Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose, and Throat)
General Rules to Help Control the Home Environment
Controlling the home environment is a very important part of allergy care. Some general rules for home control for all members of the family are:
- Reduce or remove as many asthma and allergy triggers from your home as possible.
- If possible, use air filters and air conditioners to make your home cleaner and more comfortable.
- Pay attention to the problem of dust mites. Work hard to control this problem in the bedroom.
- Vacuum cleaners stir up dust and allergens in the air. A vacuum cleaner with an air filter or a central vacuum cleaner with a collection bag outside the home may be of limited value. Anyone with asthma or allergies should avoid vacuuming. If vacuuming must be done, a dust mask may help.
Outdoor Air, Indoor Air, and Air Conditioning
Controlling your exposure to triggers outdoors is hard. You may have to avoid outdoor air pollution, pollen, and mold spores. Any time air pollution and pollen levels are high, it's a good idea to stay indoors.
The air at home is easier to control. Some people with asthma and allergies notice that their symptoms get worse at night. Trigger controls in the bedroom or wherever you sleep need the most care.
Air conditioning can help. It allows windows and doors to stay closed. This keeps some pollen and mold spores outside. It also lowers indoor humidity. Low humidity helps to control mold and dust mites.
Avoid too much air conditioning or too much heat. Room air temperature should be comfortable for someone with allergies or asthma. Some people can't tolerate a big change in temperature, particularly from warm to cold air.
There are some devices that effectively remove particles from air. Their usefulness in reducing allergy symptoms is under study.
Here are some common triggers and some ways to help control them at home:
Tobacco smoke: Smoke should not be allowed in the home of someone with asthma or allergies. Ask family members and friends to smoke outdoors. Suggest that they quit smoking.
Wood smoke: Wood smoke is a problem for children and adults with asthma and allergies. Avoid wood stoves and fireplaces.
Pets: Almost all pets can cause allergies, including dogs, and especially cats. Small animals like birds, hamsters, and guinea pigs can also cause problems. Removing the pet from the home is helpful in reducing allergy symptoms in sensitive patients.
Pet allergen may stay in the home for months after the pet is gone because it remains in house dust. Allergy and asthma symptoms ma take some time to get better.
If the pet stays in the home, keep it out of the bedroom of anyone with allergies or asthma. Pet baths may cut down the amount of pet saliva and dander in the home, although the baths need to be frequent (every four days or so) and the pet might harm the owner with their claws, etc.
Sometimes you hear that certain dogs or cats are non-allergenic. There really is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat, especially if the pet leaves dander and saliva in the home. Goldfish and tropical fish may be a good substitute.
Cockroaches: Even cockroaches can cause problems, so it's important to get rid of roaches in your home. The cockroach allergen comes from dead roaches and roach droppings. It collects in house dust and is hard to remove. Careful cleaning of your home will help. Cleaning up old food and barring insects access to foods are as effective as pesticides in controlling cockroaches.
Indoor mold: When humidity is high, molds can be a problem in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Make sure these areas have good air circulation and are cleaned often. The basements in particular may need a dehumidifier. And remember, the water in the dehumidifier must be emptied and the container cleaned often to prevent mildew from forming.
Molds may form on foam pillows when you perspire. To prevent mold, put the pillow in an airtight cover. Wash the pillow every week and make sure to change it every year.
Molds also form in house plants. The soil in the pot allows outdoor molds to thrive indoors. You may have to keep all plants outdoors.
Strong odors or fumes: Perfume, room deodorizers, cleaning chemicals, paint and talcum powder are examples of triggers that should be avoided or kept to very low levels.
Dust mites: Dust mites are tiny, microscopic arachnids (spiders) usually found in house dust. Several thousand mites can be found in a pinch of dust. Mites are one of the major triggers for people with allergies and asthma. They need the most work to remove.
Following these rules can help get rid of dust mites:
- Put mattresses in airtight covers. Tape over the length of the zipper.
- Put pillows in airtight covers. Tape over the length of the zipper, or wash the pillow every week.
- Wash all bedding every week in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Removing the bedspread at night may help.
- Don't sleep or lie down on upholstered (stuffed) furniture.
- Remove the carpeting in the bedroom.
- Clean up surface dust as often as possible. Use a damp mop or damp cloth when you clean. Don't use aerosols or spray cleaners in the bedroom, and don't clean or vacuum the room when someone with asthma or allergies is present.
- Window coverings attract dust. Use window shades or curtains made of plastic or other washable material for easy cleaning.
- Remove stuffed furniture and stuffed animals (unless the animals can be washed), and anything under the bed.
- Closets need extra care. They should hold only needed clothing. Putting clothes in a plastic garment bag may help. Do not use the plastic bag that covers dry cleaning.
- Dust mites like moisture and high humidity. Cutting down the humidity in your home can cut down the number of mites. A dehumidifier may help.
- Air (HEPA) filters may be of help by keeping your home cleaner and more comfortable.
- Cover bedroom air vents with several layers of cheesecloth to lower the number of large-size allergen particles coming into the bedroom.
13. The use of powders on carpeting (Acaracides) to kill dust mites is expensive, not very effective, and therefore not recommended.