If you are dust-sensitive—especially if you have allergies or asthma—you can reduce some of your misery by creating a dust-free environment. Dust may contain molds, fibers, and dander from dogs, cats, and other animals, as well as tiny dust mites. These mites, which live in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets, thrive in the summer and die in the winter. They will, however, continue to thrive in the winter if your house is warm and humid. The particles seen floating in a shaft of sunlight include dead mites and their waste products, which actually provoke allergic reactions.
Maintain a Dust-Free Bedroom
The routine cleaning necessary to maintain a dust-free house can also help reduce exposure to cockroaches, another important cause of asthma in some of us suffering from allergies. You probably cannot control dust conditions where you work or spend your daylight hours, but you can eliminate dust from bedrooms. To create a dust-free bedroom, you must reduce the number of surfaces on which dust can collect. Here’s how:
- Do a thorough cleaning. First, while wearing a face (filter) mask, clear the bedroom of all furniture, carpets, etc., just as if you were moving out.
- Empty and clean all the closets and, if possible, store their contents elsewhere and seal them. If this is too difficult or not possible, keep clothing in zippered plastic bags and shoes in boxes off the floor.
- If possible, remove all carpets
- Once the room is empty, with the doors and windows closed (still wearing a face mask), clean and scrub the woodwork, window frames, sills, and floors thoroughly to remove all traces of dust and mites. A small amount of detergent in a pail with water and a clean mop and large sponge would do the job.
- Tile floors should be cleaned the same way. Be sure that the tiles are firmly attached to the floor because loose tiles allow dust and debris to collect underneath them.
- Thoroughly clean the furniture and carpets before bringing them back into the room: a clean, damp cloth should work well with furniture. Carpets should be carefully vacuumed; professional carpet cleaning should be considered.
- Carpeting makes dust and mite control impossible. Although shag carpets are the worst type for the dust-sensitive person, all carpets trap dust. For this reason, it is recommended to have hardwood, linoleum, or tile floors.
- Clean curtains and drapes. If they are washable, hot water must be used, otherwise, they should be professionally cleaned.
- Beds must also be cleaned; box springs and frames should be scrubbed (outside the room). It is also advisable to place the mattress in a sealed cover.
- Sheets, blankets, and covers must be kept clean; wash them frequently in hot water that is at least 130° F. A lower temperature will not kill dust mites.
- Unlike wool or cotton blankets and covers, comforters, and pads, synthetic mattress pads and pillows reduce the presence of mites.
- Upholstered furniture, if not covered, may also collect dust and mites. If you can’t cover it, clean with hot water or have it cleaned professionally.
Improve Air Quality
Air filters reduce the levels of allergens. Electrostatic and high-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) filters can effectively remove many allergens from the air. If functioning improperly, however, electrostatic filters may emit ozone, which can be harmful to the lungs of asthma sufferers.
A dehumidifier may help because house mites need high humidity to live and grow. Take special care to clean the unit frequently with a weak bleach solution (one cup bleach in one gallon of water) or a commercial product to prevent mold growth.
Toys and Animals
If you are caring for a child who is dust-sensitive, you should keep toys that will accumulate dust out of the child’s bedroom, such as stuffed toys. Washable toys of wood, rubber, metal, or plastic are recommended. Clean toys should be stored in a box or chest.
You should also keep all animals with fur or feathers out of the bedrooms. You should consider that if you are allergic to dust mites, you are likely allergic to cats, dogs, and other animals.
Although these steps may seem difficult at first, experience plus habit will make them easier. The results—better breathing, fewer medicines, and greater freedom from allergy and asthma attacks—will be well worth the effort. For more health and medical information, please visit our Web sites.
By Alice M Crayouord, MD, PhD