How to Create an Allergy-Free Home

You can do a lot to reduce the levels of allergens and irritants in your home and thus lessen the chance that your child will suffer from an asthma attack. First, become aware of which allergy and/or asthma triggers can lurk indoors and how they can affect the air in your home.

Airborne triggers can include anything from the droppings of microscopic creatures called dust mites to tobacco smoke and strong odors from cleansers, perfumes, air deodorizers and even food. In addition, "during the winter months, many homes are heated by forced air, which causes collected dust in the ducts to blow around," says Akhil K. Chouksey, M.D., vice chairman of pediatric operations and director of allergy/immunology at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

But irritants and allergens aren't only in the air. Dust mites, for example, are also found in carpets, and the thicker the carpet, the more hospitable it is to them. The same goes for heavy drapes and other window treatments, upholstered furniture and stuffed animals. Empty food containers such as pizza boxes can attract cockroaches, rats or mice, whose droppings can also lead to wheezing and asthma. Leaky faucets, dripping pipes and damp basements can provide a perfect growth medium for mold, another allergen.

Ban smoking in your house or around your child and avoid using products with strong smells and chemical vapors. Have air ducts cleaned professionally every two years. You might also consider an air-cleaning system that can be used with central forced-air-heating and -cooling systems. Also, be sure to vacuum at least once a week, using a machine with a double bag or HEPA filter. And wash all surfaces regularly with a nonirritating cleanser.

Safe Bedrooms

An appropriate sleeping environment is key to keeping an asthmatic child protected from irritants. "The mattress is the number one cause of dust mite allergies," notes Dr. Chouksey. "If the mattress is seven to ten years old, chances are it is filled with dust mites." Replace it, if need be, along with old pillows, and buy dust mite–proof mattress covers and pillow covers with a pore size of less than 10 microns—the smaller the better.

Also, swap out fabric toys with plastic, metal or rubber ones, whenever possible. Adds Lisa Kobrynski, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Emory-Children’s Center in Atlanta, "Bedding should be washed weekly in 130-degree water, and the room should be dusted weekly with a damp cloth. Also, you can purchase filters to cover the air vents in the bedroom to help keep out dust from the furnace."

"Removing the pet from the home, sadly, is the most effective way to avoid an allergic reaction to pet dander. If that's not feasible, the pet should be kept out of the child's bedroom, and contact with the pet should be avoided," says Dr. Chouksey.

Publication Review By: Raymond Slavin, M.D.; Derek Johnson, M.D. for MDminute™

Published: 30 Sep 2009

Last Modified: 10 Oct 2014