In the US, up to 30% of the population is affected by allergies, one of the leading causes of chronic health conditions in both adults and children.
Allergic reactions are often triggered by airborne irritants generated by animals, insects and other natural organisms commonly found in the home.
Mites and mold produce allergens that pollute the air and they are both found in dander, the microscopic material shed by cats, dogs and other furry pets.
These can cause allergic rhinitis, a common condition with cold-like symptoms including sneezing, coughing and watery eyes, or contribute to the severity of respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Even potted houseplants cause issues as the soil may harbor bacteria and mold spores, while pollen from both indoor and outdoor vegetation can trigger an allergic reaction or seasonal hay fever.
Improving your home’s indoor air quality is a good reason to keep your house clean, as it can help to rid your home of triggering allergens and ease the symptoms of anyone in the household with allergies.
Up to 80% of Americans are exposed to dust mites which, together with other common household pests such as cockroaches, create allergens in the air that cause irritation to the ear, nose and throat, and, in some more sensitive people, a severe asthma attack or other allergic reaction.
Dust mites can remain present in your home all year round and it is the waste they produce that is one of the most common indoor triggers for allergies.
By effectively eliminating pests from your home, you can significantly reduce your exposure to these harmful allergens.
While in some cases of pest infestation professional help may be required, dust mites can be controlled through keeping your home clean and dust free.
The heat from steam cleaning carpets, soft furnishings and furniture will kill dust mites.
Dust mites also thrive in bedding, so vacuuming your mattress or using dust proof covers to protect it and regularly washing your sheets in hot water will help to deter them.
While a very serious allergy to animals may prevent you from keeping a cat or dog, it is possible to relieve milder symptoms with careful management of pets in the home.
It is the protein present in a pet’s dander and fur that triggers allergies, so regularly cleaning and vacuuming will prevent the build up of dander and the allergens it contains.
Bathing your pet every week will help to reduce the amount of allergens shed from their skin and fur in the first place.
If anyone in the family has more severe allergies, making their bedroom a pet-free zone will offer them respite from symptoms.
While many people are allergic to their pet’s dander, their fur may also harbor other allergens such as pollen or mold spores.
Mold spores commonly cause allergic reactions and even without pets, mold can be present in the home especially in damp and poorly ventilated rooms.
A bleach solution can be used to remove obvious patches of mold on the walls, while reducing humidity levels in your home will prevent mold growth.
This can be done by opening windows, keeping lids on pans of water and avoiding drying clothes indoors.
In general, reducing the humidity of your home to no more than 50% will inhibit the growth of mold.
The use of vents and exhaust fans will ensure that the indoor air is kept flowing freely throughout your home, while dehumidifiers and air conditioners can also help to keep humidity levels low.
Another less obvious breeding ground for mold is the soil and roots of indoor plants which can also harbor potentially dangerous bacteria.
As well as causing infections through inhalation, bacteria in the air may also provoke allergic reactions in some people.
Asthma can be triggered by a protein called flagellin produced by the thread-like structures called flagella found on the surface of many bacteria.
Keeping HVAC pipes clean and regularly changing filters can help to eliminate the spread of bacteria through heating and ventilation systems, but plants may have to be removed completely if anyone is particularly sensitive to mold and bacteria.
Removing certain species of plants from the home may also be necessary because they release allergy-triggering pollen and spores into the air.
Pollen heavy flowering plants and greenery such as weeping figs or ferns are particularly aggravating to allergy sufferers, but pollen can also invade your home from outside.
During periods of high outdoor pollen count, it is advisable to keep windows and doors closed in order to avoid allergic reactions including seasonal hay fever, which according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation affects around 8% of adults in the US.
Fitting a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter, or using an air purifier, can remove 99% of particulate matter including pollen that is found in indoor air.
Whether they are well-loved pets or unwelcome pests, animals and other naturally occurring organisms are a common source of airborne allergens.
As well as releasing pollen, indoor potted plants can also harbor mold and bacteria, all of which trigger allergic reactions including seasonal hay fever.
While some plants may need to be removed from the home, air filters can remove particulates, regular cleaning helps to eliminate pests and mold, and the careful management of pets can minimize the presence of dander in the home.