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Indoor Allergens

What to do about them?

Allergen exposure in the home is a major risk factor for the development of allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.  Since we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, and the level of pollutants are 2-5 times higher indoors than outside, a large proportion of the population is sensitized to one or more allergens that are found indoors. Assessments of allergen exposure are made by measuring major allergens in dust samples.  These allergens include but are not limited to dust mites, animal allergens, and cockroach allergens.

Dust mites

commercialMany individuals are allergic to house dust.  Dust mites live in the dust that accumulates in most homes, particularly within fabrics.  Favorite habitats for dust mites include carpets, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys, mattresses, pillows and bedding materials.  Their major source of food is shed human skin scales, which are present in high numbers in most of these items, and the allergens are contained in the fecal particles that accumulate in their habitats.   Dust mites prefer a warm and humid climate and their growth can be controlled by keeping the relative humidity below 40 to 50 percent.  Measures to reduce mite allergen in the home include encasing mattresses and pillows with tightly woven materials that prevent penetration by mites as well as their fecal particles.  Bed linens should be washed in hot water every 1-2 weeks.  It is prudent to remove carpets and soft furnishings, especially from the bedroom, to reduce potential mite habitats.