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The Sneeze and Wheeze - Free Home

While allergy sufferers should limit exposure to allergens in all environments, creating a "sneeze and wheeze-free" home is especially important. Following is an overview of the most common indoor allergy offenders:

Dust Mites - Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture and carpets.  They are the most common cause of symptoms for perennial allergy sufferers. 

Dust mites prefer temperatures at or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 75 percent to 80 percent and die when the humidity falls below 40 percent to 50 percent. They are rarely found in dry climates.

While it is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites, you can minimize exposure, particularly in the bedroom, with the following tips:

  • Limit the number of stuffed animals kept in bedrooms.
  • Remove dust-collecting items
  • Remove carpet from the bedroom, if possible; if not, vacuum once or twice a week.
  • Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water (130°F) weekly.
  • Clean or change air conditioner and furnace filters often.
  • Use air conditioning to keep humidity low to slow down dust mite growth during warm weather.
  • Cover mattresses and box springs with allergen impermeable plastic casings that can be removed and cleaned frequently.

  

Mold - Molds are commonly found in outdoor air, and they come in any time you open a door or window. Any house can develop a mold problem given the right conditions. Molds require two factors to grow indoors: (1) free moisture that can occur in the form of relative humidity above 50 percent, leakage from pipes or foundations, or any ongoing source of water; and (2) something to grow on. Molds particularly like to grow on wallboard, wood or fabrics, but will grow virtually any place if they are given a chance.

Mold thrives in damp basements and closets, bathrooms (especially shower stalls), places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture and old foam rubber pillows.

You can control mold in your home with these steps:

  • Do not use humidifiers.
  • Fix leaky faucets and pipes.
  • Clean bathrooms, kitchens and basements regularly and keep well aired.
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas keeping the humidity level set for less than 50 percent but above 25 percent. Empty and clean unit regularly.
  • Limit the number of indoor plants which may harbor molds in the potting soil. Also avoid dried flowers which may contain mold.
  • Clean visible mold on walls, floors and ceilings using 5% bleach solution and detergent. If you are sensitive to cleaning products, avoid their direct use and have someone else in the household handle.

Cockroaches - Cockroach droppings can not only trigger allergies but also can trigger and aggravate asthma. Since cockroaches require food and moisture to survive, you can help reduce exposure by eliminating sources of each. In cockroach endemic areas, the services of a skilled professional exterminator will be required to keep cockroaches under control. The following steps also should be taken:

  • Keep kitchen clean and wash dishes promptly.
  • Make sure all food is stored in sealed containers.
  • Empty garbage and recycle bins frequently.
  • Avoid leaving food out.
  • Set roach traps.
  • Seal cracks in your home to prevent infestation.

Pets - While pets are often important members of a household, they can cause problems for owners who are allergic. Allergic reactions to pets are caused primarily by the animal's dander and short-haired pets are not any less likely to cause an allergic reaction than long-haired animals. 

For people with allergies to animals, it is best not to own a pet. Determined pet owners, however, should:

  • Wash hands after petting.
  • Bathe pet once a week to reduce dander.
  • Use central air cleaners to remove pet allergens in the home.
  • Keep the pet outdoors or limit to a few rooms in the house. At the very least, pets should be kept outside of the bedroom.
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