01 Beauty lies in the Soul: Avoiding allergens

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Avoiding allergens

There are plenty of steps you can take to cut down on allergens in your home. Time to open the windows and get cleaning...

Some basic rules
Take the following immediate actions to cut down on allergens in your home:

  • Keep your home dry and well ventilated.
  • Open windows regularly and keep vents open, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. A useful guide is to open windows for at least one hour, twice a day.
  • However, if you suffer from hay fever, you should keep the windows closed as much as possible during the peak of the pollen season.
  • Don't dry clothes indoors, especially in your bedroom or living room.
  • If you have central heating, turn it down by a few degrees.
  • Increase the ventilation if your home is very humid - a dehumidifier might help.
House dust mites
Household dust is a great breeding ground for house dust mites and may also contain animal dander and mould or mildew spores. There are various ways to keep a lid on house dust mites:

Choose wooden or other hard vinyl floorings instead of carpets, and fit roller blinds, which can be wiped clean, rather than curtains.
Remove cushions, soft toys and other fabric accessories.
Avoid indoor houseplants, as they are also dust traps.
Don't use woollen blankets or feather bedding in your home. Try synthetic pillows and acrylic duvets instead.
If you can, buy a high-filtration vacuum cleaner. Most standard cleaners stir up dust as you clean and release most of the dust back into the air in your home.
Always wipe surfaces with a clean, damp cloth, as dusting will just spread the allergens further.
The most beneficial action you can take is to buy barrier covers for your bedding

The most beneficial action you can take is to buy barrier covers for your bedding. These are designed to prevent house dust mites and their tiny droppings escaping from your pillows, mattresses and duvets. They are made from a soft micro-porous material, which is comfortable to sleep on. And wash your sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases once a week in a hot wash (60°C), then iron your sheets and bedclothes with a hot iron, which will help to kill mites.

If your child is unhappy about giving up soft toys, machine wash them instead in a hot wash once a fortnight. Then place the toys in the freezer for 24 hours after which they should be thoroughly dried.

On a final note, acarosides are chemicals that kill house dust mites. They are expensive and only offer temporary benefit, and the dead mites still have to be removed from carpets and furnishings by intensive vacuuming.

Pets in the home
Another priority is to remove pets from the home. If this is too traumatic, then try the following:

Keep pets outside as much as possible or limit them to one room only, preferably one without carpeting.
Don't allow pets into bedrooms, as dander can remain airborne for long periods. The cat dander allergen can also be carried on clothing to school or work.
Wash your pets regularly - fortnightly if possible.

Female animals produce less allergen and castration will reduce the production of allergen by male cats and dogs.

If you are allergic to cats and are visiting the home of a cat owner, ask them not to dust, sweep or vacuum on the day you arrive. Disturbing the dust could make your allergy worse as stirred-up cat allergen can remain in the air for over 24 hours. You might want to take anti-histamine medication if entering a cat-inhabited home.

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