Creating An Allergy Free Home

publication date: Sep 23, 2008
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author/source: Kate Faulkner
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An Allergy Free Home
There are lots of ideas and help that you can gain from all sorts of resources, from specialist magazines through to profit and non-profit organisations. One of the important things to make sure is that the products or services that you go for are tried and tested. It would be very easy to spend a lot of money and not really get any benefit.

There are three main allergies that can be helped by creating an allergy-free home. These are:-

Asthma
Eczema
Sinus or Rhinitis Problems

The main causes of allergic reactions in the home are:-
Pets and their dander
Feathers, horse hair or other
House dust mites and dust
Plants and flowers
Chemicals in the home

Some things that we often forget can cause allergic reactions are household chemicals that we use for cleaning and washing. We have looked at some of the key things that you can use to help reduce their impact and have covered how to tackle them by each allergy.

Pets, Dander, Feathers and Horse Hair

There is nothing sadder than being or becoming allergic to animals. It also makes life very hard if you have friends or relatives that have animals or an allergy and visiting them makes you or them feel ill. However, there are ways to minimise the effect that pets or other animals may have on you or someone in your home.

Getting Rid of Effects of Allergies to Pets or Feathers

Letting Your Pet Go
This is quite a hard thing to do, but if they are making you or a loved one ill, it may be the only option. Living with a pet that you are allergic to, in some circumstances can help the effect of the allergy. Unfortunately, it can also go the other way - and make you much worse. Seek medical advice at all times and make sure you have the relevant tests before you make any decision.

If you have anything in the home which has any type of hair or feathers, then remove them from the property or usual areas and see if they make a difference. If they do, then obviously get rid of them and replace with allergy free items.

Reducing the Impact of Pet Allergies
There are several ways of doing this. Most pet allergies are exacerbated by pet hair or dander in fabrics. So the best way to keep this down is to get rid of any fabrics and go for plastic or leather covers/cushions, blinds, wooden, laminate, linoleum or vinyl flooring.

Pet Allergy Shampoos
These are supposed to last up to 30 days. The idea is you shampoo the pet and it will get rid of the pet and dust mite allergens.

Air Purifiers
These may help, but it is best to try them out first as they are expensive. Around £100+.

Vacuum Cleaner
Make sure you buy one which is not just promoted as 'cat and dog' but also has a sealed HEPA filter attached. They cost around £200.

Restrict Pets to Certain Rooms
You can help the effect of allergies caused by pets by restricting the areas they are allowed in. This can make a big difference, especially if the areas they are in can be cleaned regularly and have little fabric in them to harbour the hair and dander. Another idea is to always wash hands after being with pets and have 'pet only' clothes where possible. Make sure these are washed regularly and keep them in a box somewhere away from the bedroom or other areas that the pet cannot go.

Create an Outside Space
This is especially the case for dogs as cats are often happy outside anyway. It may initially seem cruel, but most dogs don't mind being outside, you just need to increase the amount they are put outside bit by bit and ensure that they see living outside as a 'treat' by encouraging and praising them for settling outside well. For example, you might start feeding their meals in the outside space.

Dust, Dust Mites and Pollen
If you are allergic to any of these there are two main things that you need to consider, how to get rid of dust and how to keep it under control.

Getting Rid of Dust
It's amazing how much difference it can make just by keeping the dust down in your property. Prime areas where dust collects are on any shelves or in corners that are hard to clean. For example, above doors, their frames and even along any panels that some doors have. What is important is to make sure that you keep the dust down effectively rather than spreading it from one place to another. Another easy to miss area is the radiator.
The 'Allergy Free' Foundation suggest that one way to do this effectively and without adding any 'perfume' or 'sprays' is by using a cup of white wine vinegar as a spray. It might not smell great, but apparently it can do the job!

Other ways of reducing dust/pollen:-
Wooden, vinyl or linoleum flooring rather than carpet
Avoid rugs
Have leather or plastic covered furniture, or wood
Use wooden or plastic blinds rather than curtains or have washable curtains
Keep any ornaments or books etc in closed cabinets
Don't forget those 'hard to reach' or easily missed areas:-
Door frames
Tops of doors
Door panels
Corners near skirting boards
Regularly move and clean behind furniture etc

Ways of keeping dust/pollen down:-
1. Where possible dust with a damp cloth - preferably daily
2. Vacuum using a hoover with a special filter
3. Using air purifiers, try ones with a HEPA filter
4. If renovating, try and seal off the area and let the dust settle, then hoover and wipe clean

Expelling Dust Mites
Dust mites sound horrible, and if you are allergic to them, it isn't pleasant. However it is possible to help keep them down. We will leave it to other people to go through the horrendous detail of what they are and what they do, we just concentrate on how to get rid of them and how to minimise them! It's important to be sure that you have an allergy to dust mites, or you can spend a lot of money and receive no benefit whatsoever. So make sure that you talk to your GP before you go ahead redoing your home.

To get rid of dust mites:-
1. Where possible, wash bedding, covers or curtains regularly - they don't survive at 60 degrees, so give them a hot wash.
2. Air the beds daily by folding over the duvet, and separating pillows, this keeps the temperature down and therefore the dust mite's survival.
3. Air your home as much as possible too, especially if it is hot and steamy as in bathrooms or kitchens.
4. Use a good quality vacuum cleaner which has a special filter for allergens (such as Miele).
5. If you have children - and they have soft toys - wash these and other items regularly too.

Keeping Dust Mites Down
There are lots of products that claim to give you protection against dust mites from bedding to sprays and there is even a family that have created a House Dust Mite website! Visit Housemite. To be fair they seem to have good information and you can email questions to them or 'ask the dustmite'. Visit Housemite.

Another site which is extremely informative and gives guidance on buying products with evidence from the British Medical Journal is the AAIR, Asthma, Allergy and Inflammation Research. Visit the AAIR Charity.

There are many ways of keeping dust mites down, but you do need to check out any of the products that we suggest to make sure they are right for you. Also shop around as prices and quality can vary dramatically. Ideally ask a friend/relative if they know anyone that has bought products that have worked for them. They may even let you try them out first!

Air Purifiers
These take out dust, smoke, odours and other irritants from the air, making it effectively 'cleaner' to breathe. As with many products there is a question mark as to whether they are effective, but they can be worth a try. In view of the cost, if you know someone who has one you can borrow before you buy, or can even hire one for a short time, that might be worth it before you buy. Many believe that you will get as good a air filter by opening doors and windows and making sure the home is not too warm.

Go to this website Airpurifier 101 for helpful tips of what to look for when buying an Air Purifier. Look in particular for those which have a HEPA filter. They cost around £100 to £500+ depending on size.

Dehumidifiers
These work by taking out the moisture from the air. Dust mites can't survive in an area that doesn't have water present as they are 80% water and can't survive without it! They are expensive though and cost from around £110 to £500+.

Bedding
There is some sceptism about whether these work or not. Some think they do and some don't. What everyone agrees with however is that you can't just put covers on existing mattresses or fabric beds and expect them to work. Ideally you will need a new bed/mattress. Once the bedding is on, you then need to 'turn down' the duvet daily and wash regularly at 60 degrees plus. Many modern covers can only take 40 degrees, so make sure that you buy ones that can take a 60 degree wash. It is also advised that you should 'vacuum' the bed regularly with an appropriate machine. For help with choosing bedding, go to the AAIR site.

Bedding can cost anything from £30 to several hundred, the difference being the quality. The more expensive ones are of quality cotton.

Mattress Cleaning
There is a company that will clean your mattress for you - Silent Mites. They also offer some free leaflets and advice, plus a free consultation. However it may be as cost effective to buy a reasonably priced mattress and change it regularly.

Sprays
They do exist, but the problem is there are millions of these things in your home and the amount of spray required to rid your home of them, day after day, is probably not cost effective. They haven't been clinically proven, but again, ask around and see if anyone has found they work. They cost from £10.

Special Vacuum Cleaners
Vacuuming is an important part of keeping dust - and the dust mites down. Look for cleaners that have sealed HEPA filters and make sure you keep plenty of new filters in stock, as they do need replacing regularly. Other vacuum cleaners tend to worsen the situation as they 'redistribute' much of the dust back into the atmosphere. They cost a few hundred pounds and the filters can be up to £5+, so running costs can be high. Again borrow someone else's if you can before you buy.

Shampoos, Detergents etc
These make their claims, but as with sprays are pretty unsubstantiated. The advantage claimed for the detergents is that they will kill even at lower temperatures. They are very expensive versus ordinary detergents and shampoos.

Go to some of the shopping areas below, or your local Boots or department store may have some of the products available. Always check for value.

Buying Allergy Free Products
The Healthy House Ltd - Telephone 01453 752216
Allergy Matters
Boots
Allergy Best Buys


Chemical Allergies

Allergies to chemicals in the home are on the increase, as we use more chemical products in our home and in the main, give our homes poor ventilation to counteract the effects. This allergy is usually referred to as 'Multiple Chemical Sensitivity'. The best information is provided by the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Organisation. Unlike many of the other causes of allergies in the home, this is one that you can do a lot about. The key chemicals (in the home) that can cause problems and are worth testing by getting rid of them one by one are:-

Cleaning products
Paint
Renovation products
Cleaning Products

There is much you can do to stop this from being a problem. The best idea is to go for green products or old ideas. For example, instead of an air freshener, Allergy UK suggest you use one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, add two tablespoons of white vinegar and two cups of clean water. Apparently it foams, so wait until it stops before you put the top on! What you are looking for is products that are not 'toxic' or carcinogenic. Any cleaning product should state whether it has any toxic chemicals in it and if it contains anything carcinogenic: there will be a label with a skull and crossed bones on it. Do shop around for products and make sure you get good value as some companies charge a lot more for these 'greener' products.

For more on what to replace your cleaning products with, the website 'Low Impact' has a really good PDF file you can download or the 'Allergy Site' which has an extensive list of what to avoid.

Paint and Other Finishes
The reason paint and other finishes, such as varnishes or mastics can cause problems, is that they usually contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) which is basically a solvent. This can cause a lot of problems for those with a chemical sensitivity.

The best sites to give you all the information and products you would need, is the Green Building Store and Natural Paints On Line.

Renovation Products
The best way to make sure you live in a home which can reduce chemical sensitivity is to live in one which is built from natural materials. For more information, go to the Eco Friendly Section. There is information on adapting your own home as well as building a new one!

Specific Resources
Introduction and detail on MCS can be found on the Environmental Illness Resource site.

Helpful Resources to Research your Allergy Free Home

Magazines
Allergy UK E-Newsletter, and Allergy UK also have a great free tool to work out what causes allergies in your home.

There are three main books to consider:-
1. The Allergy Free Home book by Vittoria D'Alessio
2. Allergen Free Living by Peter Howarth and Anita Reid
3. Asthma Begins at Home by Rosie Gordon

Shows
Try the Allergy and Gluten Free Show. They have had their show already this year, but next year's is planned for Friday 12th June to Sunday 14th June 2009 at Olympia.

Indoor Allergy Week has a useful article called 'Fight the Mite' with ten top tips.

Allergy Organisations
Allergy Foundation Telephone 01322 619898
Asthma Organisation Telephone 0845 701 0203
Eczema Organisation Telephone 0870 241 3604
Alliance for Healthy Homes Although an American site, it contains some useful tips.

Buying Allergy Free Products
You can find allergy free products in department stores and Boots plus other chemists, but here are some more specific websites. Checkout prices first though and make sure you are getting value for money

The Healthy House Ltd Telephone 01453 752216
Allergy Matters
Boots
Allergy Best Buys

Allergy Free Articles
Spores Update
Bedcovers
Dust Mites
Cleaning Products Link to Wheezing



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