For those of you who have constant allergies who’s symptoms seem to be vague or untraceable, you may have an allergy to dust, or rather the waste matter deposited by dust mites after they feed off the skin of you and your pets. This waste matter becomes airborne every time you move about the room or take off your shirt, or even breathe!
Detect Your Allergy
The first thing you need to do if you have persistent allergies is to see an allergist who can administer a skin prick test. Let me tell you, this test will really open up your eyes and show you just how wrong you’ve been about your allergies. For years I thought my allergies were the seasonal pollen and mold allergies, but low and behold on that day in the allergists office, I saw a huge welt develop where the dust mite substance had been applied.
For thirty years I’d been completely barking up the wrong tree! Everywhere I’d ever lived during my entire lifetime, I’d been doing exactly the wrong things to control a dust allergy.
An Affordable Way To Detect The Dust
Although extremely expensive, an air quality monitor can be very helpful in seeing how much dust is in your house. There are very few of these made for residences, and some of the hand-held ones can be up around $2000 or more! One of the best I’ve seen, and I own one, is the Dylos Air Quality Monitor. This relatively cheap laser reader, under $200, can at least let you know the particle density in the air and show you when the room is “settled”. What I mean by “settled” is that if you sit in your home office with the Dylos nearby, the gauge will show a low reading. However, when you stand up and move around, the meter starts to jump because you are moving around the dust that has collected in your room. I never knew just how much particles are swirled into the air just by standing up!
One of the things I noticed right away was that using an air purifier greatly reduced the overall average of particles in the air, especially when I moved around.
At least I had something to work with!
What To Do About Dust Allergies
The first and easiest method is to take some kind of medication for your dust allergy. The only two types that have ever worked for me are antihistamine’s (spray or pill) and steroid-type solutions. For years I tried several medications that worked for the most part but caused side effects. Claritin, Kenalog and Nasonex kept me clear but often gave me weird feelings of anxiety of stomach problems if taken too often. There’s a medication out there that will work for you, but you may have to go through some trial and error. Regardless of what works for you, I would not recommend NOT taking them everyday even if your doctor says it is OK. I use medications for one or two weeks until the worst part of the allergic reaction is over and then lay off of them for awhile.
The next best thing, of course, is to try to make your home as dust free as possible so you can avoid taking medications that will have an adverse affect on your body. This will mean you will have to do multiple light chores, likely on a daily basis, in order to keep the particle density in your home down. This means a lot of dusting for you!
First rule of thumb. Never dry dust! Unless, of course, you are a glutton for punishment and want to spend the next five days breathing through a dry mouth! Use a wet cloth and gently wipe it across the surface. Dust tables, TV’s knick knacks and even ceiling fan blades this way. What I like to use are the disinfecting wipes made available by many name brands. The smell nice and make the dusting job easier for you. Or, if your vacuum cleaner is powerful enough, you can do a most of your dusting by utilizing the many dusting attachments that likely came with your vacuum. Make sure to dust ceiling fans, bathroom vents and intake and outtake vents. You will be surprised at how nasty these can get. Get rid of clutter. Gently! Try to keep your house as clutter free as possible. Knick knacks only store more dust and make things harder on you. Ideally, you would keep just enough around to be decorative but make it easy for you to clean with a vacuum or some light dusting.
Are hardwood floors better than carpet for dust allergies? There are a lot of theories pointing in both directions. Some say that carpet traps more dust than hardwood, so that when you walk over a carpet it actually kicks up less dust than walking across a hardwood floor. Regardless of the type of flooring you use, keeping it maintained is essential to reducing allergic reactions due to allergies. One thing is clear though, hardwood floors are better for controlling the moisture levels in your home. If you are going to stick with carpet, then get a good, HEPA vacuum. Canisters seem to be the best because they are fully enclosed and ventilate a clean stream of air that sometimes is cleaner than some of the best air filtration units. The canister design, at least until recent years, has been able to house more powerful motors for more suction. The canister’s mobility and versatile head adjustments make it a better device regardless of your flooring. In addition, get a relatively good “steam vac” like a Hoover Steam Vac or a Bissell that will wet down the carpet and really pick up any dirt or dust. These can also run a couple of hundred dollars, but if you are determined to have carpet, you will need one.
Another very good idea is to get good casings for your pillows and bed that will help keep the dust mites locked in so they have less of a chance to come out and cause trouble. I recommend getting casings for you mattress, pillows and even the box spring. Along with this, make sure to wash your bedding every 7-10 days in hot water to kill any mites that may be living there. These particular steps are very important considering your face is buried in your pillow when you sleep and so you are more susceptible to breathing dust mite debris.
Although they can be expensive, get some good HEPA air filtration units for your home and make sure to keep up on changing the filter when it’s time. I have several units placed strategically around my home for maximum filtration. There are many name brands available in all price ranges. As long as they are proven to filter dust and mold particles then you should be good with just about any model. Any air filtration unit is better than none. Also, make sure to change the filter in your home’s furnace unit on a regular basis. These filters are relatively cheap and easy to change.
If you have pets, frequently sweep the areas where they spend the most time, and try to keep your pets as well groomed as possible. Dogs can be bathed rather frequently, and for cats you can get some of those handy cat bath wipes that help reduce allergens residing in your cat’s fur. I favor the wipes because giving a cat a normal bath in a sink or tub is just way to stressful for you and your cat.
Finally, create a dust chore chart to keep track of your daily chores. This can be as simple as a list on the refrigerator or something scribbled onto a notepad.
What I ended up doing is creating an excel spreadsheet with a list of chores across the top. Down the left side I put in the days of the week. At the bottom is a cell that counts up the amount of X’s I put for each chore through the week and measures how well I did that week. It let’s me know how long it’s been since doing a particular chore and only takes a second to fill in.
You’ll never accomplish everything you want with regards to keeping your house clean, but with a little determination and a good plan you can have a clean air home and greatly reduce your dependency on allergy medicines. Being smart about keeping the air cleaner in your home will result in better health and a more comfortable quality of life for you and your family. Even if you only accomplish 70 or 80% of what you had originally planned, it should still greatly reduce the amount of itchy eyes, runny nose and the myriads of other symptoms that affect you due to your dust allergy.