Tips to allergy proof your home and yard

Allergy season is upon us, and more than 50 million Americans are engaged in a five-month battle to keep away from the triggers that cause itchy eyes, runny noses and asthma attacks. While you might think your home offers a respite from pesky triggers like dust mites and mold, it may be harboring more harm than you know.

Allergy-proof your remodel:

  • Enclose the work area: Hang plastic sheeting over the doorways in rooms where work is underway. Don't carry the sheeting through the house when the project is complete; it will leave allergens behind in the home. Push it through the closest window.
  • Leave during installation: If possible, stay out of the house until fumes disappear. Indoor irritants are at their highest levels when carpet is being laid, or when hard woods are being varnished.
  • Keep the work area well ventilated: Open windows and set up fans to push the air out.
  • Check your ducts: During a project, your duct work may be exposed. Ducts should be tightly sealed to reduce air leakage. While it's still not clear whether cleaning air ducts can improve air quality, consider having the ducts cleaned after a project; it may pick up more particles than usual.
  • Wear protective clothing: For do-it-yourselfers, use a mask and goggles during any project that creates a lot of dust.

Allergy-proof your home:

  • Replace your flooring: Replace carpet with hardwood, tile, linoleum or any hardwood flooring. It's easier to keep hardwoods clean and dust mites and other allergens have nowhere to hide. If that isn't an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting.
  • Avoid upholstered furniture: Upholstered furniture traps allergens and is difficult to clean thoroughly. Instead, opt for leather, vinyl, wood or furniture with removable slipcovers that can be laundered.
  • Install shades or drapes: Dust and dirt that collects on window blinds is difficult to clean. Consider shades that are made of a fabric that you can throw into the washing machine.
  • Prevent mold & mildew: Install a HEPA filter in your central air-conditioning and heating system. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms to reduce humidity levels.
  • Paint bathroom walls: Molds can grow underneath wallpaper, so consider paint or tile. If you must wallpaper your walls, choose waterproof wallpaper.
  • Choose alternative building materials: Pick paints, varnishes and other materials with low volatile organic compounds. Consider buying solid wood cabinets instead of those made of particleboard. Solid wood is less likely to emit harmful fumes.
  • Control bugs & rodents: Cockroaches can trigger allergies and asthma. If you notice any pests, consult with a pest control expert. Ask about pesticide sprays; they may contain chemicals that cause irritation.
  • Keep on top of routine maintenance: Regularly clean/replace filters and dripping pans. To avoid mold growth, check for plumbing leaks.

Allergy-proof your yard:

  • Ward off weeds: Ragweed is a common allergy inducer. Hire a lawn service to get rid of weeds from your yard and garden. Fertilize your lawn to grow thick grass that will obstruct highly allergenic weeds.
  • Plant low-allergy plants & trees: Plants with bright flowers cause fewer allergy problems because they rely on insects to transfer pollen. If you're unsure about a tree in your yard, take a cutting to a local nursery. Most trees and shrubs that produce allergenic pollen bloom at certain times of the year; ask about blooming times of these plants.
  • Tend the lawn: Trim the lawn more often and keep it short; it decreases pollen production. Consider having someone else mow the grass.
  • Be careful handling mulch & compost: You may find mold and mildew in the garden. Some common places are in compost and bark mulch. Dead leaves under shrubs can also harbor mold.
  • Monitor the time & weather: Pollen counts are at their highest in the early morning hours and on warm, dry, windy days. Gardening on cool, cloudy days, or an hour after the rain, may be your best bet because rain washes pollen out of the air.

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