Allergy Treatment Begins At Home (cont.)
Cleaning and More Cleaning: What Really Helps?
If you are going to undertake to thoroughly clean your
home, it is best to ensure at the beginning that the
techniques being used are the most effective. The tips
discussed below will help you achieve the maximum benefit
for all of your efforts.
Soap & Hot Water
Scientific studies of patients who are allergic to dust
mites have shown that taking steps to minimize dust mite
allergens in the bedroom leads to a decrease in allergic
symptoms and medication requirements. Emphasis is placed on
the bedroom since people spend at least one third of a 24
hour day there. It is also the room with the greatest
number of dust mites.
New synthetic bedding materials are available that are
equivalent to down for warmth but can withstand washing
more easily because the fibers don't clump. The ideal
water temperature for washing is at least 130 degrees F to
completely kill the dust mites found throughout the
When the hot water heater is set to achieve a
temperature of 130 degrees F, precautions must be taken to
prevent scalding a child. For example, at bath time,
always remain in
the room with a child and make sure to always turn off
the "hot" water faucet first and finish with the "cold"
The choice of bedding materials becomes important. They
must be able to withstand the rigors of weekly hot water
washing in order to kill the dust mites and remove
accumulated allergens. Many bedding materials may be bulky,
making them more difficult to wash. It may be easier to use
several layers for warmth instead of bulky items for ease
of washing. Since any type of blanket material can support
dust mite growth, it is important to select one that can
withstand repeated washings.
Vacuuming the Right Way
If the carpet can't be replaced by a solid surface such
as linoleum or hardwood, then it must be cleaned thoroughly
and frequently. Also remember to vacuum upholstered
furniture, draperies, and other fabric items that cannot be
washed, removed, or replaced. The trouble with vacuuming is
that the allergenic dust mite and mold particles become
airborne during the process. Dust mite particles can remain
airborne for about 15 minutes and be redistributed
throughout the home environment. Allergic persons clearly
should not be doing the vacuuming and should also stay out
of the area until the dust particles resettle. Dust mite
particles also become airborne during bedding changes or
the placement of dust covers on the mattress, box spring,
and pillows. For severely allergic people, these tasks can
lead to significant allergy and possible asthma attacks.
Those affected by these allergies should definitely not
perform these chores.
Allergic persons should not perform vacuuming tasks and
should keep out of the immediate environment for at least 1
hour after the vacuuming has been completed. Damp dusting
should then follow to catch any loose
The vacuum cleaner collecting bag acts as the primary
filter in most vacuum cleaning systems. A standard bag can
be replaced with a high-filtration multi-layer bag and an
exhaust filter can be added. These measures prevent the
allergen particles from escaping and becoming airborne
during the vacuuming process. Replacing the vacuum bags and
adding exhaust filters are economical ways to increase the
efficiency of an older vacuum. These bags and filters are
easily obtained from allergy supply houses. The filters are
available in 8" x 10" sheets that can be cut to size for
any canister vacuum. Very expensive vacuum units with
built-in HEPA systems (High Efficiency Particulate Air-
filter) have been available for years. Now, more affordable
brands of vacuums come equipped with HEPA filters and a
removable canister that can be washed in the top rack of
the dishwasher. This system eliminates the problem with
vacuum bags. As the older generation of vacuums is phased
out, this development should be quite helpful in allergy
control. Whole-house vacuum systems, although quite
expensive, are also helpful because the dirt collection
system is located outside of the house, usually in the
Hard Surfaces Are Easier to Clean
Dust mites, molds, animal danders, and insect debris are
difficult to thoroughly clear from the environment.
However, it really is easier and quicker to clean a hard
surface such as wood, tile, vinyl, or leather than it is to
clean all those nooks and crannies found in carpet, fabric,
or other soft surfaces.
Replacing the carpet with a hard-surfaced floor can
eliminate over 90% of dust mites. If you absolutely have
to have carpet, get the kind that has a low
The following is a list of suggestions for how to make
allergy-proofing an easier task. Hopefully, these ideas
will lead to other methods you can use to thoroughly clean
and maintain your environment allergy free. Take it one
step at a time and focus on the bedrooms first. If you plan
on moving, pay close attention to steps that can be taken
to allergy-proof prior to moving into the new house. It is
much easier to put these ideas into action in the beginning
than after everything is in place.
It's really not as hard as it looks!
- Avoid ornate furniture. Plain, simple designs
accumulate less dust. No open bookshelves; they are great
- Keep all clothes in drawers or closets, never lying
about the room. Enclose wool clothes in plastic zipper
bags. Avoid mothballs, insect sprays, tar paper, or
camphor. Keep drawers and closet doors closed.
- Remove as much clutter as possible to make cleaning
easier. Place hard-to-clean items in closets, drawers, or
display cabinets with glass doors.
- When choosing furnishings, it is best to go with wood,
leather, vinyl, or rubberized canvas furniture and avoid
upholstered pieces. Upholstery easily traps allergens and
is much harder to clean. You might try washable slipcovers
on existing upholstered furniture.
- Install wood, tile, or linoleum flooring. Limit throw
rugs to those that can be easily cleaned in the washer.
They should be able to withstand washing weekly.
- Use allergen-proof encasings for pillows, mattresses,
and box springs. Tape over zippers to help prevent leaks.
Vacuum all casings frequently. Store nothing under the bed.
- Use washable cotton or synthetic blankets, not fuzzy
surfaced ones. Use easily laundered cotton bedspreads or
coverlets; avoid chenille.
- Install roll-up washable cotton or synthetic window
shades. Avoid venetian blinds, mini-blinds, and pleated
- Use washable cotton or fiberglass curtains. Avoid
draperies and decorative fabric window treatments!
- Install central air conditioning or window units. Keep
windows closed, especially during periods of high pollen
counts and windy conditions. Grasses, weeds, and trees tend
to pollinate during the early morning hours. Sleep with the
- Use Dacron or other synthetics for pillows. Avoid
feathers or foam rubber, which traps moisture and promotes
mold and dust mite growth.
- Space heaters are preferred over hot air ducts. In
homes with forced air heat, use filters or damp cheesecloth
over inlets to reduce dust circulation. Change every two
weeks. Consult your physician about air purifiers. Keep
beds away from air vents.
- Damp dusting using a dampened cloth or an oiled mop
will minimize the distribution of dust through the air.
Baby's Room - Special Tips
It's a good idea to eliminate potential irritants and
allergens from your baby's environment. Here's what you can
do to help eliminate potential sources of allergens from
your baby's world.
- Wood or plastic chairs are best for baby's room.
- Again, avoid all feather bedding.
- Use dust-proof casings for all bedding.
- Stuffed animals should never be placed in the crib and,
if used, should be washable. Put most of the stuffed items
in a closed chest or closet. Store them in a freezer bag
when not in use.
- When it comes to gifts for children, ask for books
rather than stuffed animals. Keep the books in a bookcase
with doors to help reduce allergens.
- Humidifiers should be reserved for croup. They should
not be used routinely since they increase the dust mite and
mold counts. If a humidifier is required, the cool
water variety is safer than a steam humidifier in
terms of burns. Also, be sure to change the water daily if
a humidifier is necessary.
- Animal fur is a potential allergen. It's best to keep
pets out of the baby's room.
- Overhead mobiles and wall hangings collect dust!
- Baby bumpers should be simple and washable. No ruffles
- Ruffled curtains and venetian blinds collect a lot of
dust. Vertical blinds are preferable. If levelers or
shutters are used, be sure to clean them weekly with a damp
- The crib should be placed away from air vents.
- A HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air-filter)
can be placed under the crib. The filter will help to
decrease airborne allergens such as pollens, mold spores,
and animal danders.
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Allergy Treatment at Home - Prevention
Question: Does anyone in your household have allergies? Please share tips for preventing allergies in your home.