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Upgrading your vacuum.

If you suffer from allergies--especially to dust, animal dander, dust mites, or pollen--you've undoubtedly been told to keep floors and furniture as clean as possible. That means you have a love/hate relationship with your vacuum cleaner, since most vacuums stir up as many allergens as they capture. Even the best conventional machine exhausts fine particles every time it's used. For most people, that's no big deal, but for those with allergies, it's a big problem. If vacuuming intensifies your allergies, here are some steps you can take:

* Get microfiltration bags for your vacuum cleaner. These have a two-ply design (the lining may be electrostatically charged) that, studies show, can trap many of the smallest particles. Such filters cost more than the standard ones and may fit only certain vacuum brands and models. There are also electrostatic filters that fit over the exhaust of some models. Such items are sold in many stores specializing in vacuums, but are becoming increasingly available in general housewares stores. If you can't find a supplier, you can call Allergy Control Products at 800-422-DUST.

* Make sure your vacuum cleaner is good enough for the job. Some machines allow a lot of leakage, even when equipped with a microfiltration bag--for instance, through poorly fitting hoses. If your machine is old and leaky, consider getting a new one.

* When shopping for a new vacuum cleaner, remember that some conventional models are much better for allergy sufferers than others. Look for one with a double-layer dust bag and tight gasket seals. Many upright models let lots of dust escape, so look for one that has a heavy outer cloth bag with an impermeable coating. Ask your allergist for advice about specific models.

* For the most effective removal of allergens, consider buying a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter, a special type of filter found in the best air purifiers. HEPA filters were developed during World War II to remove radioactive dust in atomic energy plants. HEPA vacuum cleaners are expensive ($500 to $1,000) and are sold in allergy-supply or hospital-supply companies or directly by the manufacturers.

* If your allergies are bad, wear a mask while vacuuming. Or get someone else to vacuum for you while you're out of the house!

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Title Annotation:vacuums and accessories that reduce the chances of aggravating allergies
Publication:The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter
Date:Feb 1, 1995
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