Got allergies? Blame Fido, Fluffy and mighty mite
Want to give up one of your antihistamines? Keep your home as allergen free as possible, especially from dust and pet dander, and you probably can.
That advice from J. Nicholas Vandemoer, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Cape Cod Healthcare, underscores how much you can control your own indoor allergies before resorting to drugs.
“If you thoroughly clean and dust your home, especially your bedroom, where you spend a third of your life, it can be more effective than one allergy medication,” Dr. Vandemoer said.
We love our pets, but keep ‘em out of your bedroom, Dr. Vandemoer said, especially if you have cats, which are very powerful allergy triggers. “They should certainly not sleep on the bed, but even if they walk through your bedroom once, their skin dander is especially allergenic.”
Cat dander is very light and stays airborne longer than pollen – as much as six months after the animal is removed from the room, he said.
Some dogs, like poodles and bichons, are not allergenic because they have hair, not fur, Dr. Vandemoer pointed out.
“Get under your bed and dust frequently, use throw rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting, vacuum air vents frequently,” Dr. Vandemoer recommended.
But the biggest indoor allergen threat is also the tiniest of creatures: the dust mite.
“The dust mite is king on Cape Cod” and other locations at sea level, Dr. Vandemoer said. “Denver, for example, has much less of a dust mite problem than we do here.”
It’s not the dust that you are allergic to; it’s the mite, which feeds on organic detritus, such as flakes of shed skin of your pet, or even your own. The mites contain potent digestive enzymes that induce allergic reactions. Because they are so tiny and translucent, you can barely detect them.
To wage battle against those dust mites, which are prevalent in bedding, curtains and carpeting, wash your sheets and blankets weekly in hot water (130°F [54°C]) and dry in a hot dryer.
Cover mattresses and pillowcases with airtight allergen-proof covers. Replace comforters and pillows made from natural materials (such as down, feathers, or cotton) with those made from synthetic fibers. If you do have wall-to-wall carpeting, be sure to vacuum often.
If possible, use a vacuum specifically designed to remove allergens.
Here are a few other strategies to fight indoor allergens:
- Control pests. Close all open gaps in windows, floorboards, doors and around drains. Fix and seal leaky water faucets and pipes because roaches need water and humidity to survive. Always keep food in airtight containers. Remove pet food dishes after pets have eaten. Keep stove and kitchen surfaces free of food and dirt.
- Control indoor molds. The spores of molds and fungi that thrive in warm, moist and humid areas can create allergic reactions. Remove any curtains, carpeting or wallpaper that show visible evidence of mold. Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom. Use dehumidifiers in damp areas such as the basement. Avoid storing clothing in damp areas. Do not carpet damp or concrete floors. Use a solution of 1 part bleach and 20 parts water to clean areas with mold.
- Avoid airborne irritants. Air irritants and pollutants can trigger an allergic reaction. Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home. Avoid areas with fresh paint fumes. Avoid the fumes of strong cleaning products. Avoid perfumes and aerosols when possible.
- Keep environments clean and dry. Nearly all allergens thrive in moist, damp or dirty environments. One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of allergic rhinitis is to maintain a clean, dry environment. Clean and vacuum frequently, using HEPA filters. Use fans to promote air circulation. Use an electrostatic air purifier. Use a dehumidifier in damp areas.
You can also battle indoor allergens is with an in-home test kit. According to scientists from the National Institutes of Health, parents may become more motivated to reduce allergens when they actually see the results up close and personally.
Households that received the test kits had a consistent reduction in dust mite allergens over the course of the study. There was a threefold increase in the number of test kits showing undetectable levels of dust mite allergens over the study period.
Dr. Vandemoer cautioned, however, that the kit’s cost may not match its benefits, noting that it has a limited life before replacement.
“Given the risk to the health of you and your family, it should not take a kit to motivate you to keep your home as clean and dust-free as possible, from the basement to the bedroom,” he said.
Contributing: EBSCO Information Services