Controlling Dust and Dander in Your Home
By William E. Berger, MD, MBA from Asthma For Dummies
Allergen avoidance begins at home. Although avoiding or limiting exposure to allergens and irritants outside — as well as at work, school, or other indoor locations — is important, avoidance therapy can actually have the most beneficial impact in your home.
On average, most of us spend one-third of our lives in the bedroom — much of that time in bed. Because we spend such a large amount of time in our bedrooms, your bedroom is the most important single area in your home.
In and around your home, the most common and important sources of allergens that you should focus on when allergy-proofing are
1. Dust and dust mites
Busting the dust
House dust is one of the most prevalent allergy triggers in any home, and unfortunately, it's everywhere. Think of house dust as one of life's inevitabilities — along with death and taxes. House dust can trigger allergy symptoms either as an irritant to sensitized target organs (such as your eyes, nose, or lungs) or as a result of the specific allergens often contained in house dust.
Studies show that the average six-room home in the United States collects 40 pounds of dust each year. Note, however, that dust is not dirt, nor is it an indication of poor housekeeping. House dust is a normal breakdown product of fibers found in pillows, drapes, clothes, linens, and other furnishings at home, work, school, or even in your car.
Allergy-proofing your bedroom and home likely involves dealing with dust mites more than with any other allergy trigger, because these microscopic creatures produce the single largest component of house dust that triggers allergies. Eighty percent of patients with allergies test positive for sensitivity to the dust mite allergen. The dust mite allergen is also the most significant allergic trigger of asthma attacks.
Although you've probably never seen them, dust mites are a fact of life — they're bound to follow almost anyplace you settle. These tiny spider relatives live in house dust where they feed on human skin scales (hence the scientific name dermatophagoides, meaning skin-eater), which we constantly shed (up to 1.5 grams per day — that's a lot of dust mite chow). The fecal matter (or waste, to put it more delicately) that they produce, at the average rate of 20 particles per day, is the most prevalent form of house dust allergens.
Although eradication of these natural inhabitants of your home is virtually impossible — the females lay 20 to 50 eggs every three weeks — you can take practical and effective steps to minimize exposure to dust mite allergens.
Taking the following measures often results in a significant decrease in allergic symptoms and medication requirements for patients with allergies or asthma.