Seasonal allergens are a popular scapegoat for a multitude of reactions: sniffling, sneezing and itchy eyes. During the summer months, pollen – one of the most common allergens – is floating around, even visibly so in some places. Researchers approximate that some 50 million in the U.S. alone believe themselves to be victims of seasonal allergies, and spring to be the season that most affects them.
But the idea that we’re more exposed to allergens during one time of year versus another is something of a myth, as the most common allergens are actually found indoors. Pollen is indeed lowest in wintertime, and this is especially true in colder climates. But we're exposed to allergens throughout the year, mainly because many of the most common allergens are actually related to indoor villains like dust mites, animal dander and mold.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce your exposure to allergens, including some pretty unique ones, like washing your hair before bed! But the majority of effective measures focus on the circulation and quality of the air around you. While we can’t do much in the short term to improve the quality of the air outside, the most powerful means of tackling our exposure to allergens comes from addressing the air inside, which is up to five times more polluted than the air outside.
To reduce your allergen exposure throughout the year, consider the following steps:
Not all filters are created equally. The “filter triangle”, the amount of air flow a filter allows and how well it traps particles, must be in balance if the device is to do its job properly. If the filter blocks air flow, that will cause problems, as will one that doesn’t catch enough particles. A high efficiency particulate filter will improve the clean air delivery rate, or the amount of air (in cubic feet) stripped of all particles of a given size per minute. Make sure this measurement matches up with the size of the room, and of course take care to switch out filters in your furnace and air conditioning units as often as possible.
Adjust the humidity level indoors, ideally to less than 50 percent, via a humidifier. Dust mites and mold are the most common allergens indoors, and both thrive in humid environments. Dust mites eat the dead skin cells that we shed, and when the environment is damp, those softened skin cells provide a feast. To reduce dust mites, and the conditions in which they’re most comfortable, it is important to keep humidity levels below 50 percent, according to the AAAAI. The good news is that once an effective humidifier is up and running, most dust mite populations will disappear within a few days.
Purchase an air purifier. Air purifiers help improve the quality of air flow in the rooms of your home by filtering out pollutants, allergens and irritants like cigarette smoke. A purifier like the Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System, which uses state-of-the-art technology to effectively remove 99.99 percent of particles as small as 0.007 microns as they pass through the unit, lessens exposure to these pollutants, allergens and irritants.
Consider your car. Allergens can enter through your car windows and sunroof, so roll everything up and set the vent setting to recirculate as often as possible. Allergens can also accumulate in your car’s air filters over time, so be sure to have them switched out frequently. Vacuum the seats and any other upholstered surface regularly, as dust mites can settle into the fabric. Be sure to clean up any spills quickly and thoroughly to prevent the accumulation of mold as well.
While it’s nearly impossible to completely rid the environment of pollutants, allergens and irritants, taking proactive, preventative measures can significantly reduce your exposure to common culprits like dust mites, pet dander and mold. Arm yourself with quality filters, the Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System and a clean car to reduce your exposure to allergens year-round. After all, quality of air is quality of life.