The Bucket Theory – Why Allergen Avoidance Works Against Allergens and Dust Mites
- General Information About Allergies And Dust Mites
- Some Smart and Easy Tips for Ridding Your Bedroom of Dust Mites
- #1 Use Dust Mite Proof Encasings on All Bedding
- #2 Wash Bedding in HOT Water or Use an Anti-Allergen Additive or Detergent
- #3 Treat Carpet with an Anti-Dust Mite Spray or Powder
- #4 Lower Humidity with a Dehumidifier & Monitor Levels Regularly
- #5 Stop Incoming Dust with Furnace & Vent Filters
- #6 Make Allergy-Conscious Decorating Choices
- #7 Remove Airborne Allergens with a True HEPA Air Cleaner
- Conclusion: Avoiding Allergens at Home Can Help Reduce Allergic Overload & Symptoms
General Information About Allergies And Dust Mites
Allergy physicians tell us that people are most allergic to dust and dust mites, mold spores, pollens, and animal dander. A common mistake made by many allergy sufferers is to assume that if you can't avoid all the allergens all the time, there is no point in trying to avoid any of them. But, according to allergy physicians, breathing in airborne allergens is a cumulative problem.
Think of your immune system as a bucket. It takes in allergens and starts filling up. Symptoms don't appear until your "bucket" begins to overflow. That's when you become miserable. Allergy physicians highly recommend environmental controls to help you avoid enough allergens so that your "bucket" won't overflow. Whether you're allergic to one or several substances, successful avoidance of even one of them can keep your "bucket" from overflowing.
Let's say you've been diagnosed with dust mite allergies, one of the most common problems. Using products from this web site can make your bedroom virtually free of dust mite allergen. Think about it. You won't be breathing in invisible allergens all night long, and you may wake up with no allergy symptoms. Plus the 8-10 hours of super-clean air will give your system a chance to recover, so that you can start the day with an "empty bucket." In fact, with conscientious, ongoing avoidance measures, your "bucket" may never overflow again! And wouldn't that be nice?
THE MAIN CULPRIT ‒ DUST MITES
Dust Mites are microscopic, insect-like creatures that live in bedding, carpets and upholstered furniture. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the waste dust mites produce causes allergic symptoms in about 20 million Americans nationwide. Pillows and mattresses are a virtual paradise for dust mites because they thrive in warm, humid conditions while gorging themselves on shed human skin cells. Since people spend 8-10 hours a day in the bedroom, it's where the greatest number of dust mites exist.
So get a leg up on dust mites. Make them feel unwelcome by washing bedding regularly, using zippered encasings, treating or removing your carpet, and filtering the air in your home with a True HEPA air cleaner. Dust mites are also one of the main allergenic substances found in common house dust, so regularly vacuum with a HEPA filter (see tips below).
This uninvited guest is in your home... right under your nose!
Some Smart and Easy Tips for Ridding Your Bedroom of Dust Mites
#1 Use Dust Mite Proof Encasings on All Bedding.
Your bed is where you spend the most time while you are in your bedroom, and therefore it is where the most dust mites live. All of our creature sleeping comforts also make a home for dust mites. And we supply them with plenty of food from shed skin flakes and water from our body's normal moisture loss. But dust mites cannot affect you if they are trapped inside our zippered allergen-proof encasings. So, be sure to cover your pillows, mattress, and box spring as your first step in avoiding allergens. And don't forget about encasing comforters, toppers and featherbeds, and specialty or decorative pillows, as these items certainly need to be encased with dust mite-impermeable covers as well. As an alternative to encasing the following items, you can also choose a dust mite-proof pillow (with built-in allergy encasing), or an allergen-proof comforter (covered in a dust mite barrier fabric). The key to an allergy-free sanctuary is controlling allergens at the core – and, in the bedroom, that is your bed.
#2 Wash Bedding in HOT Water or Use an Anti-Allergen Additive or Detergent.
Dust mites also love blankets and mattress pads, but you can avoid infestation by washing them regularly in hot water (130°F). While in college, my son had a blanket for this purpose – easily washable, soft and durable. You might also add an all-temperature laundry additive to the wash water along with your regular laundry detergent to denature allergens (make them harmless). Another option is using an all-in-one laundry detergent that both cleans and makes dust mite allergen harmless in any wash temperature.
#3 Treat Carpet with an Anti-Dust Mite Spray or Powder.
Tearing up the carpet and installing hard wood floors is the ideal solution because carpeting is a large reservoir of allergen, second only to beds. Short of that, there are a number of different products that either kill dust mites or render their allergen harmless so as not to give you the sniffles! For a primer on why and how dust mite sprays and powders work, take a glance at our Learning Library article which is all about the different dust mite treatments available. Also, our Dust Mite Treatments Comparison Chart is a handy quick reference for choosing which treatment may be best for your room.
#4 Lower Humidity with a Dehumidifier & Monitor Levels Regularly.
It is widely accepted among the medical, research and academic communities that dust mites thrive in temperatures at and above 70°F with relative humidity in the 70-75% range. However, dust mites die when humidity levels fall to between 40-50%, which is why lowering your home's humidity to 50% or less can be a great help in controlling dust mites, and your allergies. It seems so simple, but low humidity levels mean fewer dust mites, and also less chance for mold growth. Scan over the first half of our article on Springtime Allergies article – it's all about dehumidification.
#5 Stop Incoming Dust with Furnace & Vent Filters.
Another good way to reduce allergens in your room (and your entire home) is with a high-efficiency furnace filter. They're available in a permanent filter version, which requires monthly cleaning, or in a disposable furnace filter version, which requires quarterly replacement. Of the two, the disposable furnace filters do the best job capturing small particles. But both of these are far superior to the porous, fiberglass filters found in many hardware stores. Attaching a vent filter to the incoming air register in your room is a simple and economical way to further help create an allergy-free bedroom environment.
#6 Make Allergy-Conscious Decorating Choices.
Making decorating choices can mean different things to different people. I'll refrain from advising you on color and fabric choices. However, as a fellow allergy sufferer, I certainly agree with allergy physicians, and advise against dust collectors in the bedroom, like heavy cloth curtains, bed ruffles, stuffed toys, and cluttered bookshelves. Dust mites also love upholstered furniture, so leave that out of the bedroom or use a dust mite treatment to kill or neutralize their allergen. You should also avoid decorative pillows (unless they are encased with an allergy-proof cover).
Our bedroom has a hard wood floor with one throw rug, which I vacuum regularly with a high efficiency HEPA vacuum. In between vacuumings, we keep floors and surfaces dust free by using dust grabbing cloths and mops. We also own a good True HEPA air cleaner, which we use in our bedroom. Not only does it help keep me symptom free, but it also does a good job reducing the amount of regular house dust in the bedroom. Few people know that house dust is laden with dust mite allergen, pollen, pet dander, fungi, mold spores, and other irritants, so keeping dust to a minimum is key throughout the home.
#7 Remove Airborne Allergens with a True HEPA Air Cleaner.
The HEPA air cleaner beside our bed runs like a champ all day, every day. It provides a bit of pleasant white noise while we sleep and contributes to a good, allergy-free night's rest. A room air cleaner is not the sole answer for an allergy-free bedroom, but it can be an important contributor – especially for those who have sensitivities to pollen, animal dander or mold, as these are the most likely allergens to become airborne in the bedroom. National Allergy's "real world" testing has shown that a good HEPA air cleaner can reduce particle counts by up to 90% in the bedroom when using the proper machine for the room size. Learn more about Indoor Air Quality and Filtration and Choosing a Portable Air Purifier from our Learning Library.
Conclusion: Avoiding Allergens at Home Can Help Reduce Allergic Overload and Symptoms
Our homes should be our castles, but for allergy sufferers, the opposite can sometimes be true. You can help keep your allergy "bucket" from overflowing and causing an environmentally induced allergic reaction simply by putting some allergen controls in place within your home. This will be a process, so will take time, but you will notice less symptoms with every step you take.
Starting in the bedroom is key, especially if you have dust alleriges, because of the amount of time spent in the bedroom every day. Making my bedroom an "Allergy Safe Zone" has been my biggest key to recovery from serious environmental allergies. Not only did these measures offer quick relief from persistent symptoms when I was first diagnosed, but as I have continued in the habit of keeping allergens controlled, my propensity for allergy attacks, headaches, and other symptoms has been almost zero. May your own "Allergy Safe Zone" bring you the same relief that I have experienced, and may it always be an allergy-free retreat for you too.
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