For those who have spring allergies, or have someone in the house who does, here are some easy, free ways to get relief.
Get a jump on seasaonal alleriges with a few strategies to improve your home’s indoor air quality, create a refuge from outdoor pollutants and increase your quality of life.
Make a house cleaning plan to minimize allergens like dust and mold that trigger allergy symptoms.
Some no-cost strategies that require only diligence, effort and time include:
Change outside clothing when you get inside: This means you won’t "drop" allergens like pollen onto the floors, couches, etc., when you’ve spent time outdoors.
Declutter: Remove knickknacks to minimize where pollutants collect — and make dusting easier and faster.
Dust: Do this faithfully, sometimes every two to three days, with a dust-trapping tool (like a microfiber cloth or Swiffer duster).
Mop: Clean hard-surface floors to remove dirty and pollutants.
Leave shoes at the door: Ask this of anyone entering your home. Shoes harbor allergens, and if you wear them around the house, you'll track allergens around.
Vacuum: Regularly clean rugs and carpets. Depending on your allergies, you may need to do this more than weekly.
Wash bedding: Do this regularly in hot water to kill dust mites.
Air filters for allergies
The air filter in your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system can eliminate some contaminants and improve air quality. Most experts recommend changing filters monthly when the system runs often. People with allergies may need to change filters more often.
You can also improve air quality by using the “fan only” setting all the time on your HVAC. This keeps air moving through the filter, letting it trap more pollutants without using energy to create cool air. If the fan isn’t energy-efficient, you may need to factor in the energy costs.
Air purifiers for allergies
Using a portable or whole-house air purifier for allergies is a good idea for people with significant spring allergy problems, families with more than one allergy sufferer or when other tips don't help.
Portable units provide relief in one room, so people generally install them in bedrooms, where they spend the most time.
A whole-house system costs more but will circulate all the home's air through an effective filter.
Types of air purifiers
Before you invest in an air purifier, do your homework. Multiple types of air filters exist, and you can choose one that addresses your primary allergy needs.
High efficiency particulate air (HEPA): A HEPA filter is the highest efficiency air filter available and removes nearly all particulates in the home.
Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV): The higher the rating, the more small pollutants the filer removes. Standard HVAC filters generally are rate MERV 1-4. A filter with a higher MERV rating costs less than a HEPA filtration system. It's generally safe to install a MERV 5-12 filter in your HVAC system. Consult your owner's manual before installing a filter rated MERV 13-16, or ask your contractor for advice. Installing a filter with a MERV rating beyond what the manufacturer states your HVAC can handle can restrict airflow and damage the equipment.
Ultraviolet light: This tackles bacteria, molds and viruses.
Relief doesn't have to be expensive
You don’t need to invest thousands of dollars to improve your indoor air quality and alleviate allergies.
Focus on proper cleaning strategies, filtering the indoor air and strategically removing troublesome pollutants to make your home the place to be during spring allergy season.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on March 4, 2015.