Environmental Control Measures
Families of kids with allergies should use environmental control measures that reduce exposure to the child's allergy triggers. Some require few changes in the home, while others can be costly or fairly time-consuming.
Talk with your doctor or health care provider about starting with environmental control measures that will limit those allergens and irritants causing immediate problems. But know that allergies develop over time with continued exposure to allergens — dust mites might not be a trigger now, but with continued uncontrolled exposure, could become one. The doctor may suggest taking precautions now so your child doesn't develop new allergies.
These are suggested environmental control measures for different allergens and irritants:
Controlling dust mites
- Use only synthetic polyester-fill pillows and comforters (never feather or down). Encase pillows, mattresses, and box springs in zippered dust mite-proof covers (available at allergy-supply stores and many department and discount stores). Keep covers clean by vacuuming or wiping them down once a week.
- Wash sheets and blankets your child sleeps on once a week in very hot water (130ºF or higher) to kill dust mites. Young kids should never be left alone in a bathtub or near faucets when hot water heaters are set to this degree since serious burns can occur. Hot water heater temperature should be set at a safe level (discuss this with your doctor), and only when washing bedding should water temperature be turned up. A safe alternative is to set water temperature lower at home and wash the child's bedding at a laundromat where hot water is set to 130ºF.
- Avoid upholstered furniture, window mini-blinds, and carpeting in a child's bedroom and playroom as much as possible. They can collect dust and harbor dust mites (especially carpets).
- Use washable throw rugs on vinyl or hardwood floors, and wash rugs in hot water weekly.
- Use washable curtains and vinyl window shades that can be wiped down. Wash curtains in hot water weekly.
- Dust and vacuum weekly. If possible, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter to collect and trap dust mites that become airborne during vacuuming.
- Reduce the number of dust-collecting houseplants, books, knickknacks, and non-washable stuffed animals in your home.
- Remove stuffed animals from your child's bed. Only a few washable stuffed animals should be allowed in your child's room, and these should be washed weekly. (Let your child pick which washable stuffed animals can stay.)
- Using central or room unit air filters such as HEPA filters or electrostatic filters alone has not been proven to reduce dust mite allergens, although they might be helpful when used along with other environmental control measures. When using such filters, the appropriate size should be used to filter the entire room. Ozone air purifiers or ionizers are not effective and inhaling the ozone they produce may be harmful.
- Avoid humidifiers when possible because moist air promotes dust mite infestation. Humidity in the air should stay below 50%. The amount of humidity in a room can be easily checked with a humidity gauge (hygrometer) that can be purchased in most hardware and home improvement stores.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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