Dust-sensitive individuals, especially those with allergies and asthma, can reduce some of their misery by creating a "dust-free" bedroom. Dust may contain molds, fibers, and dander from dogs, cats, and other animals, as well as tiny dust mites. These mites, which live in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets, thrive in the summer and die in the winter. The particles seen floating in a shaft of sunlight include dead mites and their waste products; the waste products actually provoke the allergic reaction.
The routine cleaning necessary to maintain a dust-free bedroom also can help reduce exposure to cockroaches, another important cause of asthma in some allergic people.
Most people cannot control dust conditions under which they work or spend their daylight hours. But everyone can, to a large extent, eliminate dust from the bedroom. To create a dust-free bedroom, it is necessary to reduce the number of surfaces on which dust can collect. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests the following guidelines, arranged from most important to least important:
- Carpeting makes dust control impossible. Although shag carpets are the worst type for the dust-sensitive person, all carpets trap dust. Therefore, hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors are preferred. Treating carpets with tannic acid eliminates some dust mite allergen, but tannic acid is not as effective as removing the carpet, is irritating to some people, and must be repeatedly applied.
- Keep only one bed in the bedroom. Most important, encase box springs and mattress in a dust-proof or allergen-proof cover (zippered plastic). Scrub bed springs outside the room. If a second bed must be in the room, prepare it in the same manner.
- Keep all animals with fur or feathers out of the room. People allergic to dust mites often are allergic to cats, dogs, or other animals.
- Use only washable materials on the bed. Sheets, blankets, and other bedclothes should be washed frequently in water that is at least 130EF. Lower temperatures will not kill dust mites. If you set your hot water temperature to a lower value (which is commonly done to prevent children from scalding themselves), wash items at a commercial establishment that uses high wash temperatures.
- Keep furniture and furnishings to a minimum. Avoid upholstered furniture and venetian blinds. A wooden or metal chair that can be scrubbed may be used in the bedroom. If desired, hang plain, lightweight curtains on the windows. Wash the curtains once a week at 130EF.
- To prepare the room for a dust-sensitive person, clean the room thoroughly and completely once a week; clean the floors, furniture, tops of doors, window frames, sills, etc., with a damp cloth or oil mop; air the room thoroughly; then close the doors and windows until the dust-sensitive person is ready to occupy the room.
- Air filters--either added to a furnace or a room unit--can be useful in reducing the levels of allergens. Electrostatic and high-energy particulate absorption (HEPA) filters can effectively remove many allergens from the air. If functioning improperly, however, electrostatic filters may emit ozone, which adversely affects the lungs of people with asthma.
- A dehumidifer may be helpful because house mites require high humidity to live and grow. Care should be taken to clean the unit frequently to prevent mold growth. However, while low humidity may reduce dust mite levels, it also may irritate the nose and lungs of some people.
- If the dust-sensitive person is a child, keep toys out of the bedroom that will accumulate dust. Avoid stuffed toys; use only washable toys of wood, rubber, metal, or plastic, and store them in a closed toy box or chest.
- Use a dacron mattress pad and pillow. Avoid fuzzy wool blankets or feather- or wool-stuffed comforters.
- To prepare the room for a dust-sensitive person, completely empty the room, just as if one were moving. Empty and clean all closets and, if possible, store contents elsewhere and seal closets. If this is not possible, keep clothing in zippered plastic bags and shoes in boxes off the floor. Give the woodwork and floors a thorough cleaning and scrubbing to remove all traces of dust. Wipe wood, tile, or linoleum floors with water, wax, or oil. If linoleum is used, cement it to the floor.
Although these steps may seem difficult at first, experience plus habit will make them easier. The results -- better breathing, fewer medications, and greater freedom from allergy and asthma attacks -- will be well worth the effort.
(Information provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)