Tips to Control Indoor Allergens
Allergy and asthma control begins at home. Many people with allergies stay indoors when outdoor air is full of pollen and spores. But dust mites, animal dander and even cockroaches can cause problems indoors.The EPA recommends three strategies for reducing indoor air pollution:
- Controlling sources of pollution,
- Ventilating adequately and
- Cleaning indoor air.
Eight out of 10 people in the United States are exposed to house dust mites, and six out of 10 are exposed to cat or dog dander. Cockroaches cause allergic reactions among people who live in the inner cities or southern parts of the United States .
Controlling the air quality in your home, office, school and car can reduce allergy and asthma triggers.
What Size Are Allergens?
Allergens are substances that cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma symptoms in some people. Allergen particles are carried in the air, but they will settle onto furniture and floor surfaces. They vary in size and are measured in microns (also called micrometers). The larger the particles, the faster they will settle out of the air. Pollen, dust mite and cockroach debris are larger and settle out of the air more quickly than molds or animal allergens.
Is Indoor Control Possible?
With aggressive cleaning, you can improve indoor air quality and reduce allergy symptoms. First you need to remove the source of as many allergens that you are sensitive to as possible. This includes pets, carpets, overstuffed furniture, stuffed toys, non-encased mattresses and pillows and bedding not washable in hot water. There may be more allergens on surfaces than in the air. Surface allergens can be put into the air easily by disturbing them by sitting or dusting, for example.
Will Air Cleaning Devices Help?
Maybe, but, the best way to improve air quality is to eliminate the sources of pollutants from the home. The next best step is to take measures to avoid and decrease exposure to allergens. Other important measures are to increase the circulation of outdoor air into the home and to reduce the humidity as much as possible.
Reducing humidity decreases dust mite and mold growth. Air conditioners help reduce the humidity as well as prevent the exposure of outdoor allergens. You can reduce the number of outdoor allergens such as pollen and mold from entering the home by keeping windows and doors closed and the air conditioner set on recirculate.What Steps Help Improve Indoor Air Quality?
The single most important method is to put zippered allergen impermeable or plastic covers on all pillows, mattresses and box springs. Encasing mattresses works better than air cleaners to reduce allergy symptoms. Every week, wash bedding, uncovered pillows and stuffed toys in hot water (130 degree F.) to kill mites.
To test the affect of pets on your allergies, go on a long vacation away from areas where pets have been. This is preferable since pet dander can stay around a home for months even after the pet is gone. If that is not possible, remove the pets from your home for at least two months and thoroughly clean all surfaces including walls and woodwork. Monitor your symptoms. If you still want pets, bring a pet into the house, measure the change in your symptoms, then decide if keeping the pet is worthwhile.
If you decide to keep a pet, bar it from the bedroom and keep the door closed. Cover vents with dense material like cheesecloth. Because animal allergens are sticky, you need to remove the animal's favorite furniture and replace wall-to-wall carpet with bare floors or at least a low pile carpet. A better option is to choose a pet without fur or feathers. Some people, though, also have been known to be allergic to lizards such as the iguana.
This article was published by AAFA, copyright 1995. It can be accessed online at the following link.Indoor Air Quality and Allergies
Home Remodeling and Allergies
Indoor Air Pollution Fact Sheet
How Much Do You Know About Air Quality?
Tips to Control Indoor Allergens
Airing the Truth about Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution
How to Know if There is a Problem