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How to Create a Dust-Free Bedroom

If you are dust-sensitive, especially if you have allergies and/or asthma, you can reduce some of your misery by creating a "dust-free" bedroom. Dust may contain molds, fibers, and dander from dogs, cats, and other animals, as well as tiny dust mites. These mites, which live in bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets, thrive in the summer and die in the winter. They will, however, continue to thrive in the winter if the house is warm and humid. The particles seen floating in a shaft of sunlight include dead mites and their waste products, The waste products actually provoke the allergic reaction.

The routine cleaning necessary to maintain a dust-free bedroom also can help reduce exposure to cockroaches, another important cause of asthma in some allergic people.

You probably cannot control dust conditions under which you work or spend your daylight hours. To a large extent, however, you can eliminate dust from your bedroom. To create a dust-free bedroom, you must reduce the number of surfaces on which dust can collect.

In addition to getting medical care for your dust allergy and/or asthma, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests the following guidelines.

Preparation

  • Completely empty the room, just as if you were moving
  • Empty and clean all closets and, if possible, store contents elsewhere and seal closets.
  • If this is not possible, keep clothing in zippered plastic bags and shoes in boxes off the floor.
  • Remove carpeting, if possible.
  • Clean and scrub the woodwork and floors thoroughly to remove all traces of dust.
  • Wipe wood, tile, or linoleum floors with water, wax, or oil.
  • If you use linoleum, cement it to the floor.
  • Close the doors and windows until the dust-sensitive person is ready to occupy the room.

Maintenance

  • Wear a filter mask when cleaning
  • Clean the room thoroughly and completely once a week
  • Clean floors, furniture, tops of doors, window frames and sills, etc., with a damp cloth or oil mop
  • Carefully vacuum carpet and upholstery regularly
  • Use a special filter in the vacuum
  • Wash curtains often at 130 degrees Farenheit
  • Air the room thoroughly

Carpeting and Flooring
Carpeting makes dust control impossible. Although shag carpets are the worst type for the dust-sensitive person, all carpets trap dust. Therefore, health care experts recommend hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors. Treating carpets with tannic acid eliminates some dust mite allergen. Tannic acid, however, is

  • Not as effective as removing the carpet
  • Is irritating to some people
  • Must be applied repeatedly

Beds and Bedding
Keep only one bed in the bedroom. Most importanly, encase box springs and mattress in a zippered dust-proof or allergen-proof cover. Scrub bed springs outside the room. If a second bed must be in the room, prepare it in the same manner.

Use only washable materials on the bed. Sheets, blankets, and other bedclothes should be washed frequently in water that is at least 130 degrees Farenheit.

  • Lower temperatures will not kill dust mites
  • If you set your hot water temperature lower (commonly done to prevent children from scalding themselves), wash items at a laundromat which uses high wash temperatures.
Use a synthetic, such as dacron, mattress pad and pillow. Avoid fuzzy wool blankets or feather- or wool-stuffed comforters and mattress pads.

Furniture and Furnishings
Keep furniture and furnishings to a minimum.

  • Avoid upholstered furniture and blinds
  • Use only a wooden or metal chair that can be scrubbed.
  • Use only plain, lightweight curtains on the windows

Air Control
Air filters-either added to a furnace or a room unit-can reduce the levels of allergens. Electrostatic and high-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) filters can effectively remove many allergens from the air. If functioning improperly, however, electrostatic filters may emit ozone, which can be harmful to your lungs if you have asthma.

A dehumidifier may help because house mites need high humidity to live and grow. You should take special care to clean the unit frequently with a weak bleach solution (1 cup bleach in 1 gallon water) or a commercial product to prevent mold growth. Although low humidity may reduce dust mite levels, it might irritate your nose and lungs.

Children
In addition to the above guidelines, if you are caring for a child who is dust-sensitive

  • Keep toys that will accumulate dust out of the child's bedroom
  • Avoid stuffed toys
  • Use only washable toys of wood, rubber, metal, or plastic
  • Store toys in a closed toy box or chest

Pets
Keep all animals with fur or feathers out of the bedroom. People allergic to dust mites often are allergic to cats, dogs, or other animals.

Although these steps may seem difficult at first, experience plus habit will make them easier. The results-better breathing, fewer medicines, and greater freedom from allergy and asthma attacks-will be well worth the effort.

For More Information
Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics
2751 Prosperity Avenue, Suite 150
Fairfax, VA 22031
1-800-878-4403 or 703-641-9595
http://www.aanma.org

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
611 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
1-800-822-2762
http://www.aaaai.org/public/default.stm

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1233 20th Street, NW, Suite 402
Washington, DC 20036
1-800-7-ASTHMA (1-800-727-8462)
http://aafa.org

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism, tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Last updated October 2, 2001