As an Allergist, patients often inquire as to the best measures to incorporate in their home to make it as allergy free as possible. There are several relatively simple and inexpensive measures which can help make a home allergy-free. By instituting these, patients can significantly improve their health and minimize the medications needed to control their disease.
First... ignore the temptation to open the windows on those lovely days when the trees are blooming and the wind is blowing. This allows pollen to enter the home and bypasses the benefits of air-conditioning. The air-conditioner, with an efficient, well maintained filter, will remove a significant amount of allergens from, as well as dehumidify, the air. We recommend several filters, including the Allergyzone filter and the 3M filter. These filters are relatively inexpensive and efficient; they need to be replaced every few months for maximum efficiency. Other more expensive HEPA and electrostatic systems are also effective but must be cleaned regularly. Of note, no data has been found to substantiate the claim that air-duct cleaning actually reduces dust levels in homes.
Second... carpet in the bedroom is a bad idea, as it is one of the major reservoirs for house dust mites and animal dander. Neither vacuuming, steam cleaning, nor special dust mite treatment will do the job of replacing carpet with another surface; of note, Berber carpet is not a better alternative than shag. It is more economical to save the money you would spend on the expensive vacuum and replace the carpet. For those who cannot do this, we recommend a HEPA or other good vacuum with a double bag system. Dust mite treatments (acaracides), including benzyl benzoate and tannic acid treatments, are effective if used as directed.
Third... mattress and pillow encasings are effective for minimizing dust mite levels in bedding when used in conjunctions with weekly hot water washing of the bed linens. Dust mites are killed by heat, not detergents.
Fourth... minimize the toys, stuffed animals, books, etc., stored in the bedroom. All of these items hold dust mites.
Fifth... removal of pets from the home is the best option if the patient has been found to be allergic to the pet. However, if the family pet is a valuable family member, keeping the pet out of the bedroom as well as frequent bathing of the pet can help lessen their negative effect on the allergy patient.
Sixth... mold loves moisture, and dust mites love mold. Make certain there are no leaks in the home and that any wet carpet or drywall is thoroughly dried; if any mold is found, it must be removed!! Dehumidifiers are helpful in damp basements to lower the relative humidity. Forty percent humidity is a good level for most homes.
I know what you are thinking now: I'll skip all of the above and buy the expensive room air cleaner I saw on TV: that will solve all of my allergy problems! This will only add more problems as you may no longer have money left for your medication and will still be miserable. Actually, room air cleaners are effective for decreasing pet dander and mold levels but do a very poor job of removing dust mites from the bedroom. They can be helpful but only when used with the above measures.
These are the most useful measures that the allergy patient can institute in the home to return your castle to the state where it both protects you from without and from the problems within!
Written by Allergy Care physician, Mark Corbett, M.D.