Begin In The Bedroom
For the biggest bang for your buck and your time, the bedroom is the best place to begin allergy proofing. This is true simply because you spend such a large percentage of your time in the bedroom. Most people sleep 7 to 8 hours a night. Then add the time spent watching TV, reading, or getting dressed in the bedroom. You can see that people easily spend one-third of their lives in the bedroom. So let's take a look at how to make your bedroom a welcome refuge from allergens.
- Allergy-Proof Your Bed
- Laundry Care
- Regulate Humidity
- Take Control Of Dust
- Make Good Choices
- Purify Your Bedroom Air
- Carpet Treatment
- Filter Your Home's Air
- Conclusion: The Bucket Theory
The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states, "The first and most important step to reduce dust mites is to cover mattresses and pillows in zippered dust-proof covers." Dust mites and their allergen will stay trapped inside the allergy cover instead of circulating in the air you breathe all night. Dust mite allergen escaping from your mattress, pillow, and box spring is similar to baby powder poofing out of its container. Every time you sit on the side of the bed or turn over, dust mite allergen is coming out just like baby powder. Sometimes people do not understand the need to encase the box spring as well as the mattress and pillow. I have another analogy for you. Think of it as wearing one glove or two. One will certainly help, but for maximum benefit, wear two. It is the same with your bed. Encasing the mattress and pillow will make a big difference, but for maximum benefit, encase the box spring too.
"The next most important step," continues the AAFA, "is to wash the sheets and blankets weekly in hot water." If you have bedding that cannot withstand repeated washings in hot water, an equally effective alternative is the use of an all-temperature allergen detergent or an all-temperature additive. Remember to wash mattress pads and comforters as well as sheets and blankets. All bedding not inside an allergy encasing needs to be washed. Anything you do not want to wash weekly, such as mattress toppers, should also be placed inside the allergy encasing (extra deep mattress encasings are available to accommodate this). Also, other fabric furnishings in your bedroom such as curtains, bed skirts, and throw rugs need to be washed every 7-14 days.
Indoor humidity should be maintained at 40-50% to prevent mold and mildew and keep dust mite populations in check. In the summer it may be necessary to use a dehumidifier, especially in areas that are not air conditioned. In the winter, you may wish to use a humidifier for comfort since very dry air can be irritating to nasal and sinus passages. To be sure you are keeping the relative humidity in your bedroom at the accepted level, a humidity gauge is very helpful.
At times, you may notice condensation on window frames, sills and other surfaces that can lead to mold and mildew. Drying and cleaning the surface with a mold remover, such as Vital Oxide or NAS-12, and applying a lasting protective coat of No More Mildew will help retard the reoccurrence of mold and mildew. If your bathroom adjoins your bedroom, moisture from the bathroom can be a problem in the bedroom too. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using (and installing if you don't have one) an exhaust fan, vented to the outdoors. Keeping the bathroom door closed while showering can also help keep humidity low in the bedroom.
Dust is comprised of many kinds of particles, and you may be allergic to one or more of the components. Dead skin cells, mold spores, pet dander, dust mite allergen, and pollen are all part of dust. Keeping dust at a minimum is very important for the person with allergies, asthma or sinus symptoms. It is also important to collect and trap dust, not just stir it up. When dusting furniture or other surfaces, use a damp cloth or an electrostatic cloth and other dusting tools to catch dust. Eliminate as many knickknacks as possible since they are dust catchers.
Vacuuming often - weekly is good - is also recommended, and a HEPA vacuum or an anti-allergen dustbag with a sealed closure for disposal will make a big difference. When I used a HEPA vacuum for the first time, I immediately noticed that I stopped sneezing, and could happily no longer smell dust in the air as I vacuumed. Be sure to check your bag often, especially after using a carpet cleaning powder or a powdered carpet dust mite treatment. I have found that a dustbag only holds so much. Fortunately, many vacuums today provide either a bag change indicator on the dustbag or the machine itself. But to be safe, it is always good to visually check for yourself. Finally, with a HEPA vacuum, remember to change the HEPA filter regularly.
When furnishing the bedroom, you can choose furniture and accessories that are friendly to allergy, asthma and sinus sufferers. If you have seating in your bedroom, the best choices are wood and leather. Curtains and bedskirts can be more trouble than they are worth since all fabric in the bedroom needs to be washed at least every 2 weeks in hot water or with an all-temperature allergen laundry detergent or additive. Use hypoallergenic comforters, but if you don't have one, or have a comforter you can't wash that often and don't want to part with it, put it in a special comforter allergy encasing for protection for allergens. In most instances, you still should be able to use a decorative duvet cover over your encased comforter, just remember to wash it weekly. You can also protect yourself by sleeping on allergen-proof pillows. Likewise, choose sheets that are resistant to allergens, and mattress pads and blankets that will hold up under repeated hot water washings.
A room air purifier with HEPA filtration is very beneficial for removing allergens, such as pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and dust particles, as well as bacteria and some viruses from the air. Most people say they can feel the difference in air quality in just a day or two. For optimum benefit, keep doors and windows closed, run the air purifier 24/7, and choose the right model for the size of your room. If you will be sleeping with the air purifier, choose one that is quiet, at least on the low setting for overnight use. Breathing clean air all night can help make you feel better all day. Be sure to follow the care instructions for your air purifier, and change the air filters on a timely basis
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), other irritants to eliminate from the bedroom of someone with allergies and asthma include tobacco smoke, aerosols, paint, perfumes, cleaning products or other strong odors or fumes. Special filters for odors and fumes are available in some room air cleaners.
Whenever possible, carpet should be replaced with hard flooring, especially in the bedroom of an allergy or asthma individual. As you can imagine, dust mites love carpet. It is second only to your bed on their short list of places to live (soft furnishings being their third favorite place). And wherever they live, they leave behind dried body parts and excrement. Thinking about it makes me want to tiptoe around the house. When replacing carpet is not an option, the use of dust mite carpet treatments is an effective alternative. Some products kill the mites while others neutralize the allergen. Using the two types alternately gives the most benefit.
As your heating and cooling system circulates air through the house, some of the air from other rooms will drift into your bedroom. So keep the air in your whole house as clean as possible. The use of a good allergen reduction furnace filter is an effective way to reduce airborne particles. Some people prefer, and most manufacturers recommend, changing the filter about every 3 months (at the beginning of each season is a good way to remember). Others prefer a permanent filter that lasts virtually forever, but needs to be washed monthly with a good permanent filter cleaner.
Another way to reduce airborne particles is to cover the vent where heated or cooled air is coming into the room. We recommend covering only 1 or 2 vents because covering every vent can put a strain on your HVAC system. So start in the bedroom and then cover the vent in another room where you spend a lot of time. This is easily done by attaching filter material to the outside of the vent with a Velcro-type fastener or by placing the filter material inside the vent cover. You can also spray it regularly with a good vent filter spray to keep mold spores from entering the bedroom through ductwork.
Think of your immune system as a bucket that is constantly being filled with allergens. When it overflows, you have an allergic reaction. So the goal is to keep the bucket from overflowing, and the best way to do that is to keep allergens away from your bucket. That is why the allergen avoidance measures suggested above work to make your bedroom a welcome haven from allergens, and may help reduce the frequency and extent of allergic reactions.