People with indoor allergies often have to think strategically about their living space in order to avoid symptoms. Apartments, just like other types of homes, contain a variety of allergy triggers.
Though each person is affected by allergens differently, understanding which ones are most common and learning strategies to deal with them can help. Since apartments are typically smaller spaces, allergens like dust and pet dander can be more concentrated. The upside to this is that smaller spaces can make it easier to control these allergens.
If you’re apartment hunting, it’s possible to find allergy friendly places that will lessen your vulnerability to potential triggers. Already settled into an apartment? Don’t worry — keeping your apartment up to date with maintenance and making sure it’s clean and clutter free can lessen the allergens you’re exposed to.
How do allergies work?
Your immune system has one job: to keep you healthy. It does this by fighting off viruses and bacteria that aren’t supposed to be in your body. If you have a sensitive immune system, swallowing, touching, or inhaling certain things — from pollen to pet dander and everything in between — can trigger allergic reactions. Whether you were born with allergies or developed them throughout your life, understanding how to lessen or avoid exposure to your personal allergens and those of your family members can go a long way in helping you (and everyone in your home) stay healthy.
Common allergens found in an apartment
No matter what kind of home you live in, allergens will be present. Living in an apartment, however, can present some unique challenges in dealing with them. Smaller spaces, closer proximity to neighbors, and fewer windows may mean you need to be more vigilant about probable causes of your allergies.
Dust and Dust Mites
If you find yourself coughing, sneezing, or dealing with puffy eyes, dust and dust mites are a likely culprit. Dust mites are microscopic pests that occur naturally and thrive in humid environments. Even if your apartment isn’t particularly warm or damp, it’s almost certain that you have dust mites hiding out on your bedding, carpets, and curtains.
Dust that collects around the house — everywhere from shelves to ceiling fans to clutter — is also found in every home. These are two of the most common indoor allergy triggers, so keeping your apartment as free of dust as possible can help decrease your risk of allergic reactions.
Pet dander — the tiny flecks of skin that animals shed — is another common allergen, affecting as many as 3 in 10 U.S. residents. Whether or not your pet sleeps with you isn’t the problem; pet dander can get into the air and settle on every possible surface. While pet dander is an allergen on its own, it can also collect dust and dust mites making it doubly as concerning for people with allergies.
Even if you don’t have a pet of your own, living in an apartment where the previous owner had one could expose you to pet dander if it wasn’t cleaned properly. Another consideration for people with allergies is whether your neighbors have pets. The pet dander from their apartment has the potential to get into your home. Both of these are things to think about when searching for an allergy friendly apartment.
If you are a pet owner with allergy issues and you are considering an air purifier as a solution, read our guide on buying an air purifier for a pet owner here.
Mold and mildew are obviously bad news for anyone’s health. For people with allergies, they can be even more harmful. Places to look for mold in an apartment (or any home) include bathroom floor and shower tiles, windowsills, air conditioners, refrigerators, garbage disposals, and even under the sinks and inside the walls. In an apartment building, mold from adjacent units can be an allergy trigger, so check with your landlord about their methods for mold prevention before moving in.
If your apartment is outfitted with a gas stove, you’re at a higher risk for exposure to nitrogen dioxide. Check to see if your oven has proper ventilation to the outside or, at the very least, that you’ll be able to open a nearby window when you cook.
Formaldehyde is an irritant found in most carpets and furniture. Though it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to rid your apartment of this entirely, being aware of where it’s found can help you manage your allergies better.
Roaches and Rodents
Droppings and body parts from roaches and rodents are a general health risk, as well as an allergy trigger. Keeping your apartment clean can help but if your neighbors aren’t as good about keeping their kitchen free of crumbs, there is the potential for infestation. Check with your landlord about pest control services.
Finding an allergy friendly apartment
When you’re apartment hunting, you probably have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Maybe you want granite countertops, a balcony, or access to a swimming pool. These are great things to have but if you or your children have allergies, you may want to include some non-negotiables on that list. These might include:
- Wood flooring — Hardwood floors will accumulate fewer dust mites than carpet.
- Well-ventilated bathrooms — Bathrooms are often damp and warm, which can promote mold growth. Having a window or fan in the bathroom can help prevent this.
- Lots of windows — The bathroom isn’t the only place that should be well-ventilated. Look for an apartment with windows in every room — being able to let in fresh air can help keep your allergies at bay when cooking or cleaning. However, if you’re allergic to pollen, you may want to consider investing in an in-room air purifier.
- Upgraded heating and cooling systems — Older air conditioning and heating units can aggravate allergies, so check with the landlord to see when it was last upgraded. At the very least, ask when the filters were changed and what the policies are on getting them replaced as needed.
- New faucets and/or pipes — Leaky pipes can contribute to mold growth under sinks and behind walls. Check to make sure there aren’t any compromises in the pipes and faucets, and find out when they were last inspected.
- Pet free environments — Even if you aren’t allergic to pet dander, it can collect dust mites and other allergens. Looking for a pet free apartment can help lessen your risk of leftover triggers from previous tenants.
How to make your apartment allergy free
Whether you just signed the lease on a new apartment or have been calling yours home for awhile, there are potential solutions for making your home allergy free. At the very least, using these methods will help keep indoor allergens — and your symptoms — to a minimum.
Do laundry regularly
Because fabric collects dust mites and pet dander quickly, washing your bedding and clothing at least once a week can help keep these allergens under control. In addition to your normal laundry routine, washing your curtains and your children’s stuffed animals can further cut down on dust mites and pet dander that gets into the air.
Dust every day
Wiping down shelves, tables, and windowsills daily can help keep dust from collecting. Ceiling fans, crown molding, blinds, and floor boards should be dusted weekly. The less dust that collects around your apartment, the easier it will be to keep your allergies from flaring up.
Vacuum and sweep
Pet dander and dust mites gather in the carpets, so be sure to vacuum often. If you have hardwood floors, sweeping every day can also help keep dust mites to a minimum and prevent roaches and rodents from infesting your apartment. In general, keeping your floors clean can eliminate a lot of exposure to allergens.
Ventilate when cooking and cleaning
If you’re cooking with a gas stove, nitrous oxide can be a serious allergy trigger. If your stove isn’t vented to the outside, be sure to cook with the window open. The chemicals in conventional cleaning supplies and air fresheners can also trigger allergic reactions if inhaled, so be sure to keep any areas you use them in well-ventilated.
Keep humidity levels low
Moisture in your apartment can encourage mold growth and dust mites. Keeping humidity levels at 40% or less can help fight these allergens. Using your air conditioner and investing in a dehumidifier will help.
Change air filters
Air filters in heating and air conditioning units can trap dirt, dust mites, and pet dander, as well as grow mold. Changing them regularly can help prevent these allergy triggers from being released into the air of your apartment. Check with your landlord — they may be responsible for replacing air filters for you. If they don’t, doing so yourself is a worthy investment.
Keep your bathroom clean and dry
In order to prevent your bathroom from becoming a breeding ground for mold and mildew, be sure to clean it regularly and thoroughly. Cleaning all surfaces — from your shower curtain to the grout in the tiles — checking for leaky pipes, and taking a shower with the fan off are all good ways to keep your bathroom an allergy-free zone. Remember, though, keep your bathroom ventilated when cleaning so you don’t inhale toxic chemicals that could trigger an allergic reaction.
Groom your pets
If you’re allergic to pet dander, it’s especially important to keep your furry friends clean. Bathing and brushing them regularly can help cut down on the dander they release, which in turn can help minimize dust mites. Keeping them off furniture is also a smart move.
Letting clutter pile up around your apartment can be bad news for your allergies. In addition to dusting regularly, keeping your living space free of clutter can help reduce the amount of dirt, dust, and dander that you inhale.
Air it out
Seasonal allergies aside, airing your home out can help to keep the air fresh and free of indoor allergens. When you deep clean weekly, opening your windows for some ventilation can help your efforts go further.
Smarter living keeps away allergy woes
Though smaller living quarters and neighbors right next door may mean you need to be more aware of potential allergens, finding an apartment that is allergy free — and keeping it that way — doesn’t have to be complicated. Regular maintenance, thorough cleaning, and proper ventilation can make big impact in managing are all it really takes to manage your allergies in apartment living.