1. Clear the air
Mould and fungus are two of the peskiest at-home allergens. Humidity causes both to run riot, so keep it below 50 percent by adjusting your air conditioner or using a dehumidifier (most stand-alone units cost less than $300). Change your heating and AC filters monthly to prevent clogs; call in the professionals yearly to clear out your air ducts. And consider installing a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter if you’re still congested: Research has found that HEPA purifiers and vacuums can significantly reduce levels of mould, dust, bacteria and pollen.
2. Be tidy
Dust begets dust mites, a major allergen. One U.S. study found that 45 percent of homes have enough mites to trigger a reaction. The best way to get rid of dust is by – you guessed it – dusting. Clean frequently with a damp rag, so you don’t send particles back into the air. Toss blinds or shades for cotton drapes that you can throw in the washing machine, and replace carpeting with hardwood flooring or washable area rugs.
If you must have carpet, low-pile will provoke fewer sneezes, and remember to vacuum weekly. Your plants could also use allergy-proofing, since soil is a breeding ground for mould. If you’re not into fake flora, covering the dirt with gravel or aquarium rocks will help.
3. Know the danger zones
Bathrooms are a hot spot for mould; bedrooms are a dust mite’s paradise. Clean the bathroom with diluted bleach, and always towel-dry the tub. Toss magazines and replace mouldy shower curtains and musty bath mats. Buy mite-proof covers for beds and pillows, and wash linens weekly in hot water – studies have shown that 130F water will do the trick.
4. Stock a smart kitchen
Even if your kids are food-allergy free, their friends may not be.
If you have lots of tykes around, wipe down surfaces before play dates, and avoid serving nuts and fish: Even their smells can trigger allergic reactions. And check every label, advises Jane Brooks, who teaches immunology at Acadia University. “Even dog food can contain peanut shells.”