Quick Fix: Banish Allergens from your Bedroom
When you think about allergies, perhaps your mind goes to blooming trees and pollen, which are the leading causes of seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis are among the most common types of allergies worldwide, but they’re not the only ones to blame for your stuffy nose and itchy eyes.
Unfortunately, allergies don’t happen only outside, and your home can become the perfect environment for some allergens to grow. The bedroom is the ideal place for the allergens to proliferate because of some specific conditions, such as dust, carpeted floor, and humidity. In such an environment, allergens can grow, and you may not even be aware of them because these tiny creatures are invisible to the eye. Most of the time, you notice your bedroom is infested by allergens only when it’s too late and your symptoms have appeared.
We spend at least eight (or more) hours in our bedroom. What is supposed to be a place to rest and relax becomes a source of stress, and you end up coughing, itching, and sneezing. Instead of having a good night’s sleep and waking up ready for the day, you can have a bad rest and wake up already tired and nervous. It’s essential, thus, to know what are the most common allergens you can find in your bedroom and how to prevent or banish them from your home.
What is an allergen?
An allergen is a substance that triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body. When it enters the organism, the immune system recognizes it as an “enemy” and provokes an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions occur when your immune system is too sensitive to an outdoor substance. Once allergens are breathed in, the immune system mistakenly sees them as a danger, so it releases a molecule called histamine. The role of histamine is to attack the allergens and expel them. But, as a side effect, histamine causes inflammation, and so the typical allergy symptoms occur.
Depending on the kind of allergen, you can experience different symptoms. The allergens found in your house most often cause itchy eyes and skin, stuffy nose, coughing, and sneezing. In the most severe cases, they can lead to respiratory problems or trigger asthma (a condition characterized by continuous cough and breathlessness).
The most common allergens in your bedroom
Dust mites are the most common allergens you can find in your bedroom. These tiny creatures are microscopic bugs that grow up in warm conditions and (as the name may suggest) love dusty environments. They proliferate in mattresses, pillows, and carpets. Dust mites live on your skin: they take nutrients from your body and extract water from your sweat. They’re not dangerous, but they can trigger allergic reactions in people who suffer from allergies.
Symptoms of dust mite allergy include itchy or runny nose, congestion, coughing, scratchy throat, watery or red eyes, and itchy skin. In more severe cases, dust mites can trigger asthma. To prevent dust mites infestation, you should vacuum your bedroom very often (around three times a week) and wash bed sheets and pillowcases at least once a week.
Animal dander consists of tiny flakes of dead skin that come from your pet. All warm-blooded animals (including humans) lose some skin particles, which can float into the air and then deposit on surfaces. Animal dander can come from your pet’s skin, saliva, and urine. It can adhere to your bed, carpets, or everything else with which your pet comes in contact.
Some facts about pet allergies:
- Even if you can be more sensitive to a certain breed than the others, there is no hypoallergenic pet.
- Despite the common belief, pet hair isn’t an allergen. It triggers allergic reactions since dander “sticks” on it.
- Pet allergens can spread very easily: even petting the animal can diffuse allergens into the air.
- Your doctor can diagnose pet allergy by blood test or medical examination of your symptoms.
If you’re allergic to animals, dander can create breathing problems and trigger asthma. Pet dander tends to float in the air before falling onto a surface. If you allow your pet to stay in your bedroom, most probably, there will be some dander. Due to its small size, it isn’t easy to spot it, and it can remain in the air for a long time.
Symptoms of animal dander allergies include itchy skin, red and itchy eyes, coughing, sneezing, stuffy nose, asthma, and trouble breathing.
Mold is a kind of fungus that grows on several materials: walls, carpets, paper, wood, and also food. It can be a dangerous offender, as it leads to stale smell, causes health problems, and even damages your home.
Mold originates in dark and humid environments and flourishes in moist environments. It takes relatively little for mold to grow: it can develop in 24-48 hours if the conditions allow it.
When mold infects your room, you can see large colonies in the form of a network of filaments. It’s easy to recognize it: mold is usually black, green, or yellow and has a slimy texture. Other signs of mold infection in your home include a musty smell and cracked paint.
There are several different mold types, and you can be allergic only to one of them. If you’re allergic to mold, when you inhale its spores, you can have itchy eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and a scratchy throat.
Certain factors that can increase the risk of developing a mold allergy include: working in jobs that expose you to humidity (such as farming, millwork, carpentry), living in a house with a high humidity level, and poor ventilation.
Pollen is a powdery substance found in plants and is responsible for most seasonal allergies. You can find it mostly outside; however, if you open the window during pollen season or go out and don’t change your clothes, you can bring in some pollen.
The most common sources of allergens from outside plants include pollen, trees, ragweed, and cedar. Symptoms of pollen allergy include frequent sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy and burning eyes, itchy throat, postnasal drip, and asthma.
Cockroaches are some of the peskiest creatures that can infest your house. These bugs love warm, dark areas (especially basements and bathrooms); they enter the houses through pipes and drains and proliferate primarily in kitchens and bathrooms, while it’s rarer to find them in the bedroom.
Cockroaches walk in dirty areas and then can contaminate your home by leaving behind a lot of germs. They eat almost everything (including other insects), so it’s not a surprise to find them in your kitchen looking for food: they can be on the floor, in sinks, drawers, and shelves.
These bugs are responsible for allergies because they lose skin and waste byproducts that can trigger allergic reactions, especially in children.
How to banish allergens from your bedroom?
How to avoid dust mites
- Wash your blankets, sheets, and pillowcases once a week. Use hot water (at least 130 F) and dry everything in the sun or a hot dryer.
- Protect pillows, mattresses, and box springs with dust-mite-proof covers.
- Wash all bedding in hot water once a week.
- Avoid carpeted floors. If you have carpeting, vacuum it frequently using a HEPA filter.
- Dust all surfaces using a damp cloth.
- Avoid curtains and prefer plain window shades.
- If you use curtains, choose washable curtains and wash them in hot water every two weeks.
- Store books, toys, and clothes in enclosed drawers or closets.
- Maintain an indoor humidity level below 50%. You can use a dehumidifier or also buy some houseplants.
- If you use air conditioners, regularly change filters.
How to banish animal dander
- Avoid carpets because animal dander often sticks on them. If you can’t eliminate carpets, choose one with a low pile and clean it frequently.
- Don’t allow your pets to stay on the carpeted floor or your furniture (sofa, chairs, and so on).
- Vacuum the floor with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter.
- Wash your bed sheets, pillowcases, and blankets at least once a week.
- Make sure to wash your hands properly before and after touching your pet.
- Bath your pet weekly. In this way, you’ll reduce dirt and dander.
- Keep your pets away from bedrooms.
- If you visit someone who owns a pet, change your clothes when you return home.
- If the allergy is too severe, you should consider removing the pet from your house.
How to prevent or get rid of mold?
To prevent mold formation, you should:
- Monitor the moisture levels in your home.
- If there’s any leak, fix it.
- Maintain constant ventilation in your bedroom.
- Vacuum the floor regularly (at least three times per week).
- Use conditioners with HEPA filters.
- Use a dehumidifier to decrease humidity (keep humidity levels below 40%).
- Minimize all the possible sources of mold in your bedroom (avoid placing aquariums and houseplant or hanging damp clothes).
If you notice mold growth on your house’s walls, you should take action as soon as possible. Mold can spread quickly and become dangerous to your home and your health, leading to allergic reactions.
To eliminate mold from the walls or ceilings, you can spray a solution of bleach and water on the infected area (use one part of bleach to three parts of water). When you spray the solution, be sure the surface is damp but not dripping, and remember to open the window because bleach vapors can be irritating. You can repeat this operation more than once. When the wall is dry, remove the stains with a brush.
Bleach works well to remove the marks on the wall but doesn’t penetrate deeply into the wall. If you want to get rid of all the mold’s roots, you can use undiluted white vinegar: spray it onto the wall, let it dry, and then scrub the wall with a brush.
It’s essential to point out that this procedure to remove mold works well for drywall and ceilings (the ones most of the bedrooms have). But if you’re treating other materials, such as
How to eliminate cockroaches
Preventing cockroaches infestation is more complex than other allergens because it can depend on factors you cannot control (like the building’s structure and the outside climate).
Cockroaches are very resistant: they can survive almost a month without food, about two weeks without water, they live for up to one week without their head, and can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. It looks like a hard mission to get rid of these bugs, which look indestructible!
Don’t get discouraged; even if it’s more complicated than for other allergens, you can eliminate cockroaches from your house:
- Avoid eating in the bedroom. Cockroaches love breadcrumbs and food residues
- Use traps for cockroaches and mice. If your home gets contaminated, consider hiring a professional exterminator.
How to prevent pollen deposition in your home
- During pollen season, be sure to close the windows or use air cleaners to freshen up your house.
- Don’t hang your clothes outside: pollen can stick to some tissues (especially those of sheets and towels), and you can bring it to your home.
- When the pollen levels are too high, change your clothes as soon as you come back home and possibly have a shower.
- Use HEPA filters for your air-conditioning system and vacuum cleaner.
- Use a dehumidifier in order to keep the air inside your home dry.
- Wash blankets, pillowcases, bedcovers, and sheets frequently (at least once a week).
- Vacuum the floor and the carpets regularly.
- Clean corners, crevices, and all the places where pollen and dust can collect such as furniture, shelves, and vents).
- Remove all the sources that may collect allergens and dust, including books, toys, and ornaments.
- Replace old upholstered sofa and chairs with furniture made of metal, wood, or plastic.
Pro tips to reduce allergens in your bedroom
So far, we’ve analyzed specific techniques to get rid of dust mites, animal dander, mold, cockroaches, and pollen. Now, let’s explore in more detail general practices that work universally to improve the quality of your bedroom air and remove all sources of allergens.
Do regular cleaning
Dusty and dirty environments foster allergens growth for several reasons. Animal dander can deposit on carpets, furniture, and clothes. Dust mites proliferate in dusty environments. Food crumbs on the floor attract insects and cockroaches.
You can prevent or eliminate most of the allergens by doing regular cleaning of your house:
- Vacuum the floor often using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Dust the furniture using a damp or electrostatic cloth: this will help you pick up the dust rather than brush it away.
- Avoid carpets and replace them with tiled or hardwood floors. Carpets are one of the allergens’ favourite places and are more difficult to clean.
- There are some hidden parts of your house: windowsills, kitchen hoods, doors, rungs, and handles. You tend to forget to clean them, but dust and dirt can accumulate on these surfaces, so you should clean them regularly.
- Prefer natural products, such as vinegar and baking soda.
- Remember to wear a mask when you clean to prevent the inhalation of allergens and irritation from cleaning products.
Keep constant ventilation
It’s important to keep indoor air clean. Lack of airflow and low-quality indoor air can lead to the sick building syndrome condition, which provokes fatigue, headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions.
Frequent ventilation is essential to freshen up your space. It also regulates your humidity levels. Opening the windows doesn’t always decrease indoor humidity, but if the inside environment is too moist (for example, if you dry your clothes inside) and the outdoor air is dry, opening the window can regulate your indoor humidity levels.
Use hypoallergenic bedding
Allergens can attack bed sheets, pillowcases, and blankets, making your night sleep hard. It’s crucial to buy hypoallergenic bedding made of organic cotton, cotton, or bamboo. They’re not too expensive and are easy to maintain.
We spend a lot of time in bed, so it is a wise idea to change all of your bedding and replace them with hypoallergenic ones. That’s a simple action, but it can make many differences in banishing allergens in your bedroom.
Here’s a list of the hypoallergenic bedding you can use:
- Dust mite covers. Dust mite covers are the first barrier between your mattress and pillow and your bedsheets. They are made with a special membrane of cotton or polyester with very thin pores (generally around six microns). The membrane acts as a barrier and blocks allergens from passing through.
- Hypoallergenic pillows. Try a pillow that is filled with cotton or a washable material. When you buy hypoallergenic pillows, look for the “dust-mite proof” on the label. Use a dust mite cover also for the pillow.
- Hypoallergenic blankets. Use blankets that are filled with materials that you can wash. For example, silk and pure wool are great choices.
Monitor humidity level
Monitoring humidity levels in your home is vital for your health. When the air is too dry, it can irritate your nose and throat. On the other hand, when it’s too moist, it can lead to mold growth. A healthy humidity level spans between 30 and 50 percent.
You can use several appliances to regulate and maintain the proper humidity levels in your bedroom. For example, humidifiers and dehumidifiers alter humidity in the air and bring it to the desired level. You can also buy air purifiers that have the included function of adjusting the humidity.
Install air purifiers
Air purifiers help to cleanse indoor air and eliminate pollutants and substances that may increase your allergy symptoms. Installing air purifiers is crucial to obtain cleaner indoor air and, ultimately, making home a healthier place to live.
When choosing the right air purifier, analyze its effectiveness (the percentage of removed particulates, their cost, the kind of filter they use, and the energy consumed). For your bedroom, the best ones are HEPA filters, which can trap particles 0.3 microns or larger.
If you install air purifiers, remember to do regular maintenance of your air conditioning systems and filters.
Keep pets away from your bedroom
I know, when you have a pet, it’s easy to fall into the temptation to allow your furry friend in your bedroom. But if you’re allergic to pets, you should avoid doing this. Pet dander can be the trigger of unpleasant allergic reactions. If you have a garden, let your pets spend time outside: they will love it!
If you come back home from a friend’s house with pets, change your clothes immediately and wash your hands. Pet dander is microscopic and accumulates everywhere before you even notice.
Eliminate the clutter
Dust accumulates on things. The more stuff that you have in your home, the more dust will accumulate on it. I’m not saying that you should embrace minimalism all the way. Still, for sure, there are many unnecessary items in your house that you don’t need (for example, stacks of magazines, decorations, souvenirs, lamps, storage bins.
You do not have to dispose everything away, but eliminating the clutter can be the right opportunity to get rid of old things you don’t need anymore. Not only can it be healthy for your allergies, but it’s also proven that throwing things is a surprising way to boost your mood and feel better.
To clean your bedrooms from unnecessary clutter, don’t store anything under the bed, and move books, toys, and magazines to other rooms or closed drawers.
Banish allergens from your bedroom: a takeaway
The bedroom has all the ideal conditions for allergens to grow: dust, humidity, and carpeted floor. However, you can’t predict whether allergens will infest your house, but there’s a lot you can do to prevent their growth:
- Do regular cleaning of your bed sheets, blankets, and pillowcases. Wash them in hot water (at least 130 F) once a week.
- Clean the floor using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter.
- Dust the surfaces regularly (two or three times a week).
- Consider using hypoallergenic bedding.
- Install air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters and do regular maintenance of them.
- Keep pets away from your bedroom.
- Eliminate all the unnecessary clutter (stock of magazines, books, toys, and decorations) from your home.