Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Allergen Hide and Seek: Learn How to Locate and Kill Household Allergens

Thorough, regular vacuuming is recommended to help get rid of dust and dander.
Thorough, regular vacuuming is recommended to help get rid of dust and dander.

There are a lot of things you can do to keep unwelcome guests out of your home. From alarm systems that deter intruders to products that keep pests at bay, you try to make sure your house is a safe, secure haven for you and your family.

But what you might not realize is that there are millions of invaders locked up in your home with you. They sleep in your bed, lounge in your bathtub and cozy up on your couch. Not only are these freeloaders living rent-free, they may be doing so at the expense of your health. Meet the other residents of your home: allergens.

While not quite as objectionable as an armed criminal or a disease-carrying rodent, allergens do pose a threat. But the levels of danger or inconvenience they bring to a family depend a lot on the sensitivities of the people who live there. Most allergens are harmless substances.

However, a person with allergies has an immune system that incorrectly identifies some things, like dust or pet dander, as dangerous. The body then creates a host of symptoms -- sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes -- in a misguided effort to protect itself. Imagine how your family dog views your mail carrier. She's a familiar face who shows up to your house every day; yet Fido gives her the same loud warning he would a burglar. Similarly, those with allergies have immune systems that are acting as over-protective guard dogs.

If you suspect you or a family member has allergies, you can visit an allergist to find out the specific substances that are causing the most problems. After exposing your skin to a host of potential offenders, the doctor will note how your skin reacts (the ones causing burning or itching are the ones you're allergic to). Knowing which allergens are problematic for your family is important because those are the ones you'll want to target first when cleaning your home. To help you eliminate those allergens, we'll give you a guide to finding the troublemakers where they lurk. Keep reading to learn more.