Reducing Indoor Allergens
By Debbie Bunch
Winter has arrived in full force, and that means we’re all spending a lot more time indoors. For children and adults with allergies and asthma, all this inside time can lead to problems with indoor allergens. How can you make sure your home is allergen free? These tips from respiratory therapists at the American Association for Respiratory Care can help:
De-clutter: Piles of magazines, newspapers, books, toys, and other items just naturally collect dust, which can be a trigger for allergies and asthma. Purchase some plastic containers to store toys and other things when they are not in use.
Make your home pet-free: Pets are a big trigger for most people with asthma and allergies. If you can’t find a good home for a pet you already have, keep the pet outside, making sure to provide a safe and warm place so it will be protected against the winter weather. Bathing pets once a week can help as well.
Keep food in the kitchen: Eating on the couch, bed, or other places outside of the kitchen creates crumbs that embed in soft surfaces that are harder to clean. This in turn attracts cockroaches. Cockroach droppings follow, and those are a known asthma and allergy trigger.
Do away with dust mites: Dust mites proliferate in bedding, so be sure to wash all linens in hot water at least once a week and use plastic covers on mattresses, comforters, and pillows. This will help reduce allergy symptoms.
Bare is better: If possible, remove carpeting and rugs, and use blinds rather than curtains on windows. All fabrics harbor dust, and hard surfaces are easier to wipe clean. If you do have carpet, vacuum regularly using a HEPA filter and keep the family member with asthma or allergies out of the room for at least two hours afterwards to give the dust stirred up by the vacuum cleaner time to settle.
Lower humidity: Humid conditions can lead to mold and mildew, which can aggravate asthma and allergies, so be sure to repair any water leaks, ensure windows don’t let in moisture from the outside, and keep clothes hampers out of bedrooms and empty them regularly to make sure sweaty clothes and damp towels don’t start to mildew. The goal is to keep indoor humidity to under 50%. If necessary, a de-humidifier may help.
Maintain your furnace: Changing filters every three months and using filters with a MERV rating of 8-12 can help remove dust from the air. Leaving the fan in the “on” position removes dust on an ongoing basis.
Watch out for odors: Cleaning products, air fresheners, scented candles, and other products that create odors can cause problems for people who are sensitive to smells. It’s best to forego room deodorizers altogether, and when it comes to cleaning products, look for non-toxic varieties that use natural ingredients.
No smoking, EVER: It goes without saying that exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant asthma and allergy trigger. Never allow smoking in your home, and don’t allow it in outdoor spaces either, if your child or other family member with asthma or allergies will also be using that space.
Following these simple precautions can help ensure a happier and healthier winter season for you and your family members with asthma and allergies.
Debbie Bunch is a health writer in Dallas, TX. She has written articles for the American Association for Respiratory Care since 1977.