Help me Allergy-Proof my room!
September 12, 2013 3:59 AM   Subscribe

I'll be staying at my mom's house for a couple of months, in my old room. My allergies have been going bat**** crazy for the past week, and as a result I am getting a horrible night's sleep. Sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat, the works. Please help me Allergy-Proof my room so I can return to some semblance of normalcy. Picture + details inside.

The room was a mess before. I've been doing some heavy cleaning in the past week, mostly consisting throwing things out, vacuuming and dusting. I imagine that this is displacing no small amount of dust into the air. I can see dust particles floating about in the air during the day, even after cleaning.

The rest of the house is messy/dirty, caused in no small part by a plethora of cats. My room used to be frequented by said critters - they are not allowed in anymore. I would like to make this room into my sanctuary while I am staying so I can get some work done (without sneezing!)

Some extra tidbits:

1. The carpet is old. Like, at least 30 years old, possibly more. I know that carpet is a breeding ground for dust mites, but it would be a big hassle to remove it and I am not planning on staying long enough to put in the effort. Any ways to get it relatively clean without resorting to pulling it up?

2. I just purchased a hepa vacuum cleaner which will be arriving today from amazon; I'm planning on giving the room a thorough run-through. I've already used a regular vacuum a few times, and was terrified at the amount of dirt it pulled up.

3. I bought a cheap-ish hepa air purifier (the futuristic-looking thing in the middle of my picture) which I have been running for a few days. No positive changes in my allergy symptoms yet. I will be checking the furnace filter.

4. I will start washing the bedding weekly from today. The mattress is memory-foam (covered by a malouf mattress protector) and is relatively new.

I would love to hear any other suggestions. Thanks in advance!
posted by Kamelot123 to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
I know that carpet is a breeding ground for dust mites, but it would be a big hassle to remove it

This is your single biggest allergen once you've removed the pets from the room. Carpet is easy to remove if it isn't glued to the floor. It is also cheap to replace; remnants are like $1.50 a square foot. Measure the room, go to Cheap Ass Carpets & Flooring, and ask how much it would be to get a remnant in the appropriate size installed. Or just buy a remnant and get someone from Craigslist to install it.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:55 AM on September 12, 2013

I second getting rid of the carpet. The HEPA won't get rid of all of the dust mites.

You might also try getting new pillows. My allergist told me that by the time a pillow is a year old 50% of its weight is dead dust mites.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 5:06 AM on September 12, 2013

An easy way to see if a pillow is causing you woe is to wrap it up with a plastic bag, tie it off, then see if your sleep/symptoms improve at all.

This is a tough situation, I've been there. Be aware that even the hepa vacuum could be stirring up dust evey time you use it. Damned if you do, damned if you don't... I know.

God speed.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:20 AM on September 12, 2013

Response by poster: I just bought a nice new pillow, so I know it's not that. I didn't want to, but I guess I'll look into changing the carpet if that is the metafilter consensus. Or how about hardwood floors? Does anyone know what carpet/hardwood would run for a room of this size? I am rather new to home improvement in any way shape or form.

I'll try not to threadsit from this point on unless I feel it's necessary to clarify something.
posted by Kamelot123 at 5:55 AM on September 12, 2013

Pillow cases get changed daily, or maybe every other day. You can save them and wash them all together with your sheets. Sheets must be washed and dried hot, otherwise the mites live. Get new pillows and put them in allergen resistent pillow covers for between your pillow and your pillow case.

Neti pot. Irrigate your nose daily. Follow all precautions about what kind of water you use, and don't try to skip the salt.

Get that carpet out of the space. Even the bare floor with some throw rugs is better than 30 year old carpet. Stop running the vacuum over that carpet, because you're stirring the dust up into the air. If your allergies are like mine and become a swampy sinus infection, spending an entire weekend will be worth the effort to forgo months of dripping from your face holes.

As for pricing out the carpet vs wood, that's going to be a question that depends in part on where you are (not just for materials, mostly for labor). You can check out places like Lumber Liquidators.
posted by bilabial at 6:13 AM on September 12, 2013

What's under the carpet? Pull up a corner, maybe in the closet if it's carpeted, and see. It may be hardwood underneath. Or it may be plywood. If the former, great, just wash it. If the latter you might consider just painting it with low-allergen paint. New carpet is likely to exacerbate allergies.

If the floor under the carpet is concrete you will have to look at other options, like having a wood floor put down.
posted by mareli at 7:07 AM on September 12, 2013

Rinse out your sinuses like it is your job (I like the NielMed bottle over the pots). Most important is before bed so that you do not stew in sinus gunk for 8 hours at a time.

Get an allergen case for the bed & the pillows.

Do not wear clothes into your bed that have been in the rest of the house.

Go to an allergist. Find out if you are on the right cocktail of drugs. Allegra works way better for me then zyrtec or claritin and an inhaler or two might also be helpful. If your insurance covers it then go hardcore and see about getting allergy shots. They are life changing.

If you are going to do this rip out the carpet thing then wear one of those filter masks or maybe pay someone to do it because holy god is that going to make you itch.
posted by skrozidile at 7:19 AM on September 12, 2013

Yes, neti pot. And yes, consider redoing the carpet if you wake up miserable. And sadly, also expect the mostly-new carpet to be completely unsuitable when you come back in a year or so if your mom is subject to cat owner problems and/or hoarding tendencies. Apologies (and congrats) if that's not the case, just warning you.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:23 AM on September 12, 2013

Get a new pillow. Latex is inhospitable to dust mites -- but even if you have to sleep on polyester fill or down/feathers, a new pillow will give you much less exposure to allergens than an old one. An allergist once explained to me that sleeping on a contaminated pillow would make me much more sensitive to allergens that I encountered during the daytime.

Also, it's okay to take both Claritin and Zyrtec -- my doctor recommended it for me. It may also be safe to take Allegra with another antihistamine, but you'd have to check that. Also, there are prescription anti-inflammatory nose sprays that help with nasal and sinus symptoms. (I'm not talking about decongestant sprays.)
posted by wryly at 9:45 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try using all unscented/hypoallergenic personal products as well, and ditch any air fresheners and scented home products. Even if you're not specifically sensitive to them, with allergies it helps to reduce the overall amount of allergens you are exposed to.

What type of vacuum did you get? One with a hepafilter on it will be the most effective.

Try to reduce your stress (ha!) as much as possible as well - exercise, breathing exercises, yoga, whatever you have to do. Allergies and stress are a vicious cycle!
posted by radioamy at 10:14 AM on September 12, 2013

Response by poster: Hi guys. There's actually a part of the carpet that is coming up, so I pulled it up a bit, and... beyond gross. I actually am feeling queasy at the prospect of doing anything to this carpet. here's a picture:

Obtuse/ignorant question: That looks like hardwood below, right? I honestly don't know how to tell the difference between hardwood and plywood.

If I was here longer I would definitely do away with the carpet for sure, but... I vacuum it with the hepa and see if that helps first, I don't want to put in major time, effort and money for something I won't be around to enjoy. I appreciate the help thus far!
posted by Kamelot123 at 10:42 AM on September 12, 2013

Do not take that carpet up yourself. If you can, hire someone to do it, and to clean up afterwards, and don't go in the room till the next day.

Honestly, if it were me I'd vacuum the carpet and leave it in place, because that would affect me less than taking it up. I have asthma issues, so YMMV.

Taking up a carpet once precipitated an asthma crisis for me that lasted more than a week.
posted by glasseyes at 1:41 PM on September 12, 2013

That's hard to be certain but that may not be plywood subfloor and indeed be a functional hardwood type floor. And, plywood or hardwood, what's to stop you from tossing down a throw rug and/or college dorm room style carpet mat and calling it good?

I guess that's up to the owner of the house, aka your mom, but it sounds like she's gotten her money's worth out of the carpet that is currently there and hiring someone to lay down some cheap padding/carpet, even after you leave, isn't going to break most folk's banks.

Seconding that taking up the carpet yourself isn't necessarily wise if avoidable. If you must, what I did when I was in your *exact* situation was buy the best facemask/filter I could, within reason and all that. Something like this would be ideal, but I only had something akin to this guy and it helped a bit, although I was still wheezy for a few days (but better than a few weeks/months). I'd say these are practically worthless.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:51 PM on September 12, 2013

Try a supplement called Quercetin (

It takes about a week to start to work, but it completely eliminated my allergy to dust, and it was pretty extreme beforehand. Natural Factors makes a good one.

I've also heard that the neti pot, and nasya oils can be helpful.

Is you hepa filter a true hepa or a "hepa type"? The hepa type don't necessarily eliminate particles as small.
posted by Blitz at 11:07 AM on September 13, 2013

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