Envionmental Psychology

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Fight Household Allergens

By Jeanette Joy Fisher

It can be a jungle out there if you're like millions of Americans who regularly suffer from allergies. However, you don't have to spend a great deal of time outdoors to have your allergies trigger difficult episodes. Even when you think you're safe in your home, dust mites, pet dander, and mold can make life every bit as hard if you're an allergy sufferer.

Although it will take concentrated effort, there are ways to lessen your risks when it comes to household allergens, and the most effective place to begin is in your bedroom. That's the main room where dust mites make their home, and where you spend a considerable amount of time every day. Dust mites live on dead skin, and you can easily have two million of them living in your bed and on your pillows.

You can fight back against exploding dust mite populations by washing your linens in hot water once a week during July and August, when mites become the number one cause of indoor allergies in America. You could also use allergen-proof pillow cases and bed covers (although some recent research has suggested that they may not as effective as we'd originally been led to believe).

Another place to look is on your children's collection of stuffed animals. They can contain millions of dust mites, and they rarely, if ever, get washed. In order to fight back, give those stuffed critters a bath in the washer if they're machine washable. If they're not, put them into plastic bags and then let them sit in the freezer for at least twenty-four hours. That should be long enough to kill most of the mites a stuffed animal might be harboring.

More than ten million Americans are allergic to cat dander, which makes it a serious problem across the country, and nearly every U.S. household contains at least some cat and dog allergens, even if those homes don't contain pets. Cat dander is far and away the most likely to cause problems, especially light-haired female cats, according to recent studies. Dogs and rodent dander also causes significant allergy problems for Americans, although not as often as cat dander.

Keeping animals off the household furniture, and especially off your bed, which is already home to dust mites, can go a long way toward controlling your home's pet dander problems. Washing your pet at least once a week is also an effective way to keep the amount of pet dander in your home down to a manageable level.

Indoor mold spores are invisible, but they can cause problems for allergy-prone people at any time of year. Your home's greatest concentrations of mold spores can generally be found in the basement, as well as in your bathrooms and closets. If you are the type of person who likes to bring lots of greenery into your home, mold spores can also hide in your houseplants, as well.

The best way to fight mold is to roll up your sleeves and start scrubbing, using a mixture of water and bleach. Reducing humidity in your home can also help minimize mold populations. A dehumidifier or air conditioner can be helpful tools for fighting mold.

It can be a frustrating experience, but you can win the battle against allergens in your home if you're willing to put forth the effort.

Copyright 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher

Copyright 2006 Jeanette J. Fisher

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