The Good Doctor's Guide to a Health Home
Most of us are aware of the impact of pollution on our environment. We are concerned about the pollution of the air, the oceans and the land on our health. What is less well known is the level of pollution in our own homes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that indoor air pollution is 5-100 times higher than that of outdoors. We spend up to 90% of our time indoors and it is in our homes, schools and workplace that we are exposed to the highest levels of pollution.
From the basement to the attic, there are sources of pollution that can trigger breathing problems. In the coming weeks, I am going to take you on a virtual tour of your home—from your lungs point of view. I will point out the areas of potential problems and describe the simple, inexpensive and quick solutions. This week we will examine the bedroom.
Privates Spaces—airway issues where you sleep
Studies have repeatedly shown that many of the most serious asthma attacks occur at night. Itís not surprising considering that high levels of allergens hiding in your bedroom. Carpets, bedding, and curtains harbor dirt, dust, pollen, and the allergens from dust mites. These almost invisible bugs are in are in the same family as ticks and spiders, but unlike their larger cousins, they do not sting or spread disease. They are quite content to live on the mold on furnishings and the dead skin cells that we shed each night. However it is their droppings that are a significant cause of asthma and congestion. Research has demonstrated that, on the average, bed linens contain 10,000 dust mites and more than 2,000,000 droppings.
Dust mites are easy to get and hard to eliminate. They burrow deep into all soft fabric covered surfaces. They love to hide in pile carpets, mattresses, pillows and upholstery. Controlling dust mites is a vital step in improving air quality in the bedroom.
To discourage dust mite colonies, start by keeping the bedroom cool and dry. These tiny creatures like damp warm rooms. When you sleep, keep the room temperature below 77 degrees and 45% humidity. You can easily monitor these factors with a simple inexpensive combination wall thermometer/ hygrometer that you can find at a hardware store. Unless you are using a humidifier, moisture is usually not a problem, but overheating is common in modern homes and apartments. To keep down accumulation of allergens and dust mites in your home, follow these six easy steps:
- Take off dust ruffles and avoid putting items under the bed. Even if these items are encased in clear plastic boxes, the containers themselves will become coated with dust.
- Avoid wall to wall carpets. Use area rugs that can be picked up and cleaned. Vacuum rugs twice a week and use electrostatic cloths like Swiffer on furniture and wooden floors.
- To protect your bedding, cover your mattress, pillows and quilts with anti-mite barrier covers. Once stiff, expensive and hard to find, they are now soft affordable and widely available. Look for them at large stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond or online from sites such as Missionallergy.com. Use duvet covers which can be washed easily and change all bed linens once a week. Select polyester rather than down pillows and comforters since feathers are a favorite meal for dust mites.
- Hang hand washable curtains or flat shades rather than drapes or blinds.
- Clear off clutter on your bedside table and dresser. These items accumulate dust rapidly, which is then inches from your face as you sleep.
- In peak allergy season, keep windows closed and turn on air conditioners.
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