re not sure you’re going to get a benefit, it may not be worth it,” Dr. Deborah Gentile said.
In fact, some of the cheaper and easier solutions often work better than many of the high-priced alternatives.
Susan Hall, of McCandless, is allergic to trees, pollen and pets. So, she tries to keep the air in her home clean.
“We have an air purifier and it has a HEPA filter in it. Change the filter like every three months. When we pull that filter out, it is just filthy,” Hall said.
A HEPA filter is a good idea, because it will trap allergens so they are not able to circulate. But it works best if you run it all the time.
You can also use a HEPA filter on your furnace and vacuum cleaner.
To clean the floors, Hall uses a wet mop.
“I damp mop everything. I have hardwoods here, and that works great,” Hall said.
“There are studies whenever the Swiffer first came out that have shown they are actually more effective in capturing allergens than a regular broom,” Dr. Gentile said. “Many of your allergens are charged particles, and the Swiffers actually attract those.”
To keep mold and dust mites down during the winter months, get a dehumidifier.
“We recommend in the summertime air conditioning to help with that. And even in the winter time, try to keep your humidity lower,” Dr. Gentile said.
If you fight the dry, heated, winter air with a humidifier, you may be inviting dust mites. You should aim to keep humidity levels below 50 percent all year.
Also, to keep dust mites at bay, Hall changes her pillow cases every other day.
What else can be done?
“Cover your mattresses and bedding in allergy-proof covers, which are relatively inexpensive, and then wash the bedding in hot water once a week,” Dr. Gentile said.
If you’re considering professional mattress cleaning, it’s not a permanent solution. After several months, the problem will return.
How about professional air duct cleaning? Hall had it done when she lived in an older, bigger home.
“After it was done, there was very little collection of dust on furniture, on surfaces in the house,” Hall said.
Visible dust yes, but does it work for what really matters?
“There are really no conclusive studies that show air duct cleaning improves allergy symptoms,” Dr. Gentile said. “Some of the dust that’s being trapped in the air ducts may be even too big to enter the respiratory tract and cause symptoms.”
How do you know if you’re allergic to something in your home?
Usually you have a chronically stuffy nose that can get better when you’re away from home for a while.
If you think your symptoms are from a household allergen, ask your allergist what your best options are. Sometimes the most expensive ones won’t necessarily pay off.