If you're one of the more than 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from some type of allergy, you don't have to resign yourself to misery this time of year.
"There are plenty of things you can do to cut down on the amount of mites, mold, mildew and pollen in your home," says Dr. Jana Tuck, a physician and a fellow and board member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Here, her top tips for keeping your home as allergen-free as possible.
1. Don't track in pollen.
When you come inside, make a habit of taking a shower, washing your face, brushing your hair and changing your clothes. (You should also throw your clothes in the washing machine as soon as you take them off.) If you or anyone you live with is allergic to pollen, these moves will prevent you from spreading them throughout the house.
2. Dust off your duster.
It's important to dust and vacuum at least weekly to keep the mold, dirt and dust in your home to a minimum. "Ninety percent of most home dust is actually your own skin cells," says Tuck. "If you're decreasing that, you're decreasing what the dust mites eat."
3. Consider redecorating.
If you have a dust mite allergy, your carpet and furniture could be aggravating the problem. Tuck recommends switching from carpeting to tile, linoleum or hardwood flooring and swapping out cloth furniture for leather. If a whole-house renovation isn't in the budget, Tuck says your bedroom is the first place you should ditch the carpet. "That's the room that I ask patients to try to focus on since it's the place in your home where you spend the most time," she says.
4. Check for leaks.
Water leaks are a potential source of mold and mildew, and you probably don't check for them frequently enough. At least twice a year, make sure to inspect the water hookup to your refrigerator and under your kitchen sink. "Most people don't think about those pipes because they don't see them very often," says Tuck, "but if you spot a leak when it's small, you can prevent a potential mold or mildew problem before it happens." The twice-a-year rule also applies for the plumbing in your bathroom. If you've checked for leaks and still suspect mildew, call a plumber to check the venting.
5. Mind your mattress.
People who are allergic to dust mites should invest in allergy-proof cases for pillows, mattresses and box springs. Another good rule of thumb when it comes to the bedroom: Don't let pets spend significant amounts of time there. Even if you're not allergic to Fido, he can carry mold or pollen in his fur. To prevent animals from making your symptoms worse, brush your pets' fur and bathe them weekly -- and make sure to do it outside.