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Allergies

Common Cause

What is the most common cause of bedroom allergies? Dust mites — microscopic creatures that live in dust — are the culprits. Dust mites do not bite, cannot spread diseases and usually do not live on people, but they do cause harm to people who are allergic to them.

Tips

You spend a third of your life sleeping! Since it's impossible to completely allergy-proof a home, start by reducing allergens in the bedroom with the following tips:

Bed and bedding

  • Look for products containing hypoallergenic materials or high thread counts. A 230-thread count or higher has a tighter weave, which blocks out the dust and dirt that can collect in pillows and comforters.
  • Make sure all pillows, mattresses and box springs are encased in dust-proof covers. Vacuum or wipe dust-proof covers every week.
  • Launder sheets, pillowcases, blankets and bedclothes at least once a week in water heated to at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Flooring

  • Replace carpets with hardwood, linoleum or tiled flooring. If this isn't an option, use low-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly.
  • Wash area rugs weekly.

Curtains and blinds

  • Use washable curtains made of all cotton or a synthetic fabrication.
  • Replace horizontal blinds with washable roller-type shades.

Furnishings

  • Replace cloth-upholstered furniture with simply designed, easy-to-clean chairs, dressers and nightstands. Furniture made of wood, metal, plastic or leather is the best option since dust mites can't live on these surfaces and cleaning is easy.
  • Dust furniture weekly.

Air filtration

  • Use of ceiling fans should be avoided, since they tend to accumulate dust and then redistribute it throughout the room.
  • Cover vents with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to catch dust in the furnace air.
  • Keep humidity levels at 50% or less — since dust mites thrive in humid conditions — with a dehumidifier.
  • Use an air purifier to effectively remove airborne allergens.

Other tips

  • Remove anything that may collect dust, such as stuffed toys, books, magazines and tabletop ornaments.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom.
  • Shut closet doors at all times — clothes, shoes and other items stored in the closet collect dust.

Terms

Air purifier - Improves air quality by filtering impurities out of the air.

Allergens - A substance a body will perceive as foreign and harmful, which leads to an allergic reaction.

Allergy - An exaggerated reaction of the immune system to an allergen that is eaten, breathed, injected or touched.

Dander - Tiny scales shed from animal skin or hair. Dander floats in the air, settles on surfaces and makes up much household dust.

Dehumidifier - Decreases humidity in a room by drawing moist air over a refrigerated metal coil with a fan. The water in the air condenses and drips into a collecting bucket.

Dust mites - Microscopic insects that live in household dust and are common allergens. Dust mites live on dead skin cells and can be found in large numbers in mattresses, pillows, carpets, curtains and furniture.

Filter - Any porous device that allows the passage of air, trapping air born particles and ultimately cleaning the air.

HEPA - High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores.

Hypoallergenic - Products formulated to contain the fewest possible allergens.