Should people with allergies and/or asthma own carpeting?

When allergens such as pollen, dust, dander and mold make their way into your home -- and they will -- they end up trapped in the fibers of your carpet. While being stuck in the carpet means they're not constantly circulating in the air, those allergens are still sent into the air every time you take a step.

Some of the most common carpet fibers used today, nylon and polyester, are an inhospitable climate for allergens and were specially developed in labs to repel them. The most effective anti-allergy carpet is nylon, while wool is the worst carpet for people with allergies because allergens and mold thrive in it. Shag carpets should be avoided at all costs because the long strands harbor tiny particles. You want your carpet strands to be as short and as tightly woven as possible.

Carpets are often treated with chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde. These treatments eventually transform into gas and affect the air quality in your home, aggravating most allergies. Choose carpets with low VOC (volatile organic compound) and also find out what chemicals are in the glue and carpet padding. To keep allergens at bay, vacuum your carpets regularly and shampoo or steam clean them as necessary. Professional carpet cleaners or a deep-cleaning vacuum will do the best job, and a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter (which is included in some vacuums) will help trap allergens.

Although hard floors such as wood, laminate, tile, cork, linoleum and bamboo require more frequent cleaning than carpeting does, they are easier to clean and don't have anywhere for allergens to hide. So if you have allergies or asthma, think long and hard about whether you want to get carpeting, which will offer a haven for allergens, or a hard floor, which you're going to have to maintain in order to keep it clean fresh looking.