Tips for Reducing Indoor Allergen Exposure

Today, I welcome Jennifer Caicedo,MD, an Allergy and Asthma Specialist based in Charlotte, NC to share with us tips to reduce our exposure to Fall and Winter Indoor Allergens.
As we all wait for the temperature to drop, indoor allergies get much worse in the winter and are a common trigger of asthma flare ups. Here is a summary of the most common indoor allergens and some changes you can make to help your child feel better. By Jennifer Caicedo, MD

Dust Mites

These microscopic creatures are common triggers to asthma and allergy and thrive in bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting.
Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in special allergen-proof covers.

  • Bedding should be washed weekly in hot water (130 degrees Farenheit) and dried in a hot dryer.
  • Encase mattresses, box springs, and pillows in special allergen-proof covers
  • Stuffed animals should be kept in a plastic container with lid and taken out only for play. If there is a favorite stuffed animal for nighttime it should be washed weekly in hot water and dried as above.
  • Keep humidity levels in the home low (less than 50%). Dust mites do not live or reproduce as well when humidity levels are low.
  • Consider removing carpeting in the bedroom and replacing with solid flooring.
  • Throw rugs may be used if they are regularly washed or dry cleaned.

Pet Allergens

Please keep in mind, there are no “hypoallergenic” breeds of dogs or cats. This is because people are not allergic to the animal’s hair, but to the allergen found in the saliva, dander (dead skin flakes), and/or urine of the animal. Before getting a pet, you can see a board certified Allergist to determine if you are allergic to animals. If your pet is already considered a part of your family and removal from the home is not possible, here are some tips to minimize exposure.

  • Keep the pet out of the bedroom and other rooms where you spend a great deal of time.
  • Frequent washings of the pet (twice a week) can help to reduce dander levels.
  • Purchasing a HEPA room air filer for your bedroom and other rooms where you frequently spend time can also help.
  • If you do handle your pets, wash your hands and/or shower to remove allergen from your body and prevent prolonged exposure.
  • For caged animals, such as hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, etc, have a non-allergic person clean the cage.
  • Frequent vacuuming of carpet or carpet removal can have added benefit in reducing pet allergy symptoms.


Cockroaches are often found in the homes of densely populated urban areas, in schools or commercial buildings. Their presence does not mean you have a dirty house or living area.

  • If you see cockroaches in your home, call an exterminator to have them removed.
  • Fix all leaky faucets and pipes
  • Keep all food stored in sealed containers
  • Avoid leaving dirty dishes out
  • Vacuum and sweep floor after meals
  • Use lidded garbage containers in the kitchen

Indoor Molds

Typically found in basements, bathrooms, or anywhere there is a water leak.

  • Get rid of mold growth on hard surfaces, consider hiring a professional
  • Fix any sources of dampness such leaking roofs or pipes
  • Consider placing a dehumidifier in your basement
  • Avoid adding any humidity to the air with room humidifiers and/or entire HVAC system humidifiers
  • Promote good ventilation in your home to deter mold and mildew growth.

If you still have problems with your indoor allergies despite the tips above, see a board certified Allergist to discuss treatment options such as desensitization therapy (Allergy shots or drops).

Jennifer Caicedo, MD

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