By Deborah DeMoulpied
Winter time allows us the opportunity to bundle up inside, relax, and cozy up to a nice blazing fire. A time when the windows are closed, the doors are shut and drafts are kept to a minimum. And a time when indoor air quality plummets.
This time of year many people have difficulty with indoor allergens. Sometimes chemicals build up and act as allergens – from carpets, perfumes, solvents, upholstery or paints. Other allergens come from pet hair, molds, cockroaches or dust mites. Some people will say they are allergic to dust, but it is really the dust mites and the enzyme they excrete that is the culprit in the allergic response.
Dust mites are tiny little things that love warm, moist air and feed off humans’ and animals’ dead skin. It is probably impossible to really get rid of them but certain precautions can keep them under control enough to minimize symptoms. Even pets can be allergic to dust mites!
Getting rid of them as much as possible and minimizing their food source is the best way to tackle the problem. Dust mites die at 135º F so a hot wash or dry should kill a lot of them. Low moisture also makes their life miserable enough so that they may perish – below 50% humidity. . Freezing is another option which is easy to do this time of year. Take the old stuffed animals and pillows and put them on the porch for over 24 hours and that should do them in.
Here are some general tips for keeping your air cleaner and reducing allergic reactions:
- Vacuum frequently – use at least a HEPA filter; a central vacuum is ideal.
- Keep humidity at 30-50% to prevent mold and mites.
- Wash bedding regularly in hot water; soaking for at least an hour. Or, dry in hot heat. (For you environmentalists, you can hang dry first, then dry for only 10 minutes to kill the mites.)
- Avoid fragrances or perfumes from personal care products, laundry soap, or candles.
- Put dust collectors and pillows outside for over 24 hours in below freezing temperatures.
- Use a wet mop instead of a broom, a damp cloth instead of a feather duster.
- Cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite covers.
Now breathe deeply!
Deborah DeMoulpied is owner and founder of Bona Fide Green Goods, an earth-friendly department store in Concord, NH. Bonafidegreengoods.com won the Webby Awards Green Honoree in 2011. Deborah is also faculty of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program, teaching patients about environmental toxins and healthful solutions.