By: Mikki Hogan
Do you wake each morning with a scratchy throat, watery eyes, sneezing or wheezing? How about when you go to sleep at night? Do you experience any of these symptoms then? Perhaps you are just a little too familiar with shortness of breath after cleaning your home or interacting with your furry family members.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with allergies or not, having any of these symptoms is a sure sign that you are allergic to something in your home, possibly even something living in your bed. These symptoms are otherwise known in the medical field as indoor allergies and they can be anywhere from mild to severe.
But even the mildest of symptoms, like early morning sneezing fits, can become very bothersome. Especially knowing that it’s your own home causing the problem. The good news is you can take control of your allergy symptoms by learning to manage the source.
Learning to manage your indoor allergy symptoms starts by understanding exactly what those allergens are, where they hide and most importantly how to eliminate them.
The most common indoor allergens at large today include the house dust mite and animal dander, both of which reside in your home day in and day out.
Indoor Offender #1: The House Dust Mite
House dust mites, commonly just called dust mites, are microscopic creatures that live in soft material. These tiny creatures are members of the arachnid family, relatives of ticks and spiders, feeding on our dead skin cells.
Unlike ticks, dust mites don’t actually live on your skin. Instead they take extra measures to avoid light, living rather happily inside your pillows, mattresses, blankets, carpet and any other soft material they can burrow in.
In addition to dark spaces dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments. Beds provide an ideal location for the tiny arachnids, providing their desired living conditions of dark, warm environments, as well as an ample food supply, the skin we shed every night!
Our allergies are not a result of the living dust mite. Rather the waste they produce and fragments of dead dust mites that have begun to decay. These tiny particles become airborne and are then inhaled by unsuspecting people, resulting in an allergic reaction.
Indoor Offender #2: Animal Dander
Animals are by far mans best friend. They offer an unconditional companionship that many households have grown dependant on. Animals are rarely seen as pets any more. Rather they are viewed as a part of the family.
Unfortunately these fury family members release allergenic proteins from their skin, causing their owners to develop allergy symptoms. In the same manor skin produces oils an animals skin actually produce dander making every animal a potential allergen, including low shedding and hairless pets.
Animal dander is very small in size and very light. These lightweight particles easily become airborne and can remain suspended in the air up to hours at a time. These floating particles can come into contact with your eyes, nose or simply be inhaled while walking around your home, resulting in an allergic reaction.
Once the animal dander does settle it’s ease of cleaning is greatly dependent on the surface it inhabits. On hard surfaces it will wipe up easily. If the surface is soft like carpets, blankets and upholstered furniture it can take up to six months to completely remove. Properly cleaning the surfaces in your home is important since careless cleaning can result in rustling up more dander into the air you breath.
Decreasing Exposure to Indoor Allergens In 9 Easy Steps
Reducing allergy symptoms caused by dust mites and animal dander is likely one of the more practical approaches to allergen avoidance when compared to allergy shots or heavily dosed cocktails for suppressing your symptoms.
To begin your primary focus needs to be in your bedroom and then work out towards the rest of the house. Contrary to what many places will say you should never stop at the bedroom, not if you truly want to reduce your symptoms all day long.
Following are 9 steps that can dramatically reduce the number of allergens in your home, without forcing you to give up the things you love most, your pets and a warm comfy bed! With the reduction of allergens comes a reduction in your symptoms.
Step #1: Enclose your mattress, box springs and pillows with an allergen impermeable cover. These covers trap dust mites in preventing the inhalation of their waste. Additionally they help to prevent animal dander from entering the fabric, making removal simpler and reducing the likelihood of dander build up where you sleep.
Step #2: Wash all sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water once a week. Hot water kills live dust mites as well as remove allergens from the fabric. You may also want to consider purchasing a hypoallergenic comforter. Not only can dust mites not colonize these specially designed comforters animal dander cannot penetrate through either, once again reducing dander build up where you sleep.
Step #3: If your bedroom is carpeted and you cannot replace it with hardwood floors, use a dry carpet cleaner to remove allergens. Avoid shampooing carpets since the residual moisture can actually increase mite growth and shows little evidence of actually reducing animal dander.
Step #4: Remove all stuffed animals and upholstered furniture from your bedroom. Remember dust mites like to colonize dark places they can burrow in and animal dander can remain in soft material up to 6 months. If you want to continue displaying stuffed animals in the bedroom consider purchasing an enclosed shelf for their display.
When extending this step to the rest of the house you can locate your stuffed animals in a designated location that can easily be dusted with your vacuum or allergen duster. Weekly vacuuming of the upholstered furniture should be sufficient enough to reduce allergens to a manageable level when incorporated with the remaining steps.
Step #5: Purchase an air purifier designed to trap even the smallest of allergens for your bedroom. There are many purifiers on the market today so be sure to do your homework. You want a purifier that can clean both dust mites and animal dander from the room. When you have selected the appropriate air purifier consider purchasing additional purifiers for other rooms you spend a lot of time in such as the family room or office.
Step #6: Buy a HEPA filter for your central air/furnace. This will help trap allergens through the air intake while heating and cooling your home as well as improve the overall quality of your air circulation.
Step #7: If you have pets, designate certain areas in your home where they are allowed. If possible do not allow them in your room. While most places encourage you to bathe your pets frequently there are adverse reactions to your pet’s health from bathing too often. As a safe alternative daily brushing helps to remove loose fur, dead skin AND dander while providing your pet with a healthy and often enjoyable interaction.
You can safely bathe most dog breeds once every two weeks without any adverse reactions but check with your vet before establishing a bath schedule since some breeds will develop dermatitis if bathed more often than every couple of months. Generally speaking bathing a cat more than every couple of months will not only cause them stress but also result in skin dryness and matted fur since the oils are removed with washing.
Step #8: Establish a regular habit of wiping down hard surfaces with a micro fiber cloth, sweeping and mopping hardwood floors and vacuuming carpets using a good quality HEPA vacuum. As an added step you can use a dry carpet cleaner on all carpeted surfaces every 90 days to help eliminate allergens in the carpets.
Step #9: Always take precautions when cleaning to help minimize inhaling allergens. Utilizing masks, micro fiber dust cloths, dry carpet cleaners and a quality HEPA vacuum is a good way to minimize a flare of allergy symptoms.
About the Author:
Mikki Hogan is a long term allergy sufferer of more than 23 years, so when her children developed severe allergy symptoms she was in familiar territory. Her experiences as an allergy sufferer and parent of a child with allergies and asthma has not only given her a solid knowledge base but also a passion for eliminating allergy symptoms safely and effectively. This passion flows throughout her writing and is evident in her new book Your Complete Guide to Allergy Relief.