Control asthma, allergies by keeping homes clean
RAYMOND, Miss. -- As spring blooms outdoors, many people with allergies take refuge inside their homes, but indoor air pollutants can trigger allergic reactions, as well.
"Dust, pollen, cockroaches, pet dander, dust mites, and mold and mildew found inside homes can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms for many people," said David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "Make routine cleaning a priority to help control these pollutants."
Weekly dusting and vacuuming are inexpensive steps to remove some of the particles that cause red eyes, runny noses and sneezing. Use a damp cloth and cleaning product to dust surfaces, including window blinds. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter -- short for “high efficiency particulate air.” These filters capture a majority of the dust drawn into the vacuum instead of releasing it back into the air through the vacuum exhaust.
“If you have hard floors, follow up with a wet mop after vacuuming to pick up any remaining dust or dirt,” said Buys, who also is the Extension Healthy Homes Initiative coordinator. “If someone in your household has severe allergies or asthma, consider replacing any carpeting with hard flooring.”
Dust mites are a common trigger for allergies. The microscopic bugs are present in all homes. They live primarily in mattresses and pillows, where they feed on shed human skin cells.
The best control for dust mites is to wash sheets and pillowcases weekly in water heated to at least 130 degrees. Wash blankets, bedspreads and mattress pads once a month. Allergen-reducing pillow and mattress covers also help lower dust mite numbers. These covers also should be washed weekly.
Check for any signs of mold and mildew around widows. Other common places where mold and mildew can grow include under leaky sinks, in bathrooms and on appliances, such as humidifiers and air conditioners.
Cleanliness in the kitchen will deter cockroaches and rodents that can deposit common biological pollutants. Keep food in sealed containers. Clean the stove and countertops daily, removing any crumbs, grease, liquids and food spills. Wash and dry dishes after each meal. Clean up any spills in the kitchen immediately.
“Don’t give pests access to any food or water, including pet food,” Buys said. “Include the refrigerator and stove in regular cleaning schedules. Use a disinfectant to wipe down the inside and empty and clean the drip pan underneath. Clean under the stove when washing floors.”
Susan Cosgrove, Extension family resource management area agent based in Newton County, recommended that families declutter their homes to make cleaning easier and more effective.
“Take time to go room by room to sort and store items properly,” Cosgrove said.
In bedrooms, take all items out of closets, chests and from underneath the beds. Group like items together, and determine which items to keep, donate or sell. Then put all items away, storing them in drawers, closets or plastic bins.
“Covering items will keep dust off of them, and having everything in its place makes routine cleaning faster and easier,” Cosgrove said.
“If families make a habit of putting things away when they finish using them or devote a few minutes at the end of the day to put things away, decluttering will be a simpler task,” Cosgrove said.
MSU Extension is a partner of the Healthy Homes Initiative, delivering education to improve the health of families, homes and communities. The initiative is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information or to request a workshop about keeping homes healthy, visit the Extension website at http://extension.msstate.edu/hhi.
Editor’s note: May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.