Your home should be your sanctuary, so it's obviously not great when your apartment gives you allergies, makes you sick, or puts you at risk for health problems. I'm talking about puffy eyes, constant sneezing, and even issues with mold. (Yikes.) But don't worry — there are signs to look out for, as well as some pretty easy fixes, to make your home safe and comfy once again.
The first and main culprit to keep in mind, when it comes to indoor allergies, is dust and dust mites. Regular old dust is made up of tiny particles of food, plant and insect parts, and pet dander. Dust also contains microscopic mites and their waste products, according to AsthmaandAllergies.org. And that's when things get a bit more gross. The dust mite waste is what causes problems, as it contains a protein that is an allergen. Who knew?
And then, there is the issue of mold. Mold is way scarier than dust mites, especially when we're talking about black mold. (That's a whole different, much more dangerous issue, by the way.) Regular old bathroom mildew also isn't great, but at least it's not as toxic. It simply sits around, looking gross, and flaring up allergies with its spores, according to the Mayo Clinic.
These pesky allergens can hide in the least expected places, so here are some sneaky signs your apartment is making you allergic, and what you can do about it.
1. You Always Wake Up With Puffy Eyes
Early mornings are difficult enough without feeling all puffy and gross. And if you constantly wake up in such a state, it could be that you're allergic to your bedding. As Jamie Richards said on Prevention, "Do you have feathery pillows or a down comforter? If so, you might want to consider switching up your bedding, as the feathers could actually be what's making you bleary-eyed in the morning." The puffiness could also be due to dust mites, so make sure you wash those sheets in hot water once a week.
2. You Sneeze When The Fan Is On
Take notice the next time you turn on the ceiling fan. Are you suddenly stricken with a sneezing attack? That could be a sign that dust is tumbling down on your like snow. (Gross.) "Unfortunately, ceiling fans are a common host to dust and dust mites. Dust mites drop feces within dust, which aggravates allergy symptoms," noted Kristeen Cherney on Livestrong.com. Do yourself a favor, and use a vacuum or damp cloth to capture all excrements, and then cool down in peace.
3. You Feel Sickly After Cleaning
While not your apartment itself, cleaning supplies in your apartment can really wreak some havoc on your sinuses. That's because they give off fumes that get trapped indoors, and thus irritate your airways. As R. Morgan Griffin pointed out on WebMD, "The key is not to let the odors become too concentrated." The next time you feel the urge to bleach your bathroom within an inch of its life, do so with the windows open.
4. You're Keeling Over From Humidity
If your apartment is hot and stuffy, it's obviously going to be uncomfortable. But it will be even worse if you have allergies, since humidity helps breed mold. As Griffin said, "... moisture is a crucial ingredient for the growth of mold. Dust mites also thrive in a moist environment. So experts say that if you have allergies, you should try to keep humidity levels at 40 percent or below." To keep it at the right levels, invest in a hygrometer, which is a device that reads the humidity in your room. Pretty nifty, right?
5. You Can't Sit On The Floor
Sitting on the floor is fair game for those of us with tiny apartments. And yet doing so can really aggravate allergies — again, due to those darn dust mites. The best thing you can do is remove your carpets, especially from the bedroom. "A smooth-surfaced floor reduces the dust mite particles that accumulate in carpets," said Gina Shaw on WebMD. It may not be as cozy, but your watery eyes will thank you.
6. The AC Seems To Flare Up Your Symptoms
You can clean to your heart's content, and still deal with allergens floating around in your apartment. That's because dirt, dander, and dust can sneak in from the vents whenever your heating or a/c is turned on. See what you can do about having the filters replaced. "If your landlord didn’t replace the vent filters before you moved in, see if he or she is willing to make that upgrade now," suggested Lindsay Smith on ApartmentGuide.com. It should do the trick.
7. Your Allergies Linger Into The Winter
When it's no longer pollen-y spring, or humid summer, you've got to wonder what else could be causing your allergens to stick around. Often, it has to do with mold, and its annoying, allergy-inducing spores. It can often creep up in your bathroom, or behind the refrigerator, so keep an eye on these areas. "Mold likes humidity," said Ellen Greenlaw on WebMD. So don't take a shower without the fan on, fix leaky plumbing and pipes, and clean your bathroom on the regular. It should help keep the dreaded stuff from spreading.
8. You Can't Stand The Clutter
No one likes a dusty pile of magazines, or a closet full of cobwebs. Besides being mentally draining to look at, these areas collect tons of dust and can make allergies worse. "Clutter is your worst enemy when it comes to ridding your apartment of allergens," said Smith. "If you’re not using it, throw it out. Keep your apartment clear of any spots that can easily fill with dust." A minimalist, zen lifestyle may do your nasal passages some good.
9. You Feel Worse After Cooking
This one may seem strange, but your appliances can factor into your annoying allergy symptoms. "Combustion — in gas stoves, fireplaces, kerosene lamps, and many other devices and appliances — can produce nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants. If they're not vented to the outside, the gases they produce are coming directly into your living space," Griffin said. To avoid this, you'll want to steer clear of unvented appliances if possible, or at least cook with the window open.
10. You Feel Woozy After Painting
Sure, your apartment looks great after a fresh coat of paint. But did you know the vapors can really do a number on your allergies? "All paints produce vapors that create not only chemical odors in the air, but also an allergic reaction in many people. Coughing, runny nose, sore throat and congestion are standard reactions to paint fumes; sufferers may also experience itchy and watery eyes," noted Josh Patrick on Livestrong.com. If that sounds like it could be the case, look for paints labeled low-VOC or no-VOC (volatile organic compound), and breathe freer in your domain.
11. You Can't Handle Open Windows
If you're an allergy sufferer, then you know that an innocently opened window can spell disaster. That's because pollen floats on in, makes itself at home on all your surfaces, and turns your apartment into a veritable sneeze fest. But windows can affect your allergies in another way — with their gross, dusty curtains. When was the last time you cleaned your blinds, or threw your curtains in the wash? Never? Then it may be time.
And that's really all it takes to keep your apartment allergy-free — cleaning, decluttering, and occasionally airing the place out. If you do, you'll have your little sanctuary back again.
HIP staff regularly teach prospective clients the difference between what is minor surface mould and what is indicative of a wider issue and is requir...
Practical Information to Help Homeowners Understand and Deal with Mould / Mold