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Vacuum away indoor and outdoor allergens

Autumn leaves

Allergies tend to grab our attention when the seasons change and symptoms rear their ugly heads. In the fall, tree pollen tends to get the blame for our respiratory misery. Other common allergens like dust mites can cause trouble all year long. Regardless of whether your allergy symptoms are seasonal, regular and proper vacuuming should be part of your allergy prevention strategy.

We have one piece of advice allergy sufferers might love: If possible, somebody who doesn’t have allergies should do the vacuuming. But these tips will help cut down on the amount of allergens in your home no matter who is behind the vacuum.

Use an effective filter: HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters remove more than 99 percent of allergens with particles larger than .3 microns. They can be helpful in removing common allergens like dust mites and pollen. Micro-lined, two-ply vacuum cleaner bags will help prevent those dust particles from blowing back into the air.

Vacuum more than just the floor: Vacuum upholstered furniture, mattresses and drapes regularly. All can harbor allergens.

Don’t forget about the hard surfaces: Use a stick vacuum to remove pollen and dust mites that might have settled onto hard, non-carpeted surfaces.

Other appliances can help, too: Pollen comes out in the wash, and washing your clothes in hot water can remove dust mites. Your dehumidifier, air conditioner and room air cleaner can also help you get the upper hand on both outdoor and indoor allergens.

Room air cleaners: Your ally against allergens

The spring and summer weather is always a welcome change. The allergies that come with the warmer temperatures, not so much. Depending on where you live, you might be dealing with any of a number of types of pollen, road dust or other allergies. The coughing and sniffles will put the brakes on even the most intense case of spring fever.

You might not be able to get rid of allergies completely, but a room air cleaner can help reduce certain allergens from the air in your home. Room air cleaners certified through AHAM’s certification program will display a label listing the room air cleaner’s efficiency in reducing three common household particulates from the air: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. The numbers displayed on the label are known as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). The higher the CADR rate for each of the three particulates, the faster the air cleaner filters the air.

How it works: AHAM certified room air cleaners are tested in independent labs and exposed to specific quantities of smoke (the smallest particulate), Arizona road dust (which has fine particles that will eventually settle) and paper mulberry pollen (chosen for its similarity in size to common allergy-triggering pollens).  Before the air cleaner is activated, the amount of contaminants in the room is measured.   The air cleaners are then run for a specific period, and the amount of particles that have been removed from the air are measured. Testers take into account the amount that is likely to have settled on the floor of the walls of the room (known as the “natural rate of decay”).

Based on the results, testers are able to determine how effective the room air cleaner will be in cleaning a room of a certain size.

What it means for you: Before you shop, know the size of the room or rooms where the room air cleaner will primarily be used. Shop carefully for one that’s appropriate for that room size.  We recommend following the “two-thirds” rule when it comes to the first rating: Choose a unit with a tobacco smoke CADR at least 2/3 your room’s area.”

Like some vacuums, many air cleaners use HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air. It’s important to change the air cleaner’s filter regularly. The air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often the filter needs to be changed, but it also may depend on the air quality where you live. A dusty environment may require you to change the filter more frequently. However, the filter may last longer if the room air cleaner is being operated in an area relatively free of smoke and other pollutants.

The room air cleaner isn’t the only appliance that can help you kick allergies this spring. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers and washing machines can be valuable allies as well.

Looking for fall allergy relief? Your humidifier or dehumidifier could help!

Late October usually brings beautiful autumn colors and more comfortable autumn temperatures. Unfortunately, sniffles, sneezes and colds are often close behind.

“It’s a trifecta this time of year,” said David Stukus, M.D., a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State

University College of Medicine. “The most common cause is circulating viral infections as kids go back to school,” Stukus says. “The other would be changes in the weather pattern, which can cause worsening symptoms that are often preexisting. We have ragweed and mold spores, especially on rainy days and when the leaves collect in the fall.”

Things might not be much better indoors for those with dust mite or other environmental allergies. As temperatures drop and the windows are closed, those allergy symptoms can get worse.

Depending on the symptoms and cause, the course of treatment might include use of a humidifier or dehumidifier. Here’s how each could help:

Humidifier: “For people with chronic nasal congestion or postnasal drip, we’ll often recommend running a humidifier in the bedroom at night,” Stukus says. Only use water in the dehumidifier, he says. “We never recommend putting any kind of medicine, herbal treatment or essential oils inside a humidifier,” Stukus says. “Diffusing medicine through these products can cause irritation of the skin, nose and lungs.” The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends only using distilled or demineralized water in humidifiers, as the minerals in tap water can increase bacteria growth and produce a dust that makes symptoms worse. Use the humidifier in the room in which you spend the most time. Typically, that means the bedroom. Clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold and mildew development, which can make symptoms worse.

Dehumidifier: Those who have allergies to dust mites will want to aim for a less humidity, as the microscopic mites tend to thrive in a humid environment. A dehumidifier can help. “If they have high humidity levels in their home or obvious mold growth, that would be a good indication to get a dehumidifier,” Stukus says. AAAAI suggests keeping the humidity level in your home between 30 and 45 percent.

There’s no single course of treatment for allergies, so it’s essential to see a physician who can conduct the proper examination and testing to find out what’s causing the symptoms. Don’t try to self-diagnose. “[Diagnosis is] complicated and highly individualized,” Stukus says. “You really need to know what’s going on with that person to provide the best course of treatment.”

Looking for a way to remove some of the pollen and allergens from the indoor air? Room air cleaners certified through AHAM’s certification program have been certified and verified by an independent laboratory, assuring consumers that the product will perform according to the manufacturer’s product claims for suggested room size and the reduction of three common household particulates: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen, commonly referred to as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).

Physicians share their allergy prevention advice

Ragweed. Pet dander. Tree pollen. Mountain cedar. Regardless of what’s causing your allergy symptoms, the sniffling, coughing, sneezing and itching are a major downer any time of the year. Before you reach for the antihistamines, look around the house. Odds are you already have many of the tools—your appliances—that can reduce the level of allergens in your home and help you breathe a bit easier.

AHAM spoke with two allergy experts, Corinna Bowser, M.D., of Narberth Allergy & Asthma in Narbeth, Pa., and Sakina Bajowala, M.D., of Kaneland Allergy in North Aurora, Ill., who shared their advice on how your appliances can help you find allergy relief:

Vacuum: Vacuums with HEPA filters can be helpful in removing both ground allergens, like dust mites, and airborne allergens like pollen. A stick vacuum may be a convenient option to help you remove dust mites from the hard surfaces in your home between regular cleaning sessions.  Finally, consider having someone who doesn’t suffer from allergies do the vacuuming.

Room air cleaner: Air cleaners also utilize HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air. Do you have pets? Keep an air cleaner running in the room or area where the pets spend their most time and in the room where the allergic person sleeps. “Running a HEPA filter can help to reduce the levels of allergens in the air by up to 50 percent,” Bajowala said. “The air filters can help trap a lot of the allergens and make the air more suitable for asthmatic or allergic patients to breathe.”

Air conditioner: Air conditioners will help filter outdoor allergens and keep them outside. Combine them with a room air cleaner for an extra layer of protection. “Many patients with asthma and allergies do a lot better in air conditioned environments,” Bajowala said. “Both room and portable air conditioners can be helpful.”

Dehumidifier: The dreaded dust mite thrives in a human environment. “The more people, animals and humidity, the more dust mites,” Bowser said. Dust mites live year round, which means you have to take year-round precautions. Dehumidifiers can help reduce the humidity in your home and give the mites a less-favorable environment. “The recommended humidity is under 50 percent,” Bowser said. Bajowala recommends purchasing a humidity monitor to check your levels. Keep in mind that any appliance that uses water has the potential to grow mold, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning.

Washing machine: Dust mites tend to thrive in mattresses. You can help kill the mites by washing your linens in hot water. Washing machines will also help remove outdoor allergens like pollen from your clothes. “The pollen that covers cars is the same stuff that settles in our hair and clothes,” Bowser said. “It can become airborne again.”

Dishwashers: This isn’t related to seasonal allergies, but Bajowala recommends that anyone who lives in a home where someone suffers from food allergies wash their dishes on a sanitize cycle. “It does a better job of cleaning the surface and not transferring [allergens] from dish to dish. Hand washing can leave food protein behind.”

Finally, it’s important to visit a doctor to see if you can find out what’s causing your symptoms. “It helps to get tested and see what you’re allergic to,” Bowser said. “You can then focus more on what’s causing it and get the right advice.”

Give the air in your home a spring cleaning

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With memories of massive snowfalls still fresh in the minds of many, it’s easy to forget that spring allergy season is just about here. When the first sniffles of spring strike, allergy sufferers may be tempted to hole up and avoid the outdoors. But the air inside may be just as bad or even worse, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA estimates that indoor air may contain double to five times as many pollutants as the air outside.

There are four main sources of indoor air pollution: pollen tracked in or blown in from outside; animal dander; mold and mildew; and tobacco smoke. All can make your allergies worse. But there are some steps you can take to fight back, and your appliances can help you get the upper hand on allergens:

Invest in a room air cleaner: If you decide to buy a room air cleaner, look on the packaging for the AHAM Verifide Label, which will list Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) numbers for tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. The higher the numbers, the faster the air cleaner will clean the air. Buy a room air cleaner appropriate for the size of the room in which it will be used.

Suck it up: Your vacuum is one of your best tools in the quest to rid your home of allergens. Vacuum your carpet and rugs at least once a week, and twice a week in high-traffic areas. Vacuum your upholstered furniture, mattresses and drapes regularly. Consider doing a deep clean with solutions made to loosen and extract allergens.

Wash it away: Wash your bedding in hot water—at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit—to remove allergens from sheets and blankets and the kids’ stuffed animals.

Learn more about how AHAM’s Clean Air Delivery Rate program for room air cleaners, and how you can find AHAM Verifide Products.

Tips for Managing your Child’s Allergies

Child allergies

If your child is one of the millions that suffer from allergies in the U.S., you know that it can be hard to control their symptoms.  Reducing contact with airborne allergens like dust and pollen can help prevent the onset of symptoms in children.

Here are a few steps you can take around the house that may help your child breathe easier:

  • Keep windows closed in the car and at home and limit outdoor activities, especially when the pollen count is high.
  • Give them a bath or shower before bed to help remove the allergens that may have collected on them or their clothes throughout the day.
  • Vacuum the carpet and floors throughout the home on a regular basis and consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Dust mites tend to live on the floor, bedding and furniture, so you should wash your child’s bedding frequently in hot water.  You can also use dust mite allergen covers on bedding.  It is also helpful to minimize the amount of extra pillows and stuffed animals that are kept on the bed, since they also collect dust mites.
  • Do not hang laundry outside to dry where it may collect pollen and other allergens.  Use a dryer or hang the clothes inside instead.
  • Use a portable room air cleaner in your child’s bedroom to filter airborne particles and help them breathe—and sleep—easier.  A portable room air cleaner that’s received a Clean Air Delivery Rate seal may reduce the level of airborne pollutants.

Search for AHAM Verifide air cleaners in the online directory found on www.AHAMVerifide.org where you can compare models. Search by room size to find the models that are most appropriate for your child’s bedroom.  Look at the CADR ratings for tobacco smoke, dust and pollen and find the models that have the highest ratings since they will clean your room the fastest.  You can then weigh the importance of product features, such as design and wifi connectivity, to find an air cleaner that fits your needs.

Worrying about Fall Allergies?

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Think it’s too early to begin worrying about fall allergy season? Think again! According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology  (ACAAI), fall allergies can be especially bothersome to those who are allergic to pollen and ragweed. In particular, ACAAI states that hay fever and autumn leaves can trigger allergic reactions. They note:

Hay Fever – Hay fever, a term from a bygone era, actually has nothing to do with hay. Instead,  it’s a general term used to describe the symptoms of late summer allergies. Ragweed is a common cause of hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis. The plant usually begins to pollenate in mid-August and may continue to be a problem until a hard freeze, depending on where you live.

Pesky Leaves – Some folks might find it difficult to keep up with raking leaves throughout the autumn. But for allergy sufferers, raking presents its own problem. It can stir agitating pollen and mold into the air, causing allergy and asthma symptoms.

One of the best methods of combating allergies is to purchase an AHAM Verifide® portable room air cleaner. Room air cleaners that are certified through AHAM’s Certification Program have been certified and verified by an independent laboratory, assuring consumers that the product will perform according to the manufacturer’s product claims for suggested room size and the reduction of three common household particulates: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen, commonly referred to as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).