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The Smartest Way to Unstuff Your Nose

The Smartest Way to Unstuff Your Nose

A stuffy nose that just won't go away? Don't blame a lingering cold. Think allergies instead. Nearly a third of Americans, and hefty numbers of people in other countries, are allergic to dust mites (really, it's their droppings, but we're not going there), which live inside your pillow and mattress and other stuffing-filled places you've spent time.

And in winter, when your home is all sealed up to keep heating costs down, your Kleenex costs are likely to rise -- along with your chances of a bad night's sleep as well as an increase in your risk of asthma, eczema, or chronic sinusitis. The first step in treating allergies is limiting your exposure to them.

  • Avoid clutter and dust and mite-poop catchers -- knickknacks, drapes, stacks of books, papers, or toys -- especially in the bedroom.
  • Bare your floors (and damp mop them frequently). If you do have carpet, vacuum often, and clean under the furniture and in closets.
  • Use only polyester pillows, and frequently wash them -- and all bedding -- in very hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit). For extra protection, zip mattresses, box springs, and pillows in allergen-proof coverings that block particles of one micron or larger.
  • If you have a forced-air heating system, change the filters monthly. Cold and warm air ducts should be professionally cleaned at least every 4 to 5 years.
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA or electrostatic filter.
  • If you get symptoms during housecleaning, wear a mask over your nose and mouth while doing chores. Better yet, have your spouse do the cleaning!

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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