Allergy-proof your home

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Spring is in the air...and so are millions of pollen spores and other allergens. And you don't have to be outdoors to aggravate your allergies. Dust mites, dander and mold inside your home can trigger a reaction.
Today's Five Tips will help you cut these household allergens down to size.
1. Focus on the bedroom
If you're trying to eliminate indoor allergies, the best place


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Spring is in the air...and so are millions of pollen spores and other allergens. And you don't have to be outdoors to aggravate your allergies. Dust mites, dander and mold inside your home can trigger a reaction.

Today's Five Tips will help you cut these household allergens down to size.

1. Focus on the bedroom

If you're trying to eliminate indoor allergies, the best place to start is the bedroom. You spend about 80 percent of your time there, says Angel Waldron of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

There can be up to two million dust mites that live in your bed. The bedroom is the perfect haven for dust mites. They live in pillows, mattresses, bed springs, blankets, and comforters. Dust mites are invisible and they feast on dead skin. These mites are the number one indoor allergen and their population peaks in July and August.

What can you do to control these little pests? Wash your linens once a week in the hot cycle, which should be about 130 degrees. You should also invest in an allergen-proof pillow case and bed cover. The pillow cases may cost you about $10 and the mattress cover may cost between $50 to $100 at your local home improvement store.

Remember that, although it may not be the most comfortable thing in the world, a vinyl cover will work just as well, and it will only cost you about $5.

2. Freeze your teddy bears

It's not just the bedroom that's a breeding ground for mites, it's the zoo of stuffed animals your child may have laying around. Waldron says she was shocked when she saw the billions of mites a teddy bear could have.

"You can go ten, twenty years without washing those stuffed animals," she says.

If the stuffed animal can be washed, throw it in the laundry. But if it's an heirloom that is too delicate for the washer, you'll want to put it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for 24 hours.

"You'll kill the mites that are on the item," she says. But make sure to rinse off the dead mites before you give it to your little ones.

3. Control the pet dander

Our pets may be our best friend, but they are certainly not a buddy to our allergies. Approximately 10 million people are allergic to cat dander, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. Dog and cat allergens are found in almost every home in the U.S. (even homes that don't have pets.)

The type of pet you choose makes a big difference. Cats have the most allergens, according to Waldron, followed by dogs and rodents. Light haired female cats generally cause fewer allergy symptoms than dark-haired male cats according to studies.

To control the dander, make sure Fido or Fluffy stays off the furniture (especially your bed!). Pet allergens collect on thick carpets, large draperies and upholstered furniture. So you'll want to keep these to a minimum, or invest in a professional cleaning once in a while.

Washing your pet at least once a week has also been shown to make a large difference in cutting down on allergens.

4. Snuff out mold

Indoor mold can cause allergies year-round. Mold spores are airborne, so they create new mold colonies wherever they land. Some of your home's biggest mold hotspots: the basement, the bathroom and your closet...even houseplants can be a hideout for mold.

If you see mold growing on a hard surface, like your walls or your shower stall, use a mixture of bleach and water to scrub it off with a stiff brush. Of course, you should be wearing rubber gloves here.

To keep mold from coming back, make sure you cut the humidity in your home to 40 percent or below using a dehumidifier. You may also want to use your air conditioner to get rid of the humidity. Cooling the air decreases its ability to hold water. You should also get rid of firewood and piles of leaves and weeds in your backyard.

5. Keep pollen out

Runny nose? Watery eyes? You may have pollen to blame. And this allergen can get you in almost all the seasons...from tree pollen in the Spring to ragweed in the Fall.

If you are especially sensitive, when the pollen count is high either don't leave the house or keep the windows closed. That's between 5 am to 10 am.

Pollen is also a very sticky traveler. You'll want to remove your shoes when you come inside the house. Washing your hair before you go to sleep is also a good way to cut down on wayward pollen spores that have collected there.

Finally, think twice about hanging your laundry out to dry. Even your clean clothes can be pollen collectors.

____________________________

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. Send your questions, your comments and your own ideas to us at 5tips@cnn.com.

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