The Air in There
Keeping indoor allergens in check
By Stephanie Bolduc, MD
Keeping indoor allergens in check is a year-round job for families when family members have perennial allergies – the ones triggered by allergens that are with us 365 days of the year.
Even the cleanest house can harbor dust mites, animal dander, cockroach droppings and indoor molds, the primary causes of perennial allergies. And when sufferers are cooped up indoors, the effect can be a winter of misery.
Here are some ideas for controlling indoor allergens:
House dust is composed of tiny particles of plant and animal material where dust mites thrive. High humidity in our homes this time of year provides a perfect environment for the little critters. Control humidity to below 50 percent throughout the home. Encase mattresses and springs in airtight allergen-proof covers. Keep floors clean (and carpet-free) and avoid dust accumulation in the bedrooms of those with allergies.
Cockroaches leave droppings, barely seen by the human eye, that contain a protein that triggers asthma. And cold temperatures outside drive roaches in through the tiniest cracks. For those who suffer asthma, it is imperative to eliminate cockroaches. They need water to survive, so make sure all areas around pipes and faucets are sealed tightly.
Animal dander is a common cause of allergic reaction. It is found in the saliva, dead skin or urine of an animal with fur. And there are no “hypo-allergenic” breeds of cats or dogs. If you cannot avoid contact with an indoor animal, limit your contact with the animal as well as with all surfaces where the animal is allowed.
- Animal dander can exist as long as a year after an animal is removed. So consider the consequences well before you invite an animal into the home of a perennial allergy sufferer.
Indoor molds also live in high humidity, with their small spores readily available in the air to trigger allergies. A cleaning solution of 5 percent bleach and water will effectively clean mold from surfaces. Moldy fabrics or wallpaper should be removed promptly.
By Dr. Bolduc practices with CHKD Health System’s Newport News Pediatrics.