One morning last week, I had a rude awakening: major congestion. But I didn’t feel sick, and I’d experienced this before—annually—so I knew the cause: allergens. If you’ve been waking up with a blocked nose recently, it’s likely that allergens in your bedroom are to blame. As a doctor friend explains, “When you inhale allergens at night, your immune system overreacts, producing antibodies that trigger the production of histamine, causing congestion.” In addition to a congestion, you might wake up with a headache and have trouble breathing. Not so fun.
So how do you kick these allergens to the curb? Unfortunately it’s difficult to pinpoint which specific allergen is the culprit, so this requires a multipronged attack. Here’s what to do:
Destroy Dust Mites
Dust mites are one of the most common causes of the overnight allergy attack, primarily because they love to burrow in carpets, bedding, and mattresses. Barely visible to the eye, they leave droppings that contain a number of different allergens. If you live in a coastal or tropical region, you may have more exposure to them, since higher populations of mites are found in areas with higher humidity levels. While efforts to control exposure to house dust mite allergens are often unsuccessful, there a few tricks you can try.
The Solution: Use an allergy-friendly cleaning spray to kill dust mites in carpets, mattresses, and the like. Wash your bedding thoroughly (and regularly) with allergy-friendly detergent. But be sure to dry your bedding well, because, as mentioned, mites love humid (damp) conditions. If it’s time to buy a new mattress or replace your pillows or sheets, that’s a much easier fix. If you’re building a house or in renovation mode, you might consider hardwood flooring in your bedroom, rather than carpet.
Keep the Outdoors Out
If you’re only affected by allergies in fall, spring, or summer, the cause is likely seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. Essentially, you’re allergic to pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds. This pollen is carried by the wind. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Hot, dry, windy days are more likely to have a lot of pollen in the air,” while “on cool, damp, rainy days, most pollen is washed to the ground.”
The Solution: The best treatment is to reduce your exposure to plant pollens. Keep your bedroom windows and doors closed, and instead use an air conditioner if you have one. Don’t dry your clothes outdoors. If you’ve spent time outdoors during the day, wash your hair before you go to bed. Use a leakage-free HEPA air purifier to capture allergens in the air.
Put Pets in Their Place
If you’re a pet owner, you probably know that pet dander (tiny, microsopic flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, and other animals) is also a common allergen. Pet dander can easily stick to furniture, bedding, fabrics, and other common homewares, and it can be quite difficult to get rid of—in fact, it can even linger from when a previous owner lived there.
The Solution: Don’t allow your pet to come into your bedroom—let alone sleep in your bed. If you’ve spent time lounging or playing with your pet, remove and wash your clothes before you bring them back into your bedroom (keeping a hamper in the bathroom is helpful).
Mold is also an allergy that can cause a blocked nose, as well as itchy eyes itch and a cough. Its most common in wet rooms like the kitchen and bath, but even a bit of dampness can cause mold elsewhere.
The Solution: Of course, if your bedroom carpet has become moldy, replace it. Using a stiff brush and soap and water, wash mold off any hard surfaces. If you have en suite bathroom, always keep your bedroom door closed, and reduce indoor humidity by cracking a window when you’re showering or using an exhaust fan. Use an air conditioner and dehumidifier to get rid of dampness. If your windows are poorly insulated, add insulation and fill in any cracks.
Any other tips to add to this list? Tell us in the comments below.