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 bedding.

Allergy Alert

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" faucet.

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.

Allergy Alert

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 particles.

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 garage.

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.

Allergy Assist

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 pile.

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!

Cleaning Tips

  • Avoid ornate furniture. Plain, simple designs accumulate less dust. No open bookshelves; they are great dust-catchers.
  • 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 shades.
  • 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 windows closed.
  • 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 or pleats.
  • 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 cloth.
  • 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/16/2014

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