Lakia Shavon Lightner-Padgett has struggled with allergies to pollen and pet dander her entire life. And, on a few occasions, her moderate to severe allergies have triggered asthma attacks that have landed her in the ER.
She tells Yahoo Life that she knows she has to take her allergies seriously. "It’s important for me to take steps to avoid triggers and prevent episodes. This includes doing my best to allergy-proof my home.”
Lightner-Padgett has worked hard to create a healthy home environment, including using portable air
purifiers, vacuuming several times a week and running a dehumidifier to reduce the likelihood that mold will grow in her home. She also cleans her house regularly. “This helps improve my indoor air quality,” she says, noting that she sometimes wears a mask while cleaning to help lower her risk of exposure to her allergy triggers.
Her home also doesn’t have carpet—a big perk for helping her keep her place allergen-free, she says—and she washes her pillows and bedding in hot water. “We don’t have pets and I avoid indoor plants,” Lightner-Padgett says. “Surfaces stay clean and uncluttered to control dust mites. I also work to reduce moisture around my bathroom, kitchen sink and other areas to make sure mold doesn’t grow.” Overall, she says, she tries to follow the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s recommendations to remove allergens and create optimal indoor air quality.
It’s a lot, but Lightner-Padgett says it’s worth it. “I’m cautious but I take steps to make sure my asthma and allergies are under control,” she says. “While not totally carefree, I’m confident about my health.”
Struggle with allergies like Lightner-Padgett? Experts say there are several products you can use to set up a better home environment for yourself.
1. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
A high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is a pleated type of mechanical air filter, per the Environmental Protection Agency. It can remove at least 99.97 percent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is a must for people with allergies, Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, tells Yahoo Life. “It helps with mold and pet dander,” she says.
Carolyn Forte, a consumer products expert and the director of the Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, recommends the Miele HEPA Compact C2 Proline Canister Vacuum Cleaner. “This Miele is sealed, meaning no dust leaks out from around the body of the vacuum,” she tells Yahoo Life.
2. Try a laundry detergent free of dyes and perfumes
Laundry detergents with dyes and perfumes can irritate sensitive and allergy-prone skin, Parikh says. That’s why she recommends looking for a detergent that’s specifically free of those ingredients. Forte’s suggestion: Tide Free & Gentle detergent. “It’s also important to have a detergent that cleans well to remove soil and dirt that can also be irritating to skin,” she says. “Tide always tops our GH Cleaning Lab tests for cleaning performance.”
3. Cover your bedding in pillow and mattress protectors
Parikh says these protectors, which fit over your pillows and mattress, are a must if you struggle with allergies to dust. Her advice: Make sure they specifically say they keep out dust mites. “Dust mite proof covers for pillows mattress and box spring help immensely,” she says. Forte recommends Allerease pillow and mattress protectors. “They have extra tight weaves and secure closures to make sure nothing gets in or out,” she explains.
4. Invest in an air purifier
Running an air purifier in your bedroom at night can be “very helpful” for filtering out allergens like pet dander, mold and dust, Parikh says. (She also recommends keeping pets out of the bedroom at night to reduce allergens even more.) While there are a lot of air purifiers out there, Forte’s top pick is the Blue Air 311 Auto Air Purifier. “This model has a 3-part filtration—fabric, particle filter, and carbon filter—is quiet, easy to operate and removes odors, too.”
5. Run a dehumidifier
Dust mites and mold “tend to like humidity,” Parikh says. That’s why she recommends using a dehumidifier, which takes moisture out of the air in your home, if the humidity in your place is on the higher end. Forte suggests the Frigidaire High Humidity 50-Pint Capacity Dehumidifier. “This model has a large capacity, is easy to use with a digital humidity readout and [has] a window to see when the bucket needs to be emptied,” she says.
If you've tried these tricks and you're still not breathing easy at home, Parikh says it's time to check in with an allergist for help.