Combating Allergens at Home: What You Need to Know About Preventing Asthma

March 12, 2010

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, there are a variety of things you can do inside your home to limit your exposure to allergens that can cause asthma or make it worse.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, there are a variety of things you can do inside your home to limit your exposure to allergens that can cause asthma or make it worse.

Carpeting
Ideally, your home should not be carpeted. However, this is often not possible, and carpets do protect against injury. If you prefer to have carpeting, choose a low-pile type.

Vacuuming
Use a vacuum cleaner with a double-walled bag and a highefficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. (Make sure it has a minimum filtration efficiency of 99.97% for particles of 0.3 μm.) A central vacuum cleaner is best because its exhaust is vented outside the home.

Expensive vacuum cleaners are not necessarily the best dust filters. Vacuum cleaners with adequate double-walled bags and HEPA filters are available in the mid-price range at department stores and from manufacturers of products for patients with allergies. The prices from various sources are generally comparable, but model selection is usually wider in department stores.

Some vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters have hermetic receptacles instead of bags. Other vacuum cleaners have ultra low penetration air (ULPA) filters (Nilfisk), which supposedly retain almost 100% of particles up to 0.12 μm. Vacuum cleaners that contain a HEPA or ULPA filter and additional filters are also available, but they are more expensive and do not necessarily provide additional benefits.

Dust and vacuum twice weekly. If the allergic person is the one who cleans, he or she should take appropriate preventive medication before cleaning and wear a face mask that seals off the nose and mouth, such as a HEPA mask. Many types of masks are available in a wide range of prices, from $1 for disposable non-HEPA masks to $20 to $50 for more sophisticated HEPA masks with exchangeable filters (Allergy Control Products, Inc).

Steam cleaning of carpets kills some mites and removes some allergens. However, steam does not usually penetrate to the lower parts of the carpet; this makes it less effective.

If You Own a Pet
Cats and dogs are especially important sources of allergens. You can reduce cat and dog allergens at home if you keep your pet outdoors and wash it at least once a week.

(Continued on next page.)If Your Apartment or Home Has Cockroaches
Cockroaches are an important health problem and a source of allergens. They are hard to eliminate, and baits and traps are only partially effective. Be sure to eat only in the kitchen or dining room. Try to reduce moisture and repair any water leaks to decrease infestation. Vigorous “spring cleaning” (scrubbing of all surface areas of the furniture, walls, and floors of each room) can remove cockroach debris.

If Your Home is Damp
Molds can contaminate indoor air. They grow on shower curtains, in basements, and in other areas where moisture collects. The following measures can help control indoor mold growth: •Repair all leaks.
•Dry and clean wet carpeting or other damp indoor materials. If they are contaminated, replace them. •Keep your home well ventilated and the relative humidity as low as possible.
•Clean showers and tubs, windowsills, closets, kitchen, bathrooms, and basement regularly with diluted bleach or other cleaning agents.
•Use an exhaust fan to ventilate bathrooms.
•See that foundation plantings are maintained properly. Remove from outdoor walls debris that permits accumulation of moisture and encourages mold growth.
•Keep rain gutters and drains clean to prevent leakage.
•Repair leaky roofs and windows, and make sure they are properly sealed. •Properly maintain heating and cooling systems.
•Limit the number of houseplants, especially in the bedrooms.

If There’s a Smoker in the House
It’s best to eliminate smoking from your home. If this is not possible, have a designated smoking room. Ideally, that room should be ventilated separately from the rest of the house. ?

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