Spring is a time for sunshine, fresh air and blooming flowers. But for those of us with allergies, even the most pleasant of breezes can make your home feel like an itchy, scratchy chamber in hell.
With all the germs and allergens lurking in every corner -- about 2,000 species of fungi, to be exact -- your house is basically a microbial zoo, according to a Dr. Noah Fierer, microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Learn how to prepare your space for the battle with this relentless time of year with these seven transformational tips.
1. Upgrade your vacuum.
If you've been using the same, decades-old vacuum for years, it may be time for an upgrade. Your vacuum could be spewing out the finer dust and debris it collects back into the air -- making it an allergy-induced nightmare.
Invest in a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can trap airborne allergens, according to Jotham Hatch, national training director for Chem-Dry, a carpet and upholstery cleaning service.
2. Allergy-proof your bed.
When you crawl under your sheets at night, you're tucking yourself away in a collection of pollen, mildew, fungus and maybe even some pet dander.
While you should be washing your sheets at least every other week, Hatch recommends upping that chore to once a week in hot water (about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Mayo Clinic). For added protection, use dust- and mite-proof bedding to keep the allergy-triggers at bay and, no matter how irresistible your pet may be, keep them off the bed.
3. Attack the dust.
It's easy to overlook the dusty corners of your home, but considering that household dust can contain a combo of human skin, animal dander, insect waste and can set off a respiratory storm, dusting your home is crucial during the sneezy season.
To reduce the amount of allergens in your home, dust at least once a week and, if your allergies are really bad, invest in an air purifier to give your lungs the relief it needs.
4. Keep your windows closed and change out your air filters.
After a cold winter, it can be tempting to open your windows to let the springtime air in, but for those with allergies, that fresh air can quickly become a nightmare scenario.
During allergy season, keep your windows closed and stick to central air to keep your place cool. Hatch suggests checking and changing out the air filters in your heaters and air conditioning vents to prevent dirt and dust from gathering and circulating around your house.
5. Put your houseplants on the offense.
Plants have a way of making a home look bright and fresh, but they are also ripe grounds for mold to grow. To prevent mold spores from thriving in your planters, place houseplants in an area with good circulation.
The Mayo Clinic also suggests sprinkling aquarium gravel over the soil to limit the growth of mold.
6. Don't wear shoes in the house.
If you want to prevent allergens from entering your home, leave footwear at the door. Your shoes pick up the dirt and pollen that loom outside and when you wear them indoors you're basically pollinating the floors of your home just like a bee.
If you can't stand having your bare feet exposed all night, slip on some house shoes and make sure to wash them periodically, as dirt and dust from your floor can collect on your indoor footwear over time.
7. Re-dress your drapes.
Heavy curtains can accumulate dust, mildew and pollen like a magnet. And when you pull them aside to let the spring shine in, you can conjure a dust devil of sorts within seconds.
Swap out thick curtains for light and breezy fabrics made with cotton or synthetic fabrics -- and don't forget to wash them often. If you're extra ambitious, you can throw them in with your weekly sheet wash to double up your defense.