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    How to Reduce Indoor Allergens

    The right products—used the right way—can help prevent sneezing and wheezing during the pollen season and beyond

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    detail of air purifier and person sitting on couch using smartphone to program the air purifier Photo: Getty Images

    One of the key ways to address seasonal allergies—keeping away from the substances that provoke them—sounds simple. But in practice, even when you’re indoors it can be a significant challenge to avoid exposure to the things that trigger your sneezing, wheezing, and itchiness.

    Still, a number of strategies and products that you can use at home will help. Here are some to try.

    Using Anti-Allergy Bedding

    To help protect you from animal dander and dust mites—ubiquitous, microscopic creatures that can cause allergy symptoms—research suggests using allergen-impermeable covers with woven fabrics on mattresses, box springs, and pillows.

    Nonwoven covers are less durable and won’t protect you from dust mites long term. Plus, their dimpled surface can allow a variety of allergens to collect there.

    So before you buy, check product labels for a fabric pore size (the size of openings in the weave) no greater than 6 micrometers or microns, and look for words such as “woven fabric.” 

    Washing Bedding in Hot Water

    Laundering sheets and pillowcases weekly is a must to reduce indoor allergens. Researchers have found that washing bedding in very hot water (in some studies, above 130° F) will kill dust mites. A hot-water wash will also reduce animal dander.

    more on allergy season

    But to avoid scalding, two leading organizations for allergy specialists recommend laundering linens at 120° F. Hotter water will kill only a few extra mites, says Jay Portnoy, MD, division director of allergy, asthma, and immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Many drown in the wash anyway, he notes, and a cycle in a hot dryer should do in the rest.

    See CR’s tips for cleaning your mattress and washing your pillows.

    Using a Vacuum With a HEPA Filter

    Vacuuming regularly can help reduce indoor allergens, but your best bet is to use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

    Although our tests of vacuums have found that those with regular filters suck up similar amounts of dander and dust as those with HEPA filters, in general, those with HEPA filters are better at keeping small particles from escaping from the vacuum and blowing back into the air.

    If you’re an allergy sufferer, give someone else the task of vacuuming. And avoid bagless vacuums, which can stir up dust when you’re emptying the bin.

    And check out some of CR’s highly rated HEPA filter vacuums.

    Purifying the Air

    Air purifiers are available in two configurations: portable models you can move from room to room and whole-house air filters, which can be used only in homes with forced-air heating and/or cooling.

    Typically, those are thin filters used in place of regular furnace or central air filters. Thicker models that may require professional modification of your heating and/or cooling system are also available.

    Here are some of CR’s top-rated room air purifiers.

    Balancing the Humidity

    Keeping your home’s humidity to 30 to 50 percent on a constant basis minimizes the growth of moisture-loving dust mites and mold, Portnoy says, which can help minimize indoor allergens.

    Because dehumidifiers should generally be used only in basements (they generate a lot of heat), a better strategy to reduce humidity if you need to is running a properly sized air conditioner.

    And if your air is too dry, consider using one of CR’s highly rated humidifiers.

    Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the April 2016 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

    Catherine Winters

    Catherine Winters is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to the Consumer Reports On Health newsletter and to Consumer Reports on health-related topics. A former marathon runner and amateur actress, she now spends her free time cycling, cross-country skiing, devouring macarons, and watching “Downton Abbey.”