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Hay Fever & Sleep: How to Allergy Proof Your Home

Hay Fever & Sleep: How to Allergy Proof Your Home
26 May 2020 James Brooke

With hay fever season upon us, Tempur advises how to minimise allergens in the home for better sleep.

Spring is in full swing, bringing longer daylight hours and warmer weather, but for hay fever sufferers, it also means the start of the dreaded pollen season.

Hay fever, or ‘Allergic Rhinitis,’ is the most common form of non-infectious rhinitis, affecting between 10-30% of all adults and as many as 40% of children. More than half of adult patients (57%) and 88% of children with hay fever reported sleep problems as a result (1).

Caused by an allergic response to pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, hay fever season in the UK kicks off in late March and lasts through to September. It is particularly potent during warm, humid and windy weather, which is typically when the pollen count is at its highest.

Typical allergy symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, itchy and watering eyes, headache, feeling tired, and an itchy throat and nose. Unfortunately for sufferers, there is currently no cure and hay fever cannot be prevented. There are measures, however, that allergy sufferers can take to minimise exposure to allergens and ease the symptoms.

As well as not spending too much time outdoors, there are several ways the home can be ‘hay fever proofed’. Here, Tobin James, MD at Tempur UK, provides a guide to minimising pollen in the home to help alleviate the worst hay fever symptoms (2).

“Summer conjures up images of spending time in the garden or local park,” says Tobin. “But for allergy sufferers, it also means planning ahead to best manage the days of high pollen count and trying to alleviate allergy symptoms. Keep an eye on weather apps, which mention the pollen count for any given day, as this can help you prepare accordingly.

“No matter the type of allergy – many Brits also suffer allergic reactions to year-round indoor allergens, such as dust mites, chemicals from cleaning products, mould, or pet dander – it’s likely to disrupt your sleep, with asthma and nasal allergies usually the most common culprits. When you have a nasal allergy, the tissues inside your nose swell and can block your breathing at night, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep undisturbed.

“There are a number of ways we can make our homes less likely to harbour allergens, including regular cleaning, using extractor fans, ventilating, and drying laundry indoors. Improving your home environment will help ensure better sleep long-term and provides relief from the most severe side-effects.”

Read on for Tempur’s full tips on allergy proofing the home.

1. Regular cleaning

Vacuuming regularly and dusting surfaces with a damp cloth can help remove pollen, dust particles and pet dander (fur and skin particles) that can aggravate allergy symptoms. Don’t forget hidden areas such as behind sofas, inside a fireplace and corners of the room, as these places can harbour more dust. You can also buy a special HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter bag for your vacuum, to further prevent very fine dust particles or pollen deposits gathering.

2. Extractor fans

Use an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom to remove moisture and particles whenever in use. Switch the extractor fan before pre-heating the oven and leave it running while you cook and for a few minutes after you’ve finished. Similarly, keep the extractor fan on during showering or bathing, as this will remove excess moisture and prevent mould build-up. Also, check your heating and cooling system, and ensure that ducts are clean and proper air filtration is in place. You should also check your car ventilation system for the cleanest possible air flow.

3. Clothing & laundry

Clothes and shoes can carry pollen and be transferred indoors, so wash clothes thoroughly and change clothes straightaway if you’ve been outside. If you’re a hay fever sufferer, avoid drying your washing outside as this is a magnet for pollen which can fall on and cling to damp clothes or bedsheets and then be transferred back into the home. Dry clothes indoors wherever possible. For those with an allergy to mould, however, it is advisable to refrain from drying laundry indoors to prevent moisture build up in the home.

4. Ventilation

Hay fever sufferers should keep windows and doors shut as much as possible, particularly during high pollen count days. The pollen counts are highest between 5am and 10am, so limit exposure outside during these times, particularly if the morning is warm and dry. Open windows and doors in the evening to prevent locking irritants into rooms. Create a stronger through draft by opening windows and doors on the opposite side of the room if possible. Good daily ventilation to disperse particles building up in the home and reduce humidity is also crucial for those with allergies triggered by indoor allergens.

5. Bedding

Pillows should ideally be changed every 18 months. Within two years use, one-third of a pillow’s weight comprises of dirt, oil, dead skin and dust mites – not good news for allergy sufferers. Use allergen-proof barriers covers on the mattress, duvet and pillows to prevent allergens taking hold and regularly wash all bedding to prevent any pollen transfer. And, just as with pillows, it’s advisable to change your mattress every 8-10 years.

It’s worth choosing a mattress and pillows with removable, machine washable covers to promote the best possible bedding hygiene. Wash these at 60°C as the higher water temperature kills most bacteria.

6. Other tips

Pollen from fresh cut flowers can aggravate hay fever symptoms, as can smoke particles from burning candles and smoking. Avoid household cleaners with high chemical content as the fumes can increase coughing and try cutting down on alcohol as most alcohol contains histamine, the chemical that triggers allergy symptoms. Take a shower before bed to wash away any pollen on your body; you could also leave your clothes in a separate room to prevent any pollen transfer from the outdoors.

Nettle and chamomile can tackle symptoms through their anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties, so it’s worth swapping your usual cup of tea or coffee for these herbal alternatives. Keep your bedroom free from fragrances, such as perfume, cleaning products, scented candles and spritzes and sprays, to prevent increasing an itchy nose, mouth and throat during the night.

Tobin says: “By implementing these simple measures, from regular household cleaning, to ensuring ventilation and drying laundry indoors, we can ensure our homes are better equipped for allergy sufferers. Minimising exposure to allergens will reduce the effects of hay fever symptoms, meaning sufferers can enjoy better quality, undisturbed sleep.”

For allergy sufferers with severe symptoms, Tempur recommends seeking advice from a doctor or pharmacist, who can provide treatment suggestions such as antihistamines, tablets or nasal sprays to ease symptoms.

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Notes to editors:

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