Removing house dust and other allergic irritants from your home.
House dust is not dust that blows in from out-of-doors. House dust is produced indoors from fibers and the breakdown of plant and animal material used in the home. These plant and animal materials are such things as feathers, cotton, wool, jute, hemp, animal hairs, etc. They can be found in such items as in stuffing in mattresses, pillows, quilts, upholstered furniture, and in carpets.
The components of house dust also may include human skin scales, animal dander and saliva and a large variety of molds. Other allergy triggers found in the house are cockroaches and microscopic dust mites. These mites are not insects, but they are one of the major triggers of asthma and other allergic reactions.
House dust mite allergy is especially troublesome when the indoor humidity is high and in houses at a low altitude. Dust mites can be found throughout the house, but they thrive where human dander is located, such as on mattresses, pillows, bed covers, upholstered furniture and carpeting.
Symptoms of house dust allergy may include a blocked or runny nose with sneezing (particularly in the morning); watery eyes; occasional itching rashes; coughing and wheezing. Sometimes these symptoms may appear together but often individuals have one symptom only (e.g., asthma) and may not realize they are allergic to house dust.
Indoor environmental control is very important and effective in reducing allergic triggers. The bedroom is an important room to begin with because more time is spent in the bedroom than any other room in the house. Here are some ways to reduce dust and other irritants in your home environment.
1. Bedroom. Smooth, uncluttered, easily cleaned
surfaces are recommended. Small objects, such as
knickknacks, books, records, tapes, stereos, television
and stuffed animals, should be placed in drawers or
closed cabinets. Avoid making your bedroom a library
or study room.
2. Mattresses. Encase mattresses in airtight covers.
Controlling dust mites in mattresses require
either regular vacuuming or putting them in dust-free
encasings. The easier solution is to place zippered, airtight
plastic or special allergen-proof fabric encasings
on pillows, mattresses and box springs. Waterbeds
don't have this problem, but the mattress pad on top
of the waterbed should be washed regularly.
3. Bedding. Bedding must be washable and should
be washed weekly in hot water (130 [degrees] F). Comforters
and pillows made of down feathers, kapok and cotton
should be replaced with ones made with synthetic
fibers such as dacron or orlon. Washing in hot water is
necessary since cool washes do not kill the dust mites.
Comforters and pillows should be washed regularly
and synthetic pillows should be replaced every two to
4. Carpeting. Where possible, carpeting should be
removed. House dust mites, mold spores, animal dander
and other allergens are abundant in carpeting.
Replace these floors with hardwood or linoleum.
Carpeting laid over concrete floors have especially
high levels of dust mites because of the increased
5. Vacuuming. Cleaning is essential, but vacuuming also stirs up dust into the air. Allergic individuals should avoid vacuuming or are suggested to wear a dust mask or use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Upholstered furniture also should be vacuumed. Other surfaces should be mopped or wiped. Regular weekly cleaning is suggested.
6. Humidity. Controlling the indoor relative
humidity to below 50% (but above 30%) is important
to reducing the growth of dust mites and mold.
7. Chemical agents. There are chemical agents
that kill the dust mites and/or reduce dust mite antigens
in the house.
8. Air conditioning. Central air conditioning is the
most effective way of controlling humidity. Window
units may be effective, but it is important to clean the
filters on a regular basis. Air conditioning cleans and
cools the indoor air and keeps the outside air outdoors.
This helps to reduce the exposure to outdoor
pollens and molds. Avoid window fans because they
can help bring high levels of pollens and molds into
9. Indoor molds. Indoor molds thrive in areas of
the house with increased humidity (moisture).
Dehumidifiers are helpful in damp basements, but
generally do not control humidity throughout the
house. Basements, bathrooms and kitchens need ventilation
and consistent cleaning to help keep mold
growth to a minimum. Mold killers, including chlorine
bleach, TSP and household cleaners, help to keep surfaces
clear of mold. Other sources of mold are: cold
water humidifiers, carpeting, plants, garbage containers,
rotting flooring, window sills, damp firewood and
10. Air-cleaning devices. The most effective way to
reduce indoor allergens is to remove or control the
source of allergens. Filtering the air to remove airborne
allergens is an additional step that can help.
Several filtering devices are available and some can
be used in conjunction with an existing forced air cooling
and heating system.
Mechanical filters using standard disposal fiberglass
filters should be changed monthly. Permanent
filters with baffles should be cleaned periodically. The
most effective filter is a high-efficiency particulate
(HEPA) filter that also mechanically cleans air.
A third device is an electric filter using an electrostatic
precipitator. These filters require frequent
cleaning of the plates and may produce irritating
ozone if they are not well-maintained.
Free standing air cleaners using HEPA or electrostatic
precipitators are available, though they are of
uncertain value. Two factors should be considered
before purchasing one of these units. One, the capacity
to clean and circulate significant amounts of clear
air (information is available from the manufacturers)
and two, whether allergens that the individual(s) is
sensitive to are prevalent in indoor air.
11. Animal dander. Individuals with animal allergies
react to proteins from the animal's dander, urine
and/or saliva which spread throughout the house.
Removal of the animal is the most effective control
measure, but this may not give immediate, total relief
since animal allergens can be present in the house for
months after removal. With cats, the main problem is
in their saliva. Studies have shown that weekly washing
of the cat may reduce the amount of dander and
dried saliva deposited on carpeting, bedding, and elsewhere.
Allergens from small animals such as mice and
gerbils, are found in their urine so the litter box is the
source of the problem.
12. It is important that allergic patients avoid
other irritants that can be found in the house including
tobacco smoke, aerosols and cleaning products
with a strong odor.
Indoor environmental control measures should focus on the sites where allergens are produced and accumulate. One should know what they are sensitive to. (Your allergist can help you to determine this.) This is important because environmental control measures for cats, dust mites, molds and cockroaches are different.
Making these indoor environment changes takes time. Write down a priority list and make changes over a period of months. These progressive changes will produce an indoor environment that is less allergenic, easier to clean, and healthier for the whole family.
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|Publication:||Pamphlet by: American Academy of Allergy and Immunology|
|Date:||May 1, 1993|