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How are surfaces important in controlling airborne allergens? How do you tell the difference between colds and allergies? We're glad you asked. Find all this and more.

Preventing Allergens

The common allergens – dust mite allergens, pollen allergens, pet allergens and mold allergens – can cause mild to severe allergies. Reducing these allergens can help reduce your symptoms.

There are specific strategies for each type of allergen.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic animals in the spider family. They eat discarded human skin cells, which are constantly being shed, and get their water from humidity in the atmosphere. They thrive in temperatures around 70 °F and high humidity ... and they reproduce very quickly.

Dust mites are commonly found in bedding, carpets, upholstery, old clothing and stuffed toys. Dust mite allergens are heavier than other allergens, so they land and settle on surfaces quickly, rather than staying "airborne." This makes surface cleaning to reduce dust mite allergens especially important.

Controlling Dust Mites

  • Reduce household surface dust overall. Household dust contains all kinds of tiny particles – but much is made up of human skin cells. Dust also contains the droppings and dead bodies of dust mites. Use a damp or oiled mop or rag to prevent dust from becoming airborne and resettling. Reduce dust mites on surfaces with disinfecting wipes.
  • Remove clutter. This, in turn, reduces places for dust to collect.
  • Monitor your home's humidity. A simple, inexpensive "hygrometer" available at hardware and home stores can help. Home humidity should be between 40 and 50%.
  • Use air conditioning. If you use an indoor/window unit, check for good drainage to avoid water collecting in our around it.
  • Vacuum regularly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a double-layered microfilter bag or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to help decrease house-dust emissions from the cleaner.

In the bedroom

  • Use allergen-proof bed covers. Encasing pillows, mattresses and box springs in allergen-impermeable casings prevents dust mites from entering these soft furnishings and reproducing.
  • Keep all clothes in drawers or closets. Store wool clothes in plastic zipper bags. Keep drawers and closet doors closed, and don't store items under the bed.
  • Choose bedding wisely. Avoid wool or down bedcovers that trap dust easily and are difficult to clean frequently. Also, be aware that down bedcovers can trigger pet allergies, too.
  • Wash all bedding weekly. Laundering sheets, blankets, pillowcases and bedcovers in hot water that is at least 130° F kills dust mites and removes allergens.
  • Place beds away from air vents.
  • Buy washable stuffed toys. Keep them off the bed, and wash them frequently.
  • Remove carpeting and other soft furnishings if possible. Better choices for bedroom flooring are wood, vinyl, linoleum or tile. Also, consider removing upholstered furniture, non-washable draperies, and horizontal blinds (which collect dust) from the bedroom.