Shark Navigator – Excellent Vacuum for Dog Allergies

51epS5eORkL._SL1500_As the owner of a boxer dog with allergies, I’ve learned that some of the best allergy treatments involve good old-fashioned cleaning. I really don’t consider myself to be much of a home maker, and cleaning is usually the last thing I feel like doing during the evenings or weekends, but running the vacuum regularly really does help keep Elsie’s itching down. That along with her allergy shots.

A couple of years ago, we decided to get rid of our clunky old vacuum and buy a more powerful model designed to better filter out allergens. We were drawn to the Dyson vacuums – and came VERY close to purchasing one, but it just was too hard to stomach paying $300+ for a vacuum.

After lot’s a research, and receiving one of those excellent 20% off coupons from Bed Bath and Beyond, we decided to purchase a  Shark Navigator Vacuum (NV22L) vacuum.  Apparently they were widely advertised on late night television, but since I usually only watch Netflix or Amazon streaming now,I wasn’t familiar with the company or their products.

I’ll admit, when I first used it, I figured it would only last me a year and then fall apart. It was so light and made entirely of plastic. It felt like a toy vacuum. But, it was so easy to move around – especially in our old house that had quite a few steps. So, I decided to give it a chance.

I’ve been very pleased with this vacuum. Here’s what I love:

Easy to Clean Filters
With an allergic dog, it’s important that I keep the filters in the house clean – so as not to throw more allergens into the air. The Shark Navigator filters can easily be rinsed out in the sink – I try to do so each week – and then just air-dried over night. Nothing to replace. Just rinse, dry and repeat.

Carpet and Hardwood Floor Settings
We’ve always had a combination of hardwood, tile, rugs and carpeting in our homes. Since I’ve never much enjoyed chasing crumbs and animal hair around with a broom, I absolutely love how easy it is to use this vacuum to clean tile, hardwood and laminate floor.  Just flip the switch to move from hard flooring to carpet and you’ll catch every speck of dirt.

Light Weight
I never much liked dragging heavy vacuums around the house – and I’m not terrible gentle with vacuums. The light weight of the Shark Navigator makes it easy for me to move around from room to room and I don’t cause as much damage when I accidentally bang into tables or floor boards.

Best of all – Elsie does a lot less ear scratching and my house smells so much better after running this vacuum across the floors. It picks up the fur, dust and pet dander and keeps the house looking and smelling good.

If this little vacuum ever dies, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another Shark Navigator Vacuum (NV22L). It’s a great vacuum cleaner.


Dog Food Allergies? Try Simplified Diet and Limited-ingredient Dog Food.

If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, you’ll want to take a close look at the ingredients in his food. Most dogs start on a commercial dog kibble that can be purchased at grocery stores. Many of these foods work just fine for non-allergic dogs. However, if your dog exhibits year-round allergy symptoms that can’t be cleared up with flea treatments or by minimizing the effects of inhalant allergies, it’s likely that the ingredients in these commercial foods are causing problems for your pet.

Many owners have found that dog foods designed for allergic dogs have done wonders for their pet. These dog food brands refer to themselves as “simplified diet” or “limited-ingredient” food. This means they only include one unique protein and one carbohydrate. The unique protein is often lamb, bison, duck, or venison. The starch can consist of ingredients like potatoes and sweet potatoes. These formulas often promote the fact that they include “no grains,” which are often the cause of many food allergies. The key is that these foods don’t mix several kinds of proteins and carbohydrates, but focus on one key ingredient of each. This simplification eliminates the filler ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy, which can cause problems for many dogs.

If you consider switching your dog to a simplified diet or a limited-ingredient food, you’ll need to be patient. It will take eight to twelve weeks before you’ll be able to notice an improvement (or lack thereof) in your dog. What you don’t want to do is change your dog’s diet every couple of days or weeks. This will only make it harder for you to know what is causing your dog’s allergy symptoms. You may also find that the initial diet change can give your dog an upset stomach.

If you do move to a simplified diet, you need to remember that this special diet doesn’t just cover meals, but all snacks and treats as well. If you give your dog treats, you’ll need to find treats that match the ingredients in your special dog food. Most allergy dog food brands also make dog treats with the same ingredients. It does your dog no good to feed him a special diet, while feeding him table scraps and dog treats that include ingredients he’s allergic to.

Roughly a year into Elsie’s allergy problems, she was having serious cases of colitis, an inflammation of her colon. I did some online searching and read about a Boxer rescue owner who swore by Natural Balance’s Potato and Duck Food for colitis treatment. We decided to try it out and found that after a couple of
months, her colitis was gone—which was a good thing. She still had runny stools, but no more colitis.

Later, after we had Elsie tested for allergies and learned that she was allergic to feathers (among many other items), we decided to stay away from poultry and moved her to Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Venison Formula Dog Food. This was the magic formula for us. She rarely ever has bowel or stool issues on this new food and has been doing wonderfully. We feed Elsie a dried kibble version, but it also comes in a can and in the form of treats.

You’ll find that this limited-ingredient food is more expensive than the regular grocery store brand food. But if it helps your dog’s allergies, the extra expense could pay off in the long run by saving you vet visits.

Dog Allergy Stories. Clayton, the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Clayton the American Pit Bull relaxing.
Clayton relaxing

Clayton, an American Pit Bull Terrier, was six weeks old when his owner Cassandra brought him home.  Cassandra, a Veterinary Technician, first  suspected that Clayton had allergies when he was four months old and developed Alopecia (a condition which causes hair loss) on his outer thighs.  Cassandra thought that Clayton had Demodex (parasitic mites that can cause hair loss in dogs), but his skin scrapes came out negative.

Shortly after the Alopecia started, Clayton began constantly scratching and chewing at his skin.  This frequent scratching caused the hair on his ears to fall out and the skin under his arms to bleed.  He chewed on his feet and gnawed at his tail from tip to rear. Cassandra placed Clayton on an antihistamine for a month, but found it provided no relief.

Cassandra then asked to be referred to a veterinary dermatologist.  Being in the veterinary field, Cassandra knew how difficult allergies could be for dogs and their owners and she wanted to get Clayton on the right treatment as soon as possible.

Clayton, wearing a t-shirt and socks to prevent chewing and scratching.
Clayton, wearing a t-shirt and socks to prevent chewing and scratching.

The veterinary dermatologist started Clayton on steroids, but the steroids did not end Clayton’s discomfort. For a while, Cassandra also had Clayton on Atopica, a drug designed for dog allergies, but it was also not effective in treating his condition. When the steroids and Atopica did not help, they started Clayton on a food elimination program to try to identify which foods he may be allergic to. They eventually found that Clayton was allergic to chicken, turkey, duck, beef, rabbit and fish. After trying different brands of food, Cassandra eventually found that Nutro’s limited ingredient Venison Meal and Brown Rice food worked. Clayton stopped scratching his ears and chewing on his tail.

Cassandra also made another important food allergy discovery. Many foods and medications contain gelatin, especially many medicine capsules. Gelatin is made from cow parts. Since Clayton and many other dogs are allergic to beef, they can have allergic reactions when they digest gelatin. Cassandra is careful now to avoid gelatins. If a medication is provided in a gelatin capsule, she first opens the capsule and sprinkles the powder on Clayton’s food. She also requests tablet forms of medication when available.

Clayton the pit bull showing hair loss on his ears.
Clayton showing hair loss on his ears.

In addition to food allergies, Clayton also has environmental allergies. Clayton had a skin test when he was seven months old. They found he was allergic to 70 of the 75 allergens, the top three being human dander, wool, and cat dander. He is now on weekly desensitization injections (allergy shots). To eliminate allergens in the home, Cassandra regularly shaves and bathes her cats. She also vacuums each day. Because her dogs sleep in her bed, Cassandra uses a special allergen detergent to wash her bedding.

In addition to his desensitization injections, Clayton receives weekly baths with a chlorhexidine shampoo. He also takes daily Zyrtec and Alaway eye drops. Although Cassandra has Clayton on small amounts of Prednisone, she is hoping to get him off of this steroid treatment soon. Cassandra also purchased a Lycra body suit from K9 Top Coat, which some dog owners use to protect their dog’s skin by reducing irritation.

Clayton the dog in a lycra body suit
Clayton in his new Lycra body suit.

Cassandra’s advice to other dog owners is to not give up. Eventually things will get better for you and your dog, but you will have to be willing to work for it. Think of it from your dog’s perspective, they are itching like crazy and can’t tell you what is making them itch. They need your help to make life more comfortable. Cassandra also recommends that if you find that your dog needs to be on a limited diet, don’t feel bad about not being able to feed them scraps or everyday treats. She suggests using your limited diet kibble as a treat. Your dog won’t know the difference and they’ll just be excited that you are giving them something to eat. Her final word of advice is to join a warehouse membership at a store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Benadryl, Zyrtec and other human medications used to treat dog allergies can be purchased much cheaper at these stores.

After months of trial and error, for the first time since he was a puppy, Clayton is starting to grow some hair on his ears. And, the skin on Clayton’s face and feet is no longer red and swollen. It is likely that Cassandra will always have to treat Clayton’s allergies, but through her efforts, she is giving him a much more comfortable quality of life.

Atopica for Dog Allergies. Benefits and Drawbacks.

Atopica for Dog Allergy TreatmentsAtopica for Dogs is an oral pill which is becoming a popular alternative to dog allergy steroid treatments.  Many veterinarians and dog owners are turning to Atopica to treat their dog’s allergy symptoms.  As stated on Novartis’ Atopica website, it “can be used for long-term control of the allergic response in a dog’s skin.”

Atopica (cyclosporine) is a canine atopic dermatitis treatment drug manufactured by Novartis, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2003.  It is designed to blocks the release of inflammatory molecules such as cytokines and histamines.  The Atopica website states that “This oral treatment has been proven through extensive clinical trials to be effective and well tolerated in reducing the pruritus and skin lesions associated with atopic dermatitis.”

As with any medication, there are potential side effects.  According to the Atopica product insert, the following side effects were reporting during clinical testing of this drug:  Vomiting and diarrhea were the most common adverse reactions occurring during the study. In most cases, signs spontaneously resolved with continued dosing. In other cases, temporary dose modifications (brief interruption in dosing, divided dosing, or administration with a small amount of food) were employed to resolve signs.

Persistent otitis externa, urinary tract infections, anorexia, gingival hyperplasia, lymphadenopathy and lethargy were the next most frequent adverse events observed.”

It’s recommended that you do your research and talk to your veterinarian about any potential side effects prior to starting your dog on a long-term drug like Atopic.

Atopica Benefits:

  • Designed more for long-term usage than steroids.
  • If your dog has a positive experience, they can often be tapered down from a daily to a weekly treatment.
  • If effective, could minimize your visits to your veterinarian.

Atopica Drawbacks:

  • Can be costly.  Atopica costs anywhere from $50-$200 per month.
  • Common side effects include vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Not all dogs will have a positive experience on the drug.

Dog Allergy Testing and Allergy Shots

Dog Allergy ShotsWhen we first learned that our dog Elsie had allergies, I did some reading about allergy tests and allergy shots.  At the time, the allergy test seemed like an expensive option. I didn’t even know any humans who had been allergy tested – much less a dog.  It seemed like an outrageous expense to go to a pet dermatologist, have our dog tested for allergies and then give her an ongoing supply of shots.

We changed our attitude after two years of almost weekly vet visits and many thousands of dollars spent on various medications, antibiotics, ointments and sprays.  In reality, the one-time allergy test and dermatologist visit cost us less than most of our regular vet visits. And, most importantly, the regular allergy shots have almost completely eliminated Elsie’s allergy symptoms.  In the past two years, she has only had her annual vet visits.  No more rushing to the vet with ear infections, hair loss, diarrhea, and an endless list of other health problems. You name it, Elsie had it.  These allergy shots were our savior.

Unfortunately, if your dog has a flea or food allergy, allergy testing and allergy shots will not help.  This form of treatment is specifically designed to desensitize your dog to indoor and outdoor inhalant allergens (molds, pollens, dust, etc.) and contact allergens (wool, cotton, etc.).

I’ll explain how the allergy tests and allergy shots work.  This form of treatment will not be necessary for many allergic dogs, and may not be the best option for all owners either.  I’ll admit that allergy shots are a pretty big commitment.  You’ll likely be administering allergy shots to your dog for the rest of its life.  You’ll want to discuss this option with your veterinarian and your family to decide if this is the best option for you and your dog.

Allergy Testing
Before you start your dog on allergy shots, you’ll need to have your dog tested to determine which allergens your dog is allergic to.  There are two forms of tests available: blood tests and intradermal skin tests.

Blood Tests
With a blood test, blood will be drawn from your dog and your veterinarian will perform a test that checks for antigen-induced antibodies in the blood.  The benefit of a blood test is that it is often cheaper and easier to administer than a skin test.  In fact, most veterinarians can draw your dog’s blood and perform the test.  The drawback is that this test does not provide the same accuracy as the skin test.  If you are serious about starting your dog on allergy shots, it is recommended that you visit a veterinary dermatologist or other veterinary specialist who can perform the full skin test.

Intradermal Skin Tests
An intradermal skin test involves the injection of a small amount of antigen into your dog’s skin.  This procedure is most often performed by a veterinary dermatologist or pet allergy specialist. Here’s how the process works.

First, your dog will be administered a mild sedative, and a 4”x8” area on their side (near the armpit) will be shaved – so it is easy to see the skin.  Next, the Dr. will inject small doses of a wide variety of common, regional antigens into their skin.  Our dermatologist injects 62 different antigens.  When Elsie had this procedure, it looked like she had a little polka-dot tattoo under her arm for a couple of days. Each injection location is documented, so the Dr. will know exactly which antigen (or allergen) your dog is allergic to.

Within minutes, small red bumps will occur when there is a reaction to the antigen.  The Dr. will document this and then be able to provide you with a list of allergens that are affecting your dog.  They will then prescribe a custom vaccine (or allergy shot), based on the results of your test.  You can see an example of Elsie’s allergy test results below.

Dog Allergy Test Results
Elsie's Dog Allergy Test Results

I was amazed that this entire process took less than an hour. Elsie was tested and we learned exactly what she was allergic to in less than 50 minutes.  Not only was she allergic to house dust, four types of mold, and seven types of trees, grasses, and weeds but I was also surprised to learn that she was allergic to cotton and feathers.

When I asked how they knew what antigens to test her for, they said their tests include indoor antigens (like cotton and dust) as well as a number of regional grasses and trees.  They said that if we ever moved to a different climate, such as Texas or Arizona, we’d have to have her re-tested for a new variety of antigens.  So, depending on where you live, the allergens your dog is tested for may be quite different from Elsie’s test.

Allergy Shots – Hyposensitization

Once your dog has been allergy tested, you will move on to the allergy shot treatment.  Allergy shots, more officially known as hyposensitization, involve injecting your dog with small amounts of the allergens that were identified during their allergy test.  This type of therapy is designed to “reprogram” your dog’s immune system so that it becomes less reactive to these allergens.

When you first start this process, you will need to help your dog (and you!) to slowly adjust to the injections.  For the first month, the injections will be a very small amount and will take place every other day.  Then, depending on the severity of your dog’s allergies, their veterinarian will prescribe injections every 1-3 weeks.  If this form of treatment appears to be helping your dog, it will likely need to continue for the rest of your dog’s life.

Hyposensitization benefits 68%-85% of the dogs who are placed on this form of treatment.  You should not expect to see any significant improvement for the first 4-6 months of injections.  And, it may take as long as 12 months before the improvements are truly noticeable.  We started to notice improvements in Elsie’s skin and overall health in less than four months.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for us was learning to be confident when administering the shots.  Neither my husband nor I are medical professionals.  We were both concerned that we would “hurt” Elsie during the injections and cause her to be scared and traumatized – making the process all that much more difficult. However, over time, my husband has become the main “shot giver” in the family and has become quite skilled and proficient.  His technique is to be calm and quick, so as not to make Elsie nervous. Then, he follows with a dog treat – which always makes these procedures much more tolerable.

We keep a regular supply of syringes, which are provided by our dermatologist office along with the vaccine.  The vaccine is kept in our refrigerator, never frozen, just kept cool.

Since these injections will need to occur for your dog’s lifetime, most people choose to perform the injections themselves.  However, if you really cannot stomach the idea of giving your dog a shot, you should contact your local veterinarian to see if they can assist with your regular injections.

For us, the entire process, including the dermatologist consultation, intradermal allergy test and 6- month vaccine cost roughly $500.  Her ongoing 6-month vaccine costs roughly $140.  Compared to the $300 per month veterinary visits and medication fees we were paying, the cost for these allergy shots is a drop in the bucket.  Plus, we have a much happier and healthier dog.

Hyposensitization/Allergy Shot Benefits:

  • Hyposensitization works on 65-85% of dogs placed on this form of treatment.
  • Often the only solution for dogs who do not respond to other allergy treatments.
  • A more natural approach to allergy treatments than steroids – trains the body to heal itself and not respond to allergens.

Hyposensization/Allergy Shot Drawbacks:

  • May not work for 15-32% of dogs who are placed on this form of treatment.
  • May not see significant results for four months to a year.
  • Initial test and first round of vaccine costs roughly $500.  Ongoing vaccines run roughly $300 per year.
  • Lifetime commitment – injections are given every couple of weeks for the lifetime of your dog.

As I mentioned earlier, allergy shots have been very effective for Elsie.  However, it is a long term commitment and depending on the severity of your dog’s allergies, it may be more costly than other forms of treatment.

Using Steroids to Treat Dog Allergies

Steroids to treat Dog AllergiesVeterinarians often prescribe corticosteroids, most often referred to as steroids, for dogs with reoccurring allergy problems.  Steroids can effectively relieve dogs of their itching and red skin as soon as 24 hours after the drug is administered.

In most cases, steroids are supposed to be subscribed at an initial starting dose, and then reduced to smaller doses until they are completely discontinued.  When used as a short-term treatment to ease inflammation and swelling, steroids can be very effective.

Unfortunately, due to the quick results of this form of treatment, many dogs are prescribed steroids for much longer periods of time than recommended, which can cause harmful side effects.  And, when administered at a high enough dosage, steroids can suppress your dog’s immune system – making them more prone to infections.

Steroid Benefits:

  • Can relieve itching, red skin and inflammation in less than 24 hours.
  • Quick results can be ideal for dogs with seasonal allergies.
  • Often the right solution for older dogs who may require quick relief over long-term solutions.

Steroid Drawbacks:

  • Side effects can include increased thirst and appetite, increased urination, weight gain, hyperactivity, panting, diarrhea, and depression.
  • Long-term usage can suppress your dog’s immune system, making them susceptible to infection and illness.
  • Long-term usage can cause permanent or severe damage to the liver, adrenal gland and pancreas.
  • Long-term usage has been attributed to diabetes in dogs.

Since steroids are ideal for quick inflammation relief, you should discuss any long-term side effects and potential health risks with your veterinarian before starting this form of treatment.

Using Topical Sprays to Treat Dog Allergies

Topical sprays are sometimes diagnosed to control itching associated with atopic dermatitis in dogs.  As an alternative to steroid treatment, topical sprays contain the corticosteroid triamcinolone, which is used to block substances that trigger an allergic response.

Topical Spray Benefits:

  • Reduces itchiness due to allergies.
  • May minimize need for steroid treatments.
  • Can be used to minimize itching due to flea allergies.

Topical Spray Drawbacks:

  • Does not help with hair loss, infections or other allergy-related symptoms.
  • Helps to minimize symptoms, but doesn’t eliminate allergies.
Dog allergies red skin
Elsie's irritated paws

Before we started Elsie on allergy shots, we regularly used Genesis Topical Spray on her red, inflamed paws.  It seemed to help with her itching, although the spray tended to make her uncomfortable – I imagine it stung when it touched her raw feet.  Genesis can be purchased from your veterinarian or through online pet medication sources, but does require a prescription.

Use Allergen-free Cleaning Products to Treat Your Dog’s Allergies.

allergen-free cleaning sprayWhen your dog has allergies and sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to eliminate their exposure to dyes, chemicals and perfumes found in many cleaning products.  It will be difficult if not almost impossible to completely determine if your pup is allergic to the wide range of ingredients found in cleaning solutions.  However, if your dog exhibits allergy symptoms while indoors, chances are high that your cleaning products could be adding to their discomfort.

Use Powder-based Bathroom & Kitchen Cleanser
Most kitchen and bathroom cleaning products come in aerosol or pump spray containers.  Although these sprays make it easy for you to quickly cover large surfaces, they also throw chemicals and perfumes into the air – which could bother your dog.  A great way to avoid these harsh chemicals and perfumes is to go back to the basics and use a good old fashioned power cleanser.  These powder cleansers have little to no fragrance and don’t mist chemicals into the air.

I’m a big fan of Bon Ami Power Cleanser. Not only does it to a great job of picking up soap scum and stains, but it is also gentle enough to not scratch surfaces.  It’s also amazing at removing dried on foods from stainless steel pots and pans.

After using a powder cleanser, your air may not have the “just cleaned’ scent that the perfume-rich cleaning products offer, but your surfaces will be just as clean and your dog may breathe a little easier.

Try Allergen-Free Dusting Sprays
Many traditional dusting sprays have a wide spray range to cover a greater amount of surface area.  While this may make cleaning easier, it also increases the chance that these chemicals could spread into the air and be inhaled by you and your pet.  New allergen-free varieties, like Endust Free, have a more narrow spray area that reduces mist.  Allergen dusting sprays also should be fragrance free, as strong fragrances can trigger allergic reactions in humans and pets.

Sprinkle Baking Soda on Carpets & Rugs
An unfortunate side affect of dog allergies is dog odors.  No matter how often we shampoo Elsie, we find that within days she gets a little musty smelling.  This smell has a way of attaching itself to her dog bedding and our rugs and carpets.

Before I learned about allergies and cleaning products, I used to sprinkle carpet cleaners or use fabric sprays on our rugs to eliminate odors.  Then, I learned that the chemicals and perfumes in these products could actually be contributing to her problems – and also her odors.

Now, the only product I use on our carpets is Arm & Hammer baking soda.  Baking soda neutralizes odors by regulating pH, keeping a substance neither too acidic, nor too alkaline.  Baking soda contains natural ingredients for odor fighting, which means it contains no fragrances or dyes.

Since sometimes the baking soda comes out of the box too quickly, I’ll put it in container with a lid for sprinkling – such as an old spice or parmesan cheese container.  Just clean out the empty container, fill it with baking soda, and you’re ready to start sprinkling over your carpets.

Use Perfume & Dye-free Laundry Detergent & Dryer Sheets
Although some people love the fresh scent that laundry detergent and dryer sheets give their clothing, allergy sufferers often find that the perfumes and softening agents bother their skin and make it hard to breath.  Our favorite brand of laundry detergent is Tide Free & Gentle. It comes in both a liquid and powder form.

Consider washing your bedding and your dog’s bedding with laundry detergents designed specifically for allergy sufferers.  These products contain no dyes or perfumes.  When you wash your dog’s bedding, I’d suggest eliminating dryer sheets altogether.  Your dog won’t mind if there is a little static cling and you won’t have to worry about any of the softening agents bothering your dog’s skin.

Stop Using Commercial Air Fresheners
There continues to be much debate about whether air fresheners contain toxic chemicals that work as indoor pollutants in your home.  In a 2008 University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners, it was discovered that these products threw several different chemicals into the air. Each product contained at least one chemical deemed as toxic under federal law.

Since there is too much unknown about the affects of these chemicals on humans and pets, it would be best to avoid regular use of air fresheners in your home.  Here are some more natural alternatives:

  • Kill odors at the source.  Rather than trying to cover up odors with perfumes, it’s ideal to figure out what the smell is coming from and to eliminate it. If the smell is your dog, then frequent baths are necessary. You’ll also want wash their bedding each week and use baking soda on carpets and rugs when vacuuming.
  • Simmer cinnamon.  A great way to scent your home with little expense is to simmer a few cinnamon sticks in water on your stove.
  • Use essential oils.  Essential oils are an excellent way to naturally scent your home.  You can create your own room sprays or opt to use a diffuser or light bulb ring.  Due to the potency of these oils, you need to be careful to not ingest the oils or rub them directly onto your or your dog’s skin.  Read all directions when working with essential oils.

These are just a few suggestions on how you can eliminate the use of dye and perfume laden cleaning products.  The key is finding more natural methods to clean and remove odors at their source.

Dog Allergy Treatments. Remove Mold in Your Home.

Mold can be a big problem for allergy-prone dogs.  In addition to outdoor mold, mold can grow indoors in humid spaces like bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garbage cans, refrigerators, carpets, and sheetrock.  Once you start looking for mold, you may be surprised at how prevalent it is in your home.

I live in an older home, in the Mid-Atlantic, where it can get quite humid.  After I started researching allergies, I’ve learned that my home can be a breeding ground for mold.  Here are some of the regular places I find and treat our mold:

  • Showers and Sinks.  These are likely the most common place for mold to grow in your home.  Since showers and sinks contain a lot of moisture, it’s an easy place for mold to grow and spread.  I’ve found the best solution is to spray on a mildew and mold cleaner or bleach, leave it on for 10 minutes and then rinse and wipe clean.  This should keep the mold at bay for a couple of weeks.
  • Window panes.  In the winter months, I find that our home has some condensation forming in the corners of our window panes.  If left unattended, mold will eventually appear. I now wipe the condensation regularly, and use a mold cleaner or bleach as needed.
  • Basement corners.  One year, when left unattended, our basement walls started to grow a bit mold in the corners.  After cleaning up the mold, we’ve now learned to check these walls regularly and not lean any items against the corners – to prevent excess moisture buildup.
  • Window unit air conditioners.  We use some window unit air conditioners in our home during the hot summer months.  One year, I took a close look at one of our units and found mold growing on the intake vent.  I now include a good bleach wipe down of these vents as part of a regular summer cleaning routine.

In addition to the sources of mold I’ve listed above, you can also find mold growing in dishwashers, washing machines, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, since all regularly contain water.  Be sure to check these devices regularly and be prepared to eliminate mold as needed.

Dog Allergy Treatments. Vacuum, Sweep & Mop Often.

clean floor allergiesIf you suspect that your dog has allergies, it’s a good idea to start a regular cleaning routine.  Allergen particles are first carried through the air, but eventually will setting onto your furniture and flooring.

Some of the biggest allergen magnets in your home are carpeting and rugs.  Carpeting, especially designs with a higher pile have a lot of nooks and crannies that allergens can settle into. It’s difficult to ever completely remove allergens, but with regular vacuuming (at least once a week), you can eliminate most allergens.

It’s important to know that many old or inexpensive vacuums may actually contribute to poor air quality in your home by throwing allergens back into the air.  There are now several asthma and allergen friendly vacuums which include a small-particle or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.  Be sure to follow the directions for cleaning or changing these filters to keep them working efficiently.

In addition to vacuuming your carpets and rugs, you’ll also want to pull out your vacuum attachments and regularly clean fabric chairs and couches.  Allergens can settle into your furniture and then be tossed into the air each time someone sits down.  As mentioned earlier, if you have slip covers or area rugs, these should be washed in hot water every couple of weeks.

Allergens are not quite as problematic on hard surfaces like hardwood floors, tile and linoleum, since there are fewer places for them to hide. But, you’ll still want to clean these surfaces each week as well.  I’ve found that it works well to either gently vacuum these surfaces or sweep with a broom.

Once the surfaces are clean of crumbs and dirt, I follow up with the following techniques to rid the floor of any additional dust or allergens.  For my wood floors, I like to use a dry dust mop, such as the Swiffer Dry Mop.  These do a great job of picking up additional dirt that I wasn’t able to pull up with the broom or vacuum.

For my tile and linoleum, I’ve recently started using a steam mop.  Steam mops clean your hard surfaces using hot water – no chemicals or detergents.   I use the Haan Steam Cleaning Floor Sanitizer , but there are many other brands and models as well. I’ve found this steam mop does a nice job of cleaning my floors, without leaving behind chemicals or sticky cleaning agents.  The cleaning pads can be washed in the washing machine, which makes maintenance really easy.  These steam mops certainly cost more than a traditional mop, but I’ve found it’s easier to use – which means I’m more inclined to use it regularly.


Allergy-proof Your House by the Mayo Clinic staff

Tips to Control Indoor Allergens by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America