15 Steps for Reducing Asthma and Allergy Suffering

The following was originally published by
Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc.

Used with Permission

The 15 million+ people in the U.S. who are afflicted with allergies or asthma need not suffer in silence, according to Nancy Sander, president and founder of The Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc. Sander, who provides practical information for improving the home environment where an allergy or asthma patient resides, says there are many actions one can take and products available that will help alleviate suffering.

"Allergy-proofing your home need not drive you crazy," said Sander during a recent presentation to a number of allergy and asthma sufferers from the Philadelphia area. "Although allergy-proofing the home seems like an enormous task, it is actually made up of many small ones. Start by prioritizing the list of avoidance measures according to need, as opposed to sanitizing and sealing off the entire home."

Most people who experience allergic reactions from indoor allergens can trace the source to one or two problems - pets, dust and dust mites, or molds. The key is to attack the problem that causes the most suffering, according to Sander.

Animal Allergies

If it is a pet that causes the allergic reaction, there are now several options. Depending on the degree of suffering, the pet may have to be removed from the rooms where the allergic person spends most of his or her time, such as the bedroom, or may have to be removed from the house altogether.

In addition, the house needs to be vacuumed with a high-filtration vacuum, Sander said, that can collect and retain the minute animal particles that cause suffering. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the animal's fur that stirs up a reaction, but rather the animal dander, or dead skin, and the dried saliva resulting from the animal licking itself. These tiny, flaked particles are nearly impossible to pick up with a regular household vacuum cleaner.

"After the pet has been relocated, thoroughly clean and vacuum the carpets and surfaces using a vacuum designed for people with allergies. Because you can spend a lot of money on allergy vacuums, shop wisely," said Sander.

Tips for controlling animal allergies:

  • Select a vacuum cleaner that is equipped with a genuine HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which can collect the finest animal particles and contain them until the vacuum can be emptied.
  • Wash all bedding in very hot water and dry in a hot dryer.
  • Put some filtering material over the vent leading into the bedroom so the animal particles are not blown in from other parts of the house.
  • Try a room air cleaner. Again, get one that is equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • Keep the cat's lifter box away from the living areas, including the bathroom and furnace room.

Dust and Dust Mites

Dust, or, more specifically, dust mites, is another big problem for allergy sufferers, according to Sander. Dust mites are the microscopic creatures that reside in bedding, furniture and carpets and survive on human dander or shed skin. The dust mites' decaying body parts and fecal pellets are what really cause the suffering in a dusty environment, Sander says.

Tips for controlling dust mites:

Cover your pillows and mattresses in plastic sheeting or specially designed "miteproof coverings" made of a vinyl-backed polyester cotton blend. This removes the mites' access to their food source.

  • Wash bedding in very hot water to kill the mites.
  • Avoid layering blankets; instead, use a single washable blanket and bedspread.
  • Reduce clutter in the room; use decorative wallpapers rather than pictures, window shades or washable curtains rather than horizontal blinds, and washable toys and easy-to-clean furniture rather than the overstuffed variety.
  • Use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner that will contain the mite debris rather than recirculate it back into the house.

Mold Allergies

If a family member suffers from mold allergies, Sander recommends locating the source of the mold. It might be growing inside the home, such as in the shower, or in a dark, moist part of the house.

Tips for controlling mold:

  • Clean showers, window sills, kitchen, basements or other areas where mold might grow with a Clorox solution, and then treat with a mold inhibitor. Install an exhaust fan in the bathroom to reduce mold.
  • Keep a light bulb burning in the closet to dry it out.
  • Keep rain gutters and down spouts cleaned regularly, and make sure splash guards direct the water away from the home.
  • Make sure all window frames are properly sealed, and replace any rotted shingles or cracked foundations.

"After allergy-proofing the home, some people notice a big difference in their asthma and allergies, while others see a gradual improvement," said Sander. 'The important thing to remember is, once the allergy and asthma symptoms are brought under control, preventing problems and maintaining the steps you've established is relatively easy."

For more information about allergy-proofing the home, contact:
Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc.
2751 Prosperity Avenue, Suite 150
Fairfax, VA 22031
Phone: 800-878-4403 or 703-641-9595
Fax: 703-573-7794
Web Site: http://www.aanma.org

First Removing Allergens Article: The Mighty Dust Mite

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