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Controlling Indoor Allergens


Topic Overview

Newer, energy-saving homes that are built with double- or triple-paned windows and more insulation keep heat as well as allergens indoors. You may be able to prevent or minimize reactions to indoor allergens.

  • Use an air conditioner or air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Keep the house aired out and dry. Keep the moisture level below 50%. Use a dehumidifier during humid weather.
  • Dust and vacuum 1 to 2 times a week. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which collects dust-mite particles and pollen. Standard paper bag filters may allow the stirred-up allergens to escape back into the room.
    • To help reduce the amount of dust blowing around the room, keep the vacuum tank outside the room, or attach another hose to the air outlet so the air blows outside the room.
    • Wear a mask if you do the cleaning yourself.
    • Be aware that vacuuming stirs up dust, making the air more irritating until the dust settles.
  • Avoid carpet, upholstered furniture, and heavy drapes that collect dust. Vacuuming doesn't pick up dust mites.
    • Remove rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting. Talk with your family about this measure and how this will affect family life.
    • Replace drapes and blinds with roll-down shades or washable curtains.
  • Damp mop the floor once a day. Vacuum the walls, ceiling, closet, and the backs of the furniture once a week to get rid of as much dust as you can.
  • Use baking soda, mineral oil, club soda, or vinegar to clean instead of harsher cleaning solutions that can produce allergic reactions.
  • Contact a pest control service, if necessary, to get rid of cockroaches. Cockroaches and other insects may provoke allergic responses if you have allergic asthma.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke, smoke from wood-burning stoves, and fumes from kerosene heaters.
  • Keep air registers closed if there is a pet in the house. This will reduce the amount of animal dander circulating in the house, especially in the bedroom.
  • Repair any water-damaged areas from leaking roofs or basements. These areas can be prime mold-growing areas.
  • Have your heating or air-conditioning ducts and vents cleaned regularly.

It may be hard to control dust in your whole house. You may wish to focus on the bedroom, where adults spend one-third of their time and children spend half of their time.

  • Remove items that collect dust, such as stuffed toys, pictures, books, knickknacks, and artificial flowers.
  • Do not use wool or down blankets, feather pillows, or foam rubber, all of which attract dust mites.
  • Wash bedding, including pillows, once a week in hot water [130 A?F (54 A?C)] or cover the pillows with an allergen-proof casing.
  • Cover your mattress and box springs with dust-proof cases and wipe them clean once a week.
  • Keep plants and fish tanks, which increase humidity, out of the bedroom. Dust mites thrive where humidity is greater than 50%.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last RevisedApril 29, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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