Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting rid of dust mite allergens

Getting rid of dust mite allergens
Tue, Mar 03, 2009
The Star/Asia News Network

THERE is no simple way to remove dust mite allergens from the home. Both dust mites and all the dust throughout the house accumulated over the years need to be removed. The task of removing house dust takes a concerted regular effort over years.

In order to improve your respiratory allergies (eg asthma, rhinitis), it is necessary to reduce the dust mite allergen levels to less than two-hundredths of the original allergen concentration.

Efforts to reduce allergen levels can be tremendously beneficial to the allergic individual. Using a combination of strategies such as allergen barriers on bedding, anti-dust mite sprays, removal of dust-trapping furniture and a regular washing routine can significantly lower the number of dust mites found in the bedroom, even in humid regions.

null

Some useful measures to reduce dust mite allergens in the homes are indicated here.

Go for cover. Dust mites by the millions are found in pillows, mattresses and old upholstery because of the large amount of food available to them from these sources.

A consistent feature of successful attempts to reduce dust mites has been the use of anti-dust mite allergicovers or barriers that totally encase mattresses, duvets, blankets and pillows.

These special-material tightly woven allergicovers for mattresses and pillows prevent dust mite allergens from escaping into the room from inside the bedding. Normal pillowcases and bed sheets are used above the allergicovers.

There are several types of anti-dust mite covers available in the market, but many are just useless as barriers for dust mite allergens. Pharmacies are likely to stock allergicovers supported by allergists but consult your doctor for advice on the best product.

These allergicovers can last for more than five years but during that period they should not be removed from the bedding items because removal will cause the release of allergens into the house environment.

If the allergicover is soiled and has to be washed, then take the bedding outside the house before removing the allergicover. In this way all allergens are released outside the house. Vacuum the bedding thoroughly and spray with anti-dust mite spray before re-encasing with the washed allergicover.

Sun protection. Placing bedding materials under the hot sun is a traditional alternative which has been used with great success. Subsequently, the items have to be beaten or vacuumed to remove the allergens.

Modern mattresses, however, are usually made of foam (compared to cotton-fibre fillings in the past). The hot sun would probably melt the foam and damage the foam mattress. Anyway, carrying these heavy items for sunning outside the house is not easily accomplished.

Many bedding items such as pillows or mattresses labeled "anti-dust mite" do not prevent dust mites from colonising these synthetic fabrics. At least one study shows that such items may have dust mites at levels similar to those noted in regular unlabelled items. Thus, regardless of the labelling, it is advisable to encase bedding materials with barrier allergicovers.

Wash it. All bedclothes (eg bed sheets, pillowcases and bedspreads) must be laundered weekly, preferably at 60 degrees centigrade or higher. Lower temperatures and detergents do not kill dust mites. It is likely that clothes, including sweaters and dressing gowns, are significant sources of dust mites. Wash or clean these clothes frequently and store them in sealed plastics bags if they are not used often.

Get rid of carpets. Do not keep carpets rolled up for occasional use in any part of the house. Carpets can harbour very large numbers of dust mites and pose serious problems for allergic asthmatics.

Every time someone walks over a carpet, dust mite allergens are spread throughout the house and the allergens take about two hours to settle in an undisturbed room. Replace carpets with varnished floorboards, vinyl and linoleum flooring, tiled or purpose-made wooden floors.

Regular ventilation of the room is desirable. However, if the carpets cannot be removed for any reason, then use anti-dust mite solutions every three months to treat the carpets and then vacuum regularly.

Careful of toys. Do not let children sleep with their furry toys. An excellent substitute is a little cotton blanket which can be washed regularly at 60 degrees centigrade or higher. Remove all furry toys from the house. Furry toys harbour large populations of dust mite.

Anti-dust mite sprays. Regular three-monthly use of anti-dust mite sprays (containing benzyl benzoate, which is safe) is effective in killing dust mites. These sprays can be used on all fabric items such as sofas, chairs, double-layered-curtains, rugs, mattresses and the like.

These sprays can also be used in areas where house dust tends to collect (eg under the sofa set, top of cupboards, under low tables and chairs, etc) so as to prevent dust mites from multiplying. It is important to vacuum the sprayed fabric weekly.

Vacuum cleaners. Buying a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA attachment may be helpful. Such vacuum cleaners can trap allergens which are less than one micron in size. Regular weekly vacuuming of all fabric items will reduce the allergen load in the house.

This is an expensive investment and should only be done after careful consideration of all the other options to reduce dust mite allergens.

Alternatively, mop the floor with a damp cloth. Also, replace soft fabric-upholstered furniture with false-leather or plastic or wooden furniture that cannot harbour dust mites.

Air filters. When we walk across the carpet, or settle onto the couch or into bed, the dust mite allergens are stirred up, sending them airborne. Air cleaners or air filters with medical HEPA attachments are effective in removing allergens that are airborne, but the equipment have no effect on the allergens found in upholstered fabrics or bedding. Their role is limited to filtering the air of airborne allergens.

Ionizers are not effective at removing allergens. Air filters must be used in combination with other measures to be effective in limiting the dust mite allergen load in the bedroom.

Ventilation matters. Ventilate the house by opening the windows and doors as often as possible. Fresh air removes allergens that are airborne in the home environment.

Homes close to major highways with heavy traffic should keep their windows closed since exhaust fumes are strong promoters of allergy.

Travel precautions. Take dust-proof allergicovers with you when you travel. Spare beds with old mattresses in relative's homes are likely to be a real problem. Hotel beds vary in quality and are completely unpredictable with respect to dust mite load. Wash the allergicovers when you get back home.

Humidity. One effective way to control dust mites in the home is through controlling humidity. Dust mites are very sensitive and perish at low humidity (less than 35 per cent). Since the relative humidity in Malaysia is usually very high (greater than 60 per cent), it is not an easy task to reduce the humidity to a low enough level to be effective.

High quality dehumidifiers used in closed rooms may be able to accomplish this task, but this is an expensive option.

Keep it covered. If you're allergic to dust mite allergens, it is advisable that you keep all flour in closed containers, preferably in a refrigerator, so that dust mites cannot get access to the flour and multiply in it.

If the flour has been in an unused container at room temperature for many months, it may be advisable to dispose of the flour.

Desperate measures. As a last option, consider moving house if your house is old, damp or unavoidably dusty.

Also buy furniture that is dust mite-proof - made from leather, false-leather or wooden materials.

The Star/Asia News Network

This story was first published in The Star.

1 comment:

Discount said...

A lot of things add to indoor air pollution. Pollen, pet dander, dust mites, cockroaches, tobacco, cooking smoke particles, and other indoor pollutants all pose risks to allergy and asthma sufferers. Allergy Air Purifier is the basic way to get better quality of indoor air: controlling the source of the irritants and pollutants, and filtering the air.