Back To School Allergy Tips
The following tips are directed toward college-bound students and parents. But if your son or daughter is not yet at that stage, you can implement these suggestions in their bedroom at home so they will sleep restfully with fewer allergy and asthma symptoms. Remember the Bucket Theory - less exposure at home means your child is less likely to react strongly to allergens at school.
Use Dust Mite Proof Bedding Encasings
Many dorm room beds don't have box springs, but they all have mattresses, usually long twin, that have in many cases been used by several people already. Zippered allergen-proof covers were my #1 defense in college for keeping my pillow and mattress from making me sick. I used BedCare Basics on the mattress because it's economical, light weight, and lasted through my college years. I'd recommend a new Mite-Proof Pillow, or your student can protect a favorite pillow with one of our comfortable zippered pillow encasings. I had a light down comforter on my bed, so to keep allergens out I used an allergen-proof inner liner under my duvet cover. If your student's bed ensemble includes decorative pillows or shams, they should be encased as well. The key to an allergy-free sanctuary is controlling allergens at the core, the bed.
Wash Your Bedding
I know it may be hard to imagine that a college student would wash their bedding every 2 weeks (if at all!), but that's the only way to keep sheets and blankets less prone to dust mites. If washing those soft jersey knit sheets in hot, hot water seems like a shrinking hazard, send your student some De-Mite Laundry Additive - adding it even to cold-water washes will eliminate dust mites! For any other sheets and blankets, Anti-Allergen Solution Detergent is another all-in-one option: it cleans bedding (and clothes) and neutralizes allergens so they don't effect you. And as for those stuffed animals your son or daughter just can't leave behind, spray them with an allergen inhibiting spray. Some experts also recommend throwing them in a plastic bag and placing them in the freezer overnight. While the dust mites won't be happy, this solution doesn't make their allergen (feces) already in the stuffed toy less harmful. If you opt for the freezer method, just be careful that the little stuffed fellow doesn't get discovered during a late-night dorm kitchen raid!
Treat Carpet and Rugs
Dust mites love the warm, moist environment of rugs and carpeting. They feed on the dead skin cells and other organic matter that rests between those carpet fibers. Fortunately, my first dorm room in college had cold, hard, tile floors. While our little throw-rug did wonders to warm the feet, it also attracted dust mites. Wall to wall carpeting, as I had in my campus apartment a few years later, is an even bigger dust mite haven. The best treatment for dorm room furnishings, including carpets and other upholstered furniture, is an anti-allergen spray or moist powder that will inhibit allergens so they don't become airborne. It's just a little chore that will help your son or daughter feel more refreshed for that 8 a.m. English class.
Lower Humidity and Moisture
Between damp towels, sweaty shoes and drink spills, dorm rooms can be a welcome home for mold and mildew. It may be unseen, but mold can wreak havoc on an allergy sufferer's health. Students should be careful to keep moisture in check, not only to stave off mold and mildew, but dust mites too. Running the air conditioner can help lower humidity levels. If the room is near the hall bathroom, or has a bathroom of its own, protect surfaces with No More Mildew.
Stop Incoming Dust With Filters Turning up the A/C to lower moisture levels may expose your student to the allergens that lurk in the dorm building's HVAC system. No matter how much I dusted my dorm room, there always seemed to be dust bunnies and a clogged pre-filter on my air purifier. I should have been using a vent filter on the incoming ducts to ensure that allergens in the ductwork didn't make their way into our space. We have two vent filter kits - pre-cut and rolled. Both utilize the same high-grade polyester filter media come with velcro-type fastener strips. You may also check with dorm maintenance about how often they change filters, and whether they are using high-efficiency furnace filters. If the dust keeps piling up, make quick-work of dusting with our washable Dust Grabber cloth, it was an invaluable workhorse for me at school.
Make Allergy-Conscious Decorating Decisions
Decorating a dorm room may seem like a lost cause, but sure enough, my college roommate and I gave our tiny space some life, mostly with lots of clutter, which is the last thing an allergy-sufferer needs. Allergens love to settle on old books, piled clothes and stuffed animals. If your son or daughter's dorm or apartment has room for a chair, use a wood or plastic chair with little to no upholstery. If the apartment is furnished with upholstered chairs and sofas, be sure your student has some Anti-Allergen Solution handy to treat those surfaces every few months. The same treatment regimen should be applied to drapes and throw pillows.
Remove Airborne Allergens With a HEPA Air Purifier
The little HEPA air cleaner that ran in our dorm room collected so much gunk, I couldn't believe it. Both the pre-filter, which traps large particles, and the main HEPA filter, which traps the microscopic allergens, had to be changed far more regularly than is typical. To be certain, I wouldn't have slept nearly as well without it. I used a small Honeywell unit, similar to their currentQuietCare model. I also recommend the extremely quiet Hunter QuietFlo 30245. A HEPA filter will remove airborne allergies like pollen, mold and animal dander so your son or daughter will wake feeling rested, not congested.
Other Healthy Back To School Products
- DirtTamer Ultima Hand Vacuum - Powerful suction, wet/dry cleanup and HEPA filtration.
- Washable, Durable Vellux Blankets - Soft to the touch, warmth for cool nights and tough as iron.
- Blackout Drapery Kit - Dorm room next to the football stadium? Block out the light and get true rest.
- Medibeads Moist Heat Therapy - Got Stress? Ease tension in the neck, back, wrists... wherever that Economics final is hitting.
Grade School Students: Taking Allergies To The Classroom
If you have younger children with allergies, they too will soon be leaving your home's allergy safe environment for long days in their school classrooms. After many high-profile mold infestation lawsuits and other air quality concerns, schools are doing a better job of keeping the air clean, but I assure you, allergens still abound. While your role as a parent may be limited in controlling the classroom's allergens, you could request that a HEPA Air Cleaner be placed in the classroom. School maintenance may also be willing to use a dust-mite killing carpet treatment every few months, and they may even be open to using more chemically safe cleaning products.
Food allergy is an ever growing problem in the United States and throughout the world. Reactions can range from minor congestion and watery eyes to life-threatening anaphylaxis like I experienced from shrimp when I was a child. Here are a few school-specific tips for avoiding reactions:
- Make your child's teacher and school nurse aware of all their allergic sensitivities, food and environmental.
- Be sure your child or the nurse has epinephrine available for emergencies.
- Avoid school lunches since they may contain offending ingredients and aren't usually labeled.
- Know when class party days or other special events are scheduled and pack your child something special and allergy-free so they're not tempted.
- Advise teachers, and your child, to not re-use utensils that may have been used with an offending food.
- Read more tips for managing food allergies away from home.
- Keep in close contact with your child's asthma care physician to be sure his or her Peak Flow levels are monitored and accurate.
- Asthma can be an embarrassing condition, but portable peak flow meters are an important tool to ward off asthma attacks.
- Older students and athletes should look into a finger pulse oximeter - it easily measures heart rate and blood oxygen levels, and can discreetly fit in a pocket or purse.
- Read more tips for managing asthma away from home.