Tackling household allergens–oh, what a challenge!
Living in a city well known for its dust allergies, my family and I have our share of woes with sniffling, sneezing, and wheezing the year around. And more so when it is the season for allergies. Of these, two of the most frustrating household allergens are dust mites and pollen.
I can never forget our frequent trips to the doctor with uncontrollable cough, only to return home feeling slightly frustrated with the knowledge that there was no overnight remedy to make us feel better. Worst thing? Sleepless nights. Mornings? Not a pretty sight with an orchestra of a-tishoos!
Pollen often originates as an outdoor allergen, but when it enters the home the effect can be devastating. Removing these allergens from the air inside a home is one of the most challenging household tasks a parent faces. I recall with a shudder the long bouts of cough my son suffered as a toddler and until he was almost ten years old.
Those disgusting dust mites
A dust mite allergy is one of the more difficult allergens to combat because they find just about every household item to make their home. They thrive in upholstered furniture, curtains, carpets, mattresses, bedding, and even stuffed animals. Of course we did away with the carpeting and kept the tiled floor. We used light curtains instead of heavy drapes, but it was virtually impossible to forgo the necessity of a bed. I mean, we didn’t resort to sleeping on the tiled floor. And of course, my son loved to snuggle with his favorite stuffed toys—about ten of them. I still recall how we would gently prise his hands away from them after he slept, afraid he would wake up when we did. If you’ve ever tried separating a child from his teddy bear, you know what I mean! It is awful. You feel terrible when you succeed!
If you are wondering which is one of the most hazardous places in the home for someone who suffers from dust mite allergies you’ll be surprised to hear that it can be their own bed. Dust mites love to colonize bedding, mattresses, and pillows, eventually making it difficult for people with dust mite allergies to get a good night’s sleep.
When my friend’s son, who had the same allergy problem, she got a hypoallergenic Simmons mattress but even that was not be enough for him, because of his severe dust mite allergies. After much research, she found that it was best to encase the mattress in a dust mite proof mattress cover to ensure that the mattress is able to provide long-term allergen free nights of sleep.
Oh, then there are those stuffed toys. How to make them less attractive to dust mites? There are some tricks for that too, apparently.
The first option is to place the stuffed animal into the freezer for 48-72 hours and then place it into a dryer for 20 minutes with no heat to fluff it up. The freezing temperatures will kill the dust mites and the time in the dryer will remove the remains.
Another easy option is to simply vacuum stuffed animals weekly. We chose to do this, since our freezer is not big enough for the soft toys.
This is another intense allergy-trigger! We have a time of year when the pollen in the air makes life literally impossible. Even a visit to the doctor doesn’t really help. There are so many types of blooming plants that most people experience the effects of a pollen allergy at some point during the year. For people with severe pollen allergies, this can cause a significant immunological reaction. Even moving indoors is often not enough because minuscule pollen particles may find their way indoors on clothing, pets, or simply by opening and closing the door.
How to ensure one’s home stays as pollen free as possible?
A million dollar question! We were advised to use an air purifier and also invest in a nebulizer.
An air purifying device
For heating and cooling units a HEPA air filter can easily be used in a traditional unit. They are slightly more expensive than normal air filters but they trap a greater percentage of allergens. Room air purifiers are portable and can purify individual rooms also using a HEPA filter. These are excellent choices for places without forced-air ventilation systems.
One thing that really helped in removing or at least minimizing pollen from the home was being mindful of clothing when returning to the house. We made sure to place clothing in the laundry, and then showered to remove pollen before wearing clean clothing. This helps prevent the pollen from spreading around and also remove any that has clung to hair. This may seem extreme to people who do not suffer from pollen allergies but it can be extraordinarily beneficial to those who do.
We also vacuumed our beds once a week and changed pillow covers every day.
You’ll agree that raising children to become responsible adults takes up a large portion of any parent’s schedule. Raising a family where one or more members have severe allergies can make it that much more challenging and time consuming. However, as with raising responsible children, the effort is well worth the benefits!
Do you suffer from dust allergies? How do you tackle it?