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Dust tops the list of home allergens

Dust tops the list of home allergens

Is your home making you sick?

No, I don’t mean the furniture you wish you could dump, or the archaic decor.

Outdoor allergies get lots of attention during pollen season, but our homes are the hub of a whole host of allergens that can produce illness. In a 2016 report, the Mayo Clinic zeroed in on problem areas in almost every room that can contribute to allergies, from beds and bedding, to high-pile carpeting to upholstered furniture.

Pets and their dander play a major role in allergies, too, with the report suggesting that animals be kept out of bedrooms and bathing them at least once a week.

Those of us with book-filled houses are faced with a major challenge in terms of the dust and mold that can gather on those shelves, making us sick.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology near Chicago put me in touch with New York City allergist Dr. Neeta Ogden, who says changing the home environment is always “a big component” when she treats patients with allergies.

“You can make direct improvements right away,” Ogden says of tackling three big problem areas — dust mites, indoor mold and animal dander.

Dust mites are microscopic relatives of the spider that, when magnified, look like 1950s science-fiction film creatures and live on the detritus in our homes.

“Dust and dust mites are full of everything — skin cells, bits of fingernail, animal dander, pollen,” Ogden says, adding the most important factor in allergy-proofing your home is controlling dust.

Basically, anything that can’t be easily cleaned or wiped down should be rethought by those with allergies.

Carpets are a huge problem, Ogden says, of the difficulty of getting dust out, even with the best vacuum cleaners. “I suggest hardwood floors or rugs you can wash at a high temperature.” She also recommends wearing gloves and a mask when you clean because of the dust that is stirred up.

Many lines of curtains and blinds are made in an “eco-friendly” manner that allows them to be easily washed. Mini-blinds are a big no-no for anyone with allergies because they gather dust and are so hard to clean.

Dust mites are in no way related to bed bugs, but Ogden suggests covering mattresses and pillows with special dust covers. “You should also wash all sheets weekly at a hot temperature,” she says.

The allergist discourages the use of fabric headboards because they cannot be easily cleaned and dust mites love to call them home.

“I know this is a difficult area, but children’s stuffed animals can be a problem, too,” Ogden says. She suggests buying fabric animals that can be washed, but if that is not possible you can kill all of the mites in a stuffed toy by putting it in a freezer for 24 hours.

Pet dander can be kept under control with regular brushing and washing — while wearing a mask, of course — and there are shots that can make a cat or dog less of an allergy problem.

Book lovers should note their beloved volumes collect dust and mold.

“Books speak to the larger issue of clutter,” Ogden says. “If you don’t dust and wipe your books and your bookshelves, they can develop mold … which is another big problem area.”

Bedside tables are a major dust collector that need to be decluttered and wiped regularly.

Air purifiers and humidifiers with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filters can also minimize exposure to dust mites.

“The dry air in a home (during winter) can make any allergy worse,” Ogden says.; Twitter: @joesview

Reference: Meyers, J. (January 30, 2017). Dust tops the list of home allergens. ctpost. Retrieved from: