7 Ways to Reduce Physical Exposure to Environmental Allergens

I try to avoid the use of allergy medications as much as possible, so I’ve tested out a variety of non-medical ways to reduce my family’s environmental allergic reactions to tree pollens, grass pollens, and dust mites. Here are the things that we do that seem to have helped in order of suspected effectiveness.

1) Run the air purifier

We have serious dust mite allergies, so I run an air purifier on high in my children’s carpeted bedroom about 1 hour before their bedtime, then I switch it to low for the remainder of the night. We’ve been told to run it 24/7, but that seems excessive. Apparently, it takes approximately 1 hour for the air in the bedroom to be completely filtered. I also run it about 1 hour after I vacuum. Our vacuum doesn’t have a HEPA filter, and I’ve also read that even if it does have a HEPA filter, the sheer act of vacuuming kicks up enough dust (mites) that then need to be filtered. There seem to be a lot of fancy, pretty models on the market these days. We have a pretty old Honeywell one that looks like this model. It seems to do the job, so my thought is, you may not necessarily need a fancy medical grade one.

2) Avoid being outside between 5am to 10am

I only recently learned about this, but according to multiple online sources, pollen counts are highest between 5am-10am and after sunset. Close your windows before dark! I realized how true it was when one of my kids started having a runny nose every time we tried to do a 7am walk during shelter-in-place, but had zero issues when out in the afternoon. So much for trying to become an early morning exercise person.  On the other hand, now I feel a lot better about sleeping in.

3) Wear a face mask

ReduceEnvironmentalAllergens
I’ve got a lot of face masks around the house these days.

If you do have to be outside in the early morning, then try a face mask. This made a HUGE difference for my massive grass allergy when I was outdoors recently – it wasn’t even a PM 2.5 or N95 mask. Just a simple, single layer fabric mask seemed to do the trick. Fortunately, it’s become normal to wear masks these days, so my grass allergy symptoms have significantly improved.  I also suspect I have a temperature sensitivity allergy that is sensitive to the change from the warmth of my bed and being suddenly cooler. I swear it’s real, and putting on a mask immediately after getting out of bed seemed to help!

4) Vacuum regularly

By this, I mean once every 1-2 weeks. That may seem like a lot or very little to you. To me, it feels like a lot and so we have an iRobot that we set loose in the bedroom. It really helps, especially with getting under the bed and not making it seem like such a chore. Again, we have a very old model (older than this, so it’s not a true HEPA filter and doesn’t filter dust mites), but I still see a very full dust container at the end of each run. I run it twice for good measure. We run the air purifier to get rid of the resulting airborne dust mites (in theory).

5) Use a nasal spray / Neti Pot / eye wash

I keep a few canisters of regular saline spray by our home’s entrances. If it seems like a high allergen day, I have the kids do a thorough spray in each nostril and blow, when they’ve been outside. We’ve tried this Arm & Hammer brand and the Little Remedies brand with similar results. Arm & Hammer is available at our local Costco for a much better price. Ideally, I could teach them to use the Neti Pot, but it’s a little too involved.

My mom and kids seem to also have a strong reaction to allergens in the eyes and frequently have very red or itchy eyes after being outside. We have used allergy eye drops, but I don’t find them very effective. Instead, briefly washing the eyes out with a few artificial eye drops or eye wash seems to help clear or prevent the red. The sooner you do it after being outside, the better it works. We use these single use Refresh vials the most.

6) Use dust mite covers

These alone, didn’t seem enough to make an actual difference. My kids were still getting congested at night when we had these. I think the air purifier made the most difference. But now we have the dust mite covers for all their pillows, mattresses, and duvets, and I’m not about to remove them to test. All covers are not equal though, so I researched a bit and ended up using this website’s reviews to help with the selection and considerations.

7) Run pillows and comforters through the dryer on high heat

High heat is supposed to kill or at least reduce dust mites, so I run the kids’ pillows and comforters on high heat in the dryer for 20-30 minutes every month. Since I only do this about once a month, it’s hard for me to tell if this is a necessary step or if changing sheets along with the use of dust mite covers is enough.

Thoughts? More info? Better info? I’m all ears. Email me at:  wishiknewbefore20@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

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