Dust those mites away

Here are a few simple steps to combat common household allergens

Mopping the floorAre you, or your family members, suffering from bouts of sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin? Are there no apparent reasons for all these irritants emerging often around you? Then, these are probably symptoms of allergy. Unfortunately, it is your home that is to be blamed by and large. Most people are unaware that their residence is also a home to hordes of allergens that trigger reactions. A little bit of care would ensure an allergen-free home.

Swirling dust is the most common source of allergens. So are pollen, mould spores and pet dander [the dead skin flakes and saliva]. With rapid industrialisation, air is not as pure as it used to be. Loads of industrial waste mingle with it, and creep unseen in our homes. Though breaking into hives may just be a temporary discomfort, repeated exposure to these allergens can harm the internal system.

However, simple steps around the house can reduce pervading allergens. Let's go areawise to suggests ways.

Living rooms

  • Often, the living areas are spotlessly clean but have you looked at any surface above eye level. The fan blades and lamp shades are replete with dust puffs and dirt. Use a long handle and wipe them with a damp cloth. Take care that the electricity mains are switched off before tackling them. Similarly, cornices and crown moulding gather a lot of dust mites. Clean them with a duster that will collect the dirt instead of just displacing it.
  • Carpets, curtains, comforters, pillows and sheets accumulate plenty of dust inside them. Take them outside and shake thoroughly to dislodge the dust mites. The washable ones can be given a thorough cleaning with soap and water. Carpets are the greatest source of allergens. It is healthier to have a linoleum, stone or hardwood floor. If you must have carpets, choose washable, small throw rugs instead of the wall-to-wall variety.
  • Choose leather or wooden furniture over upholstered ones that gather too many allergens. If you must choose upholstered furniture, get those with removable slipcovers that are easily washable.
  • Other dust magnets are stuffed toys. They harbour dirt and allergens that may be harmful for kids. Bundle them in pillowcases and tumble wash in the machine.
  • If the windows have a net screen, check it out. Usually the holes get clogged with dust. Clean it with soap and water if washable or vacuum clean them.
  • Thoroughly clean the air conditioner before the start of summer. It is better to enlist the help of a professional to get rid of allergens trapped inside the coils. Thereafter, clean the air filters every month.
  • Ensure that your home is dry and the humidity is low. So, soggy carpets, mouldy shower curtains, dripping clothes, and seepages in the walls are to be avoided as moisture gives rise to moulds and bacteria.
  • Sunlight is effective in killing off germs and bacteria. So let fresh air and light into your house as much as you can.
  • The rainy season increases the level of humidity. Ensure that rain water is not getting logged somewhere. The drains and gutters should be kept free of leaves and other debris.
  • Above all, keep the humidity in check. The hot and humid atmosphere is perfect breeding ground for a variety of allergens. Installing a hygrometer - a device to measure humidity - could be of great help. Ideally, the humidity should be below 40 per cent. If the humidity is too high, get a dehumidifier. The drier the house is, the better you will breathe.

Kitchen

Traditionally, it was essential to keep the kitchen absolutely spic and span. That practice may not prevail as strongly now. There are some areas that are commonly neglected. Kitchen appliances like blenders, microwave, oven and toaster get coated with dust and other allergens. They must be wiped clean once a week. Utensils that are used less frequently must be rinsed with soap before using. The countertop gets a thorough cleaning, but the cabinets and other storage spaces get ignored. They should be cleaned and dusted once a month.

Empty the kitchen bin daily and try to keep the floors and countertop dry. Ensure that the kitchen gets some direct sunlight. That itself is good enough to ward off most of the bugs and allergens.

An exhaust fan keeps the kitchen free of soot and smoke. So get one installed to keep the air fresh.

Bathroom

There are a lot of invisible allergens accumulating here. Dust mites and pet hair may build up on shower curtains and bathroom rugs. Take them outside and give a thorough shake. Then, wash them with lukewarm water and dry properly. Empty the trash cans frequently.

Areas that are permanently damp develop mould spores. So keep all the leaks fixed to avoid their growth. Clean up mouldy areas like bathtub corners and under the sink frequently. Avoid carpeting in the bathroom as they may cause spores

Take care of these small things and notice the much sought after relief from allergens.

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Shalini Mehra
Shalini Mehra is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. Her articles have been published widely in the print as well as the web media. Subjects like health, alternative remedies and parenting are her forte.

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