Key things to know about spring allergens, and ways to minimize them while spending more time indoors during the COVID-19 outbreak.
On average, people spend 90% of their time indoors. But with shelter-in-place orders in effect across the country due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that number is likely even higher. What does that mean for those affected by seasonal allergens? What are some ways to minimize allergens in the home? Experts from Allergy Standards Limited and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) weigh in.
Dr. John McKeon, CEO and founder of Allergy Standards Ltd: Having good indoor air quality is an important part of living in a healthy home. While we bring allergens like pollen and animal dander into our homes from the outdoors, our indoor environment also creates airborne allergens and pollutants. Dust mites build up naturally and thrive on dead skin. Particles are released into the air whenever furnaces, wood-burning fires or candles are used. Cooking releases oil and fat particulates into the air. Beloved family pets release pet dander.
The specifics of your home environment also impact air quality. Since newer, more energy efficient homes don’t have the same gaps and cracks as older homes, there is less outdoor air infiltration. Humidity can lead to higher dust mite levels.
The important part of minimizing allergens in the home is understanding which allergens you or your family members are concerned with:
In general, it’s important to be conscious of the quality of your indoor air. If pollen or allergen levels are not high in your area, open your windows for a period every day, or make sure your HVAC system is circulating air at a rate that takes account of the extra time spent in the home. Air cleaners can filter out unwanted particles, but it is still good to refresh the air.
McKeon: It depends on what you are allergic to. If you are particularly sensitive to pollen, then staying indoors may help reduce your allergic symptoms. However, pollen can still be introduced into the house through open windows, spending time in the garden, etc.
If you are sensitive to dust mite allergen or to pet dander, you should take steps to reduce the triggers in your indoor environment, so that your allergies are not exacerbated by spending more time indoors.
McKeon: Seasonal allergies are most commonly caused by grass and tree pollens. To help manage spring allergens, consider taking some or all of the following actions:
Kenneth Mendez, AAFA CEO and president: Heavier allergy seasons mean more intense and longer duration releases of tree, grass and weed pollens that trigger allergic reactions and allergic asthma. Actual pollen counts are typically available from local allergy clinics. Pollen forecasts can be weather dependent and provided as part of a weather forecast. Warmer winters and longer growing seasons make for greater challenges for allergy sufferers. As our climate warms, the pollen seasons are intensifying. Over the past two decades, growing seasons have increased by up to a month in the United States. In the fall, for example, allergens like ragweed continue to grow unchecked until the first frost which now happens much later because of warmer winter temperatures.
Each year, we publish our Allergy Capitals report which looks at the 100 largest cities in the United States and ranks them based on the most challenging places to live if you have allergies. The rankings are based on pollen counts, access to allergists and use of OTC allergy medication. We believe those three variables influence how challenging it is to manage your allergies every season.
*Editor’s note: Filtrete™ Brand is proud to produce filters that are certified asthma & allergy friendly®. As you prep for allergen season and spend more time indoors, we’re here to help you maintain a cleaner home environment.
Filtrete™ HVAC Filters MPR 1500 and above, including our Smart Air Filters, use exclusive 3-in-1 technology from 3M to pull in and capture unwanted airborne particles, including viruses, bacteria, dust, mold spores and pollen—helping to keep indoor air cleaner and fresher.
Keep in mind, you need to change your filter at least every 90 days for optimal performance. After removing your filter, place it in a bag before disposing. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after disposing.
**The CERTIFIED ASTHMA & ALLERGY FRIENDLY Mark is a Registered Certification Mark of the ASTHMA AND ALLERGY FOUNDATION OF AMERICA and ALLERGY STANDARDS LTD.