The place where you can put up your feet, relax, and... get a headache? Even those who aren't especially prone to pain can be susceptible to the triggers that hole up in your house.
Thankfully, you (and your head) don't have to be held hostage: "You can considerably cut down on the number of headaches you get by controlling factors such as the lighting and smells," says neurologist Brian Grosberg, MD.
Here are four simple ways to turn your abode into a headache-free zone.
Lower the lights
If you're one of the 30 million Americans who get migraines, overly bright lights at home can be a big problem. The brains of folks who suffer from these intense headaches are often extra sensitive to sensory input, and the glaring light from bulbs or even sunlight can cause head-splitting pain, explains Deborah Friedman, MD, a neurologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The flickering quality of fluorescent lights can likewise bring on pain, adds Peter Goadsby, MD, director of the Headache Center at the University of California–San Francisco.
The fix: While there's no perfect lightbulb option, dim incandescent bulbs (the lower the wattage, the better) are generally preferable to halogens and fluorescents because they emit a steadier, more muted light.
Install dimmers so you can darken a room when you feel a headache coming on, Dr. Goadsby advises. And hang blinds or shades to shield you from any streaming sunlight.
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Ditch hidden allergens
More than half of all homes have six or more detectable allergens inside, research shows. If you suffer from allergies, those sniffle-and-sneeze triggers can lead to headaches, too.
Why? Irritants such as dust mites (microscopic creatures found in house dust), dander, and mold "inflame the nasal passages, which releases a pain-signaling chemical that can trigger a headache," Dr. Grosberg explains. Also, allergy-related congestion can cause a painful buildup of pressure in your nasal passages and sinuses.
The fix: Invest in a quality vacuum and an air purifier with HEPA filters, says Jonathan Bernstein, MD, an allergist at the University of Cincinnati. HEPA filters can remove up to 99 percent of airborne allergens like cat dander.
Regularly run a dehumidifier to keep your home's humidity levels between 30 percent and 50 percent, a dry zone at which dust mites and mold are less likely to thrive.
Launder bedding weekly in hot water, and slip microfiber allergen-blocking encasements over your pillows, mattress, and box spring, advises Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, MD, an allergist in Gaithersburg, Maryland.