As many as 40 percent of kids are bothered by common indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Pediatric allergist Sonal Patel, M.D., of Los Angeles, reveals how to help your little sneezer breathe easier.
- Pick up protective covers for your child's mattress and pillow. And try to wash bedding once a week in hot water. Those two things alone can lower exposure to dust mites by as much as 80 percent. The little critters also love stuffed animals, so if your kid sleeps with one—and it can't be washed—pop it in a garbage bag and tie it tight for 24 hours to suffocate those suckers!
- Clean carpets weekly with a HEPA-filter vacuum and keep your child out of the room for at least half an hour afterward—since it can kick up dust and gunk that will exacerbate symptoms. (PS: Think twice about buying a pricey HEPA air filter, says Dr. Patel. "Dust mites and pet dander are heavier particles that don't float around in the air—which means a filter won't do much good," she notes.)
- Keep the dog or cat out of your child's bedroom. "Your kid spends a big chunk of his day—nine or ten hours—in there. So even if the pet is inside more during the winter months, keeping the door to his room closed will ensure that at least he's not exposed in there," says Dr. Patel.
- If mold is an issue, keep your bathroom as clean and well ventilated as possible, and zap any mildew with bleach.
- Wipe down counters after prepping food, stash pantry items in plastic containers, and try to de-crumb your kitchen floor as much as possible (we know—ha!) to keep allergy-inducing mice and bugs at bay.