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How to Overcome America’s Most Overlooked Disease:
© 2012 Health Realizations, Inc.
It’s true that home is where the heart is … but home is also the breeding ground for numerous indoor allergens that come in all colors and forms. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, one out of every five Americans suffers from some form of indoor or outdoor allergen such as food, drug, latex, insect, skin and eye allergies and this number has been on the rise since the early 1980s.
You can reduce dust mites, the most common cause of indoor allergies, by up to 90 percent by getting rid of wall-to-wall carpeting in your home.
Of these allergy sufferers, 40 million have been diagnosed with indoor/outdoor allergies as their primary allergy. Allergies are considered America's most common and most overlooked disease, and qualify as the fifth leading chronic disease for all ages among Americans and the third leading disease among those under 18 years of age.
Although there aren’t any known cures for allergies, you can improve the quality of your life greatly through prevention and smart strategies that begin in your home.
Perennial indoor allergies include dust mites, animal dander and indoor molds. These bring on irritable allergy symptoms such as congestion, itchy, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes to millions of Americans each year.
Dust Mites: Getting Rid of These Unwanted Houseguests
The most common of these allergies and one that affects 20 million Americans is dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic so they aren’t visible to the human eye. They live primarily on tiny flakes of human skin that are shed each day and their preferred places of residence include carpeting, mattresses, house dust, stuffed animals and bedding -- and their favorite room of the house is the bedroom.
They can also be found in tiny particles of feathers, dander from cats and dogs, bacteria, food, plant and insect parts, mold and fungus spores. It’s the dust mite waste that causes the allergic reaction, not the dust mite creature itself.
One of the most effective ways to eliminate dust mites by a whopping 90 percent is replacing carpeting with hard wood floors, but since this may not be an option for everyone there are specific cleaning tips you can use to minimize dust mite allergens in your home.
Protect your bedding with allergen-impenetrable encasings. Invest in these covers as a protective barrier against dust mites. Put them on your mattresses, box springs and pillows. Do not try to save money by skipping out on the mattress pad cover thinking that it’s not needed because your body doesn’t come in direct contact with it. This is a large misconception as studies have shown that unless all parts of the bed are covered, the entire bed becomes reinfested in a short amount of time. These items can be purchased through allergy supply companies as well as department stores that sell bedding.
Wash your bedding and kids’ stuffed toys in hot water every other week. The water temperature needs to be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the dust mites. Don’t forget to wash your throw rugs whenever possible.
Reduce the humidity in your home. Dust mites are very content living in temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and enjoy relative humidity levels of 70 percent to 80 percent. For this reason, you’ll want to keep your humidity levels somewhere between 30 percent to 45 percent. This can be done by turning on the air conditioner and for the cooler months, investing in a dehumidifier.
Vacuum frequently with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter. This type of filter will help prevent dust from stirring up in the air as dust mite particles can remain airborne for up to 15 minutes following vacuuming. Damp dusting with a microfiber cloth immediately after vacuuming will help minimize dust distribution. Don’t forget to vacuum any other fabric items in the house such as upholstered furniture and draperies. If you are highly allergic to dust mites it’s best to wear a dust mask while vacuuming.
Get rid of dust mite's favorite hiding places. If you can, avoid blankets, wall-to -wall carpeting, down-filled pillows and fabric curtains.
Instead of a high-fiber allergen-inducing rug a better alternative would be a mat. A few high-quality mats, placed strategically around your home (such as in doorways and other highly trafficked areas), will go a long way toward reducing the amount of dirt and dust that get into your home in the first place. Once inside, that dirt gets circulated into the air, and you breathe it in.
Be Aware of Indoor Mold Areas
Shower curtains, bathtubs, tile, refrigerators and even damp and dark closets are breeding grounds for mold production. There are several cost-effective ways to prevent and deal with the emergence of mold:
For cleaning, use a little bleach or ammonia. Rather than paying top dollar for mold-control cleaning products, you can use some hot water and bleach to clean your shower curtain and the tiles on your bathroom wall.
Use your air conditioner and fans in the summer and a dehumidifier in the winter months for proper ventilation. Be sure to clean these once a week.
Store your firewood outside since the bark is covered in mold.
Don’t put any carpeting down in your bathroom as they make huge mold traps.
Keep your refrigerator clean and throw out old items to prevent the growth of mold.
Take care of any water seepage or damage right away.
Keep Your Indoor Pollen Count Down
As the weather gets warmer there is the inclination to open the windows and let fresh air in. Unfortunately, you’re also letting in a major allergen -- pollen. Your best bet is to keep your windows closed and turn on the air conditioner instead. Don’t use fans as they stir up the dust and pollen particles.
And definitely filter your home's air as many allergic reactions are triggered by airborne particles.
Take Control Over Fido’s Dander
Contrary to what many people think, it’s the proteins secreted by oil glands in an animal’s skin that causes the allergic reaction in humans, not the animal’s hair. These proteins become airborne and can find a home on the lining of your eyes, nose or directly into your lungs. In some cases it can take up to two years for allergy symptoms to appear and those symptoms may not leave until months after the animal is gone.
Purify Your Air of Allergens With a High Quality Air Purifier
Look for an Air Treatment System that removes pollen, smoke, dust, pet dander, mold, bacteria, and other allergens from your home and office air so you can breathe freely.
The most effective way to get rid of pet allergens is to remove the pet from the house, but we understand this isn’t an option for many people. So, the most important thing to do is to limit your contact with animal pet dander.
Here are some other tips to living with your pet allergens:
If your pet is going to come indoors, keep it in the kitchen where there are few allergy reservoirs
Set up your cat or dog with their own bed, rather than letting them sleep in yours
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America