If you or someone in your family has severe allergies, you know that allergies can be a life-changing condition. A "clean room" type environment is not too extreme for these cases. Even if your allergies are mild or you suffer only during pollen season, it is still smart to start in the bedroom to eliminate allergens and their sources. After all, the bedroom is the place you spend the largest percentage of your 24-hour day. Below are ways to allergy proof your bedroom from the floor up, including the bed, the furniture, the bits and pieces, the pets, the air, and all the way up the walls past the windows to the ceiling. You will also find tips on bed bug prevention and elimination.
Many types of allergens can be found in carpeted floors - dust mite, mold, pet, pollen, and cockroach. When you walk across the carpet in your bedroom, allergens are stirred up from the floor. That means when you breathe, you are inhaling irritants that could cause an allergic reaction like sneezing, sniffling, headache, watery eyes, etc. The best solution is to replace carpet with hard surface floors such as wood, laminate, vinyl, or tile. Then it is a matter of vacuuming or using a dust/damp mop once or twice a week. Be sure to use a HEPA vacuum that has a special HEPA filter to capture particles that are suctioned in so that the dust and allergens are not sent back into the room with the vacuum's exhaust. If you like carpet or cannot afford a major change right now, you should still vacuum once or twice a week with a HEPA vacuum. In addition to vacuuming, also regularly apply a carpet treatment that will either kill dust mites or neutralize dust mite and pet allergen.
The Mayo Clinic says "about 98 percent of dust allergens are inhaled from the bed" and goes on to suggest that "pillows and mattresses should be covered with dust-proof covers and bedding should be washed every other week in hot
water to kill dust mites." Dust mites love to snuggle down in your mattress and bedding. That is why mattress, box spring, and pillows should be covered with allergy proof encasings - zippered covers made from impermeable fabrics. Choose blankets and sheets that are durable enough to be washed every 2 weeks in hot water (over 130 degree F.). If you do not keep your water that hot for safety reasons, an allergen type laundry detergent effective in cold water or a cold water laundry additive can be used to eliminate allergen in your bedding. Avoid using a dust ruffle around the bed because it does catch dust and also makes it more difficult to reach dust under the bed. If you like the look of a dust ruffle, then it should be washed in hot water or with a cold water allergen type laundry detergent or laundry additive every two weeks along with other bedding that is outside the encasings. Mattress pads and toppers can be placed inside the zippered mattress cover for dust mite allergen protection, or if used outside the encasing, they should be washed every two weeks. Comforters that are difficult to wash or that might fade or shrink in hot water can be placed in a mite proof comforter cover. For decorative duvets, your comforter can be encased in a lightweight inner liner and then placed in the duvet cover.
Choose bedroom furniture that is easy to dust. Chairs or love seats that are metal, plastic, or leather are better than their cloth-upholstered counterparts that harbor allergens. When furniture will not be harmed by water, damp dusting is very effective. If you cannot use water on your furniture, use a fragrance-free furniture polish or dry dust with an electrostatic cloth that will help keep dust from flying up into the air. If you can't part with cloth-upholstered furniture in your bedroom, vacuum it every week and use an allergen treatment regularly to remove or neutralize allergen.
The Bits and Pieces
Keep anything that collects dust to a minimum because you'll need to dust all of it every week. Soft knick knacks like pillows and stuffed animals should be washed in hot water or a cold water detergent or additive every two weeks. Throw out old newspapers and magazines that collect dust and also attract moisture that can lead to mold. Store books in a room other than your bedroom.
The Windows, Walls, & Ceiling
When possible, don't use window treatments. If you must, consider your options. Vertical blinds and window shades are usually easier to keep dust free than horizontal blinds. Curtains can be washed more easily than heavy fabric drapes. Dust also collects on walls, baseboards, and ceilings. Use a vacuum attachment, dust mop, or dust cloth as needed to keep these surfaces dust free. Light fixtures and ceiling fans can become dusty, too, so don't forget to look up when cleaning the bedroom.
Pets really should not be found in your bedroom and certainly not on your bed. Use the rule that the least exposure is the best because pet allergen is potent for up to several months. If you can't give away your pet, keep it outdoors; if you can't put the pet outdoors, confine it to your den or living room; if you can't do that, give the pet the run of the house - except for the bedroom. To minimize pet dander throughout the house, bathe your pet often and to minimize allergen that hitchhikes in on your pet's fur, wipe him down when he comes into the house from outdoors. But the bottom line is: keep your pet out of your bedroom.
The tips above have helped you reduce the sources of many allergens in your bedroom, but it is impossible to completely eliminate allergens and their causes. To further clean the air of remaining airborne allergen, you can take several steps. A HEPA air purifier will remove 99.97% of airborne allergen bigger than .3 microns that pass through the filter. So when you stir allergen up, the fan in the air cleaner will pull the air through the air purifier filters to trap the allergen floating in the air. Another way to reduce allergen in your bedroom's air is to cover the HVAC vents with filter material to capture particles being forced into your bedroom through the ductwork. If mold is a problem, treating the vent cover material with a mold management solution removes even more mold from the air. Keeping humidity under 50% reduces the dust mite population and reduces mold growth so there is less dust mite and mold allergen in your bedroom. Monitor your humidity and when it reaches 45% - 50%, remove excess moisture with a dehumidifier. Another way to remove allergen from your bedroom's air (and the whole house) is the use of an allergen reduction furnace filter - remember to change it every 3 months.
If you have had bed bugs in the past, if your neighbors have bed bugs, or if you travel to places with bed bug issues, you may be at risk for bed bugs. For do-it-yourself elimination measures, there are effective, non-toxic solutions that kill bed bugs, keep bed bugs from crawling up furniture legs, or eliminate bed bugs in hard-to-reach areas like behind electric outlets or light switches. Steam over 200 degrees F. is also an effective way to kill bed bugs on contact. Zippered encasings can protect your mattress, box spring, and pillows from bed bug infestation. Bed bugs cannot pass through the fabric or zippers so, in the event of bed bugs, you will not have to discard your expensive mattress, box spring, and pillows. If your mattress, box spring, and pillows might contain bed bugs or their eggs, zippered encasings can keep bed bugs from spreading from your bedding to re-infest the bedroom. Storing out-of-season clothing or extra linens in a bed bug proof bag can also be helpful. However, if the infestation is widespread, you will probably need to call in a pest control expert who knows about bed bugs.
Depending of the severity of your allergies, you may need to follow every recommendation in this newsletter or, for less severe cases, you may want to pick and choose from these tips. The Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) says that the degree and length of exposure to an allergen is one of the factors that determines if you will develop an allergic sensitivity. Be healthier now and maybe even avoid allergies from developing in the future by beginning in the bedroom for a healthier home.
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