You might be tempted to throw open the windows to let in spring’s warm temperatures. But if you have allergies, “... you don’t want to do that,” said Dr. Maeve O’Connor, an allergist at Allergy Asthma & Immunology Relief. “It will bring the outdoor world inside.”
Reducing exposure to the pollens, grasses and weeds that trigger sneezing, runny nose and red, irritated eyes is one way to minimize these symptoms. (Medications and immunotherapy are the other strategies.)
While you can’t do anything about pollen counts outdoors, there are ways to tamp down on those that drift indoors – along with other common household allergens such as dust mites, pet dander and mold.
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Many purifiers work well to keep pollen levels down, O’Connor said. Look for units that use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which makers say capture more than 99 percent of fine, allergy-triggering particles.
Honeywell’s new Bluetooth Smart Air Purifier is one such unit. It is designed for use in a medium-sized room, up to 310 square feet. The device uses Bluetooth technology and a mobile app to sync to your smartphone for Internet access and hands-free control. Using the Internet connection, the app can track pollen counts in your geographic area and adjust the unit’s air-cleaning levels accordingly. The app also can turn the air purifier on or off, set a schedule for air cleaning, and remind you when the unit’s HEPA filter needs to be changed. ($219; bestbuy.com)
The Air Angel, from Air Oasis, is portable, so you can run it in a hotel room or even a car. It removes allergen particles within an area up to 250 square feet. ($250; www.airoasis.com/shop/air-angel)
Air Scrubber Plus is designed to filter the air in your entire home. The device is installed into existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. It uses ultraviolet light to destroy harmful microbes and other technologies to clear the air of pollen, dust and dander. ($1,200-$1,500; airscrubberplus.com)
Vacuum and steam cleaners
People with allergies need to clean frequently and thoroughly to keep allergen levels in the home low. The right cleaning equipment can make a substantial difference. “Feather dusters just pick stuff up and move it around,” said O’Connor.
As with air purifiers, vacuum cleaners that use a HEPA filter are preferred, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Dyson has two new models in that category, including the Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy. This machine has a carbon fiber brush to pick up fine dust from hard surfaces and a mattress tool designed to keep the bed free of irritants so allergy sufferers sleep well ($699; Lowe’s and other retailers) The V6 Absolute, the first cordless vacuum with a HEPA filter, allows you to attack nooks and crannies where dust, dander and pollen settle, from room corners to stair risers. ($599; www.dyson.com)
Steam is a “green” alternative to chemical carpet cleaners, which can irritate sensitive eyes and noses. Reliable Corp. recently launched the Steamboy 200CU, a floor mop that cleans sealed floor surfaces and sanitizes carpets without using toxic chemicals. The only ingredient used is water. The steam vapor reaches 248 degrees, which destroys dust mites. ($99, www.reliablecorporation.com)
Even with aggressive cleaning, allergens can persist, particularly in carpets and rugs. And vacuuming will not get to dust mites in carpets.
Allergists recommend replacing carpets with wood flooring, when possible, to cut down on exposure to irritants. Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, which produces wide plank hardwoods, pine and reclaimed wood flooring, can provide that relief. ($9 per square feet and up; www.wideplankflooring.com)
Warmer weather means more opportunities for bee and wasp stings. People with severe allergies, including many children, often carry an EpiPen injector in case of a potentially life-threatening reaction to bee stings called anaphylaxis.
A new digital tool, called Veta, helps you keep track of your EpiPen. It features a “smart” case equipped with sensors that activate an app on your iPhone or Android device if you get too far away from the case. ($59; www.aterica.com)
Reducing exposure to allergens
▪ Replace air conditioner and furnace filters every two to three months. To minimize pollen inside, use high-efficiency filters with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of 11 or 12.
▪ Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust mite-proof covers. Wash linens at least once a week in hot water. Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials.
▪ If possible, replace carpet and rugs with hardwoods or linoleum.