Mattress and Box Springs
Dust mites thrive in soft furnishings like bedding materials. These microscopic organisms give off particles that cause allergic reactions when inhaled. Reduce dust mite exposure by covering mattresses and box springs in zippered mite-proof encasements. The encasements are generally made of plastic or vinyl, and may be covered with cotton, nylon, of knit fabric.
Dust mites are the most important bedroom allergen. Pillows are a common place for dust mites to live. Put pillows in allergen-impermeable zippered covers or wash the pillow every week in hot water (>130°F). Avoid feather pillows opting for synthetic or Dacron pillows that can be washed.
So called "hypo-allergenic" pillows still need to be encased, as they are only made of material that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Dust mites are still found in "hypo-allergenic" pillows. Using encasements is the best way to create a barrier between you and dust mite allergen.
Bedding (Sheets, Comforters, Blankets)
Eliminating dust mites from bedding materials is relatively simple. Items should be washed every 10-14 days in hot (>130°F) water. Washing in hot water kills dust mites and removes the allergen. Down filled comforters and quilts should not be used in the bedroom of a person allergic to dust mites.
Heavy curtains and Venetian blinds should be avoided to reduce dust accumulation in the bedroom. It is best to use window shades, however if curtains are used they should be laundered frequently.
All clothing should be kept in a closet or put away rather than left out in the open to reduce dust mite accumulation. Keep closet doors and drawers closed.
Omit or avoid wall pennants, books, wall hanging, and other items that collect dust. Select bedroom furniture that is smooth and easy to clean.
Allow stuffed animals or toys only if they can be laundered or cleaned regularly to be in the bedroom.
Skin flakes, urine, and saliva of warm blooded animals can be an asthma trigger. People who have asthma or are allergic to cats or dogs should keep them out of the bedroom and other sleeping areas at all times. If pets are allowed inside the home, it is best to keep the door to the bedroom closed.
Plain wood floors are best in the bedroom for a person with asthma or dust mite allergies. If wall-to-wall carpeting cannot be removed, frequent vacuuming using a HEPA vacuum cleaner to trap small particles is required. Someone other than the allergic person ideally should do the vacuuming. Hardwood, tile, or linoleum is better for those with allergies. Washable rugs may be used if they are regularly cleaned.
Dust mites thrive in high humidity and in areas where human dander is located. To reduce dust mites it is important to control humidity to between 30-50% throughout the home by using a dehumidifier or central or window air conditioning.
Mildew or mold on the tile or else where in the shower or tub can be an allergy and asthma trigger. Mold should be removed by washing with a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach in a gallon of water. Shower curtains should be washed regularly. Wiping down the interior of the shower walls/tub will help reduce mold growth.
Carpeting in the bathroom can be a breeding ground for mold and dust mites. Instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, use washable rugs in the bathroom. Make sure rugs have 'slip' proof padding underneath.
The accumulation of excessive moisture causes mold and mildew. Be sure the bathroom is adequately ventilated by an exhaust fan or window. The exhaust fan should be vented to the exterior of the home, not the attic space.
Personal Hygiene Products
Aerosols, scented sprays, and fragrant perfumes can be an irritant for people with asthma and allergies. Scented candles can also worsen breathing problems for sensitive individuals. These should be avoided or open a window/run exhaust fan to minimize exposure to these products.
Mold and mildew will grow in areas that are allowed to remain wet or damp. Carpeting should be avoided on concrete surfaces and should be removed if it has become wet. Using de-humidifiers in the basement during the summer months will help to reduce ambient humidity and biological growth.
The exhaust system from the dryer should be vented to the outside of the home to minimize the release of lint and excess moisture into the house.
The odors from chemicals may be irritating to the eye, nose, and lung if inhaled. Take pets or plants outside when applying pesticides. If applied indoors, increase ventilation. When possible, use non-chemical methods of pest control.
Floor drains in the basement can be a source of mold and mildew. Remove deposits of mold or mildew promptly by cleaning and disinfecting the floor drain. A solution of one cup of bleach per one gallon of water is an effective disinfectant for many hard surfaces.
Leaks in water lines may damage decay or mold growth between the floor and sub floor. Refrigerators without water lines can harbor mold growth in the drip tray beneath the unit and also inside the doors and seals. Drip pans should be emptied and cleaned every three months. The refrigerator coil accumulates dust and pet dander and can be a source of allergens. The coils and exterior of the appliance should be cleaned regularly.
Cooking smoke consists of steam, droplet of water, and grease. These products can cause indoor air pollution. Exhaust fans help remove moisture and odors from the air. The exhaust fan should be vented to the outside.
If your gas stove produces freely burning yellow flame tips, either the stove ring needs cleaning or the burner needs adjustment. Contact your gas company for information and assistance. When using a gas range or oven, be sure it is properly vented to the outdoors. Spilled food and splattered grease should be removed from the oven before heating to prevent burning and smoking. Never use a gas stove to heat the home.
Dishwashers emit moisture in the kitchen area. In addition, small amounts of detergent released in droplets in the air may be irritating to individuals with asthma and allergies.
Running an exhaust fan, vented to the outside, will help reduce moisture accumulation while the appliance is running.
Pressed wood products are often made using adhesives that contain a formaldehyde resin. In the kitchen, pressed wood products include particleboard used in sub-flooring, shelving, and cabinets. Formaldehyde is emitted from these products into the indoor air and is especially high when products are new. High concentrations of formaldehyde may trigger asthma attacks.
Cockroaches and other pests carry the same allergens as house pets and can be an asthma trigger. Pests are likely to be drawn anywhere there is a food supply, particularly the kitchen. Washing kitchen counters and table with a damp sponge frequently as well as storing food in airtight containers is important in pest control. Avoid moisture under sinks and dripping faucets as cockroaches are attracted to moisture. Try using poison baits, boric acid, or traps before using pesticidal sprays if possible to reduce or eliminate pests.
Storage of Chemicals/Fuels
Chemical products including paint, paint thinners, pesticides, and gasoline are not good items to store in an attached garage. Many individuals with allergies and asthma are sensitive to the smell of these chemicals and can cause throat and lung irritation.
Never leave an automobile running in an attached garage because carbon monoxide levels may rise in rooms above. To minimize or prevent airflow into adjacent rooms, the door from the house to the garage should be airtight and there should be no openings in the garage ceiling. Health effects of breathing carbon monoxide range from fatigue in lower concentrations to dizziness, nausea, confusion and death in higher concentrations.
Wall-to-wall carpeting and large area rugs in the family or living room can harbor dust mites and mold. Dust mites and mold are common asthma triggers. To minimize exposure to these biological contaminants, carpeting and rugs should be vacuumed at least once a week. The American Lung Association (ALA) advises using central vacuum systems or a high efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) vacuum cleaner.
Homes built on a slab foundation should avoid laying carpet directly on concrete. Damp or moist conditions promote the growth of mold on the concrete’s surface and in the carpet. If carpeting becomes wet, it should be cleaned and dried by a professional carpet cleaning service.
In addition, new carpeting may emit a gas or chemical odor for several weeks or months. Chemicals found in glues and adhesives may "off-gas" as well. Breathing gases and chemicals such as these are often irritating to the eyes, throat, and lungs.
Wood burning fireplace and stove
Wood burning fireplaces, stoves, and space heaters may be a potential source of air pollution in the home. Combustion gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, as well as particles released when fuels are incompletely burned can lead to lung irritation other health hazards. To avoid the accumulation of irritants, ensure damper, fireplace doors or both are closed when the unit is not in use, especially if an exterior chimney exists. Have fireplace flues and vent piping cleaned regularly. In addition, avoid burning wood that is not dry and is green.
Heavy upholstered or fabric covered furniture, like sofas and chairs with large pillow cushions are perfect breeding places for dust mites. It is also a good idea to keep pets off upholstered furniture to avoid exposure to pet dander. Upholstered furnishings should be vacuumed frequently. Wash pillows in hot water (>130°F) or dry clean. Maintaining humidity levels indoor between
Heavy draperies and fabric blinds should be avoided to reduce dust accumulation in the living room. It is best to use vinyl or plastic window shades, however if curtains are used they should be laundered frequently.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
Inhaling second hand tobacco smoke is believed to cause asthma and also make asthma worse. Smoking should not be allowed anywhere in the home of an individual with asthma. Keep in mind too that smoke residue lingers on clothing and in hair, and can irritate asthma symptoms.
To prevent dirt from entering the ventilation system, use the highest efficiency air filter recommended by the manufacturer of your heating and cooling system and change filters regularly. When having your heating and cooling system maintained or checked for other reasons, be sure to ask the service provider to clean cooling coils and drain pans. If your heating system includes in-duct humidification equipment, be sure to operate and maintain the humidifier strictly as recommended by the manufacturer. Moisture is should not be present in ducts. The presence of condensation or high relative humidity is an important indicator of the potential for mold growth on any type of duct.
Make sure ducts are properly sealed and insulated in all non-air-conditioned spaces (e.g., attics and crawl spaces). This will help to prevent moisture due to condensation from entering the system and is important to make the ventilation system work as intended.
The attic should be kept as dust free as possible. Items should be wrapped and stored in water proof containers especially if leaks are present in the attic. Individuals with asthma or allergies should always wear a fine-particle mask when going into the attic to avoid breathing dust particles.
Moisture can accumulate from a number of sources in rooms below the attic space: an exhaust fans from the bathroom, an unvented dryer, leaking roof or windows. Moisture problems should be attended to promptly to prevent mold growth. Ensuring adequate ventilation to the exterior will also prevent moisture problems.
Home insulation may be made of fiberglass, cellulose, asbestos. or a Insulation should be kept intact and not allowed to hang loose. Insulation may be also be littered with pest droppings that can contain microbiological organisms. Insulation that becomes wet should be removed and replaced with new insulation.
Exhaust fans and ducts
Exhaust fans from bathrooms should be vented to the exterior of the home, not the attic. Make sure ducts are properly sealed and insulated in all non-air-conditioned spaces such as the attic and crawl space. This will help to prevent moisture due to condensation from entering the ventilation system and is important to make it function as intended.