Waking up groggy in the morning or feeling fatigued during the day? Perhaps allergies are the culprit. There may be something in your house or in your bedroom which is triggering an allergic reaction that makes it hard for you to sleep; dust mites and household dust are most common but new carpets, new curtains, cleaning sprays, washing powder, air fresheners and fresh paint release chemical emissions that can also cause problems.
Avoidance is always the best treatment for allergies regardless of which allergens are the triggers. Interestingly enough, the most effective, least expensive, and simplest options are not always followed. Many people choose medications or vaccinations instead, despite their drawbacks and forget that there are lots of simple methods, both old and new, to help with avoidance. The good news is that you really don’t have to strip your house down to the bare bones to make it allergy proof. Thorough and regular cleaning generally makes a huge difference in keeping your house as mould and dust free as possible. Patients with asthma or allergic rhinitis that are due to dust mites, moulds, or other indoor allergens can feel better by keeping their home cool (between 68 and 72 degrees F, 20 and 21 degrees C) and making sure there is good ventilation. Plants in your bedroom during the day but taken out at night can also help absorb dust as can the use hypoallergenic allergy pillows as well as pillow and mattress protectors.
Children and Allergies
Soft toys to bed are a wonderful home for dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in household dust and are a very common trigger for allergies and asthma. Their diet consists mainly of shed human skin and so they particularly like to live in mattresses and bedding where they can find a plentiful supply, as well as rugs and upholstered furniture.
Over 5.1 million people in the UK have asthma – 50% of whom are children with asthma, a chronic disease in which sufferers have repeated attacks of difficulty in breathing and coughing. Allergies are also very common and children who suffer from either allergies or asthma often suffer from disturbed sleep. Not only do the symptoms of both conditions – breathing problems, coughs, inflamed nasal passages and itchy eyes – make sleep difficult but the body’s immunological response to allergens disrupts systems set up to regulate sleep.
Although there is currently no known cure for asthma, 85% of people are allergic to the dust mite excrement and dust mite skeletons found in every mattress, even if only a few months old. Reducing dust mites in your child’s bedroom and making sure the bedroom environment is as clean as possible can make a significant difference to a child’s symptoms and how well they sleep, as is illustrated in the following case study:
Jonny, 6, was recently diagnosed with asthma, which accounted for his nighttime coughing fits and the difficulty he had breathing after vigorous physical exercise. He was prescribed two inhalers, one was preventative and one was only to be used in a case of emergency. However, Jonny’s mum Franca soon learnt that there were many more ways of protecting Jonny from possible asthma triggers and irritants, and the first place to start was the bedroom. As well as keeping the room exceptionally clean, hovering often and dusting shelves every day, Jonny’s mum used air purifiers which helped remove contaminates from the air. Another precaution taken was to buy mattress covers which provided an extra barrier for dust mites and other allergens. The great thing about the covers is that they take up no more space than a folded sheet would, so Jonny’s mum took them with her to hotels and on sleepovers so Jonny had the protection all the time. Similarly she bought pillow covers which served a similar purpose. Although the inhalers and medicine were vital to keeping Jonny safe and well, managing his surroundings was fundamental in keeping the asthma at bay.
Reducing the Allergen Load
- Wash all of your bedding in hot water (at 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or 54.4 degrees Celsius) and then dry it on a high setting in the tumble dryer every few weeks.
- Hanging sheets and other bed linen on a washing line collects pollens and molds which can cause allergic reactions.
- Do check the washing instructions first to make sure toys and bedding can withstand high temperatures – you don’t want to shrink your child’s favourite teddy
- Vacuum your bedroom at least once a week and clean the furniture with a damp cloth.
- Vacuum the curtains and your mattress too– it may not remove many dust mites but it will remove the dust they feed on.
- To avoid dust, try and keep your rooms as clutter-free as possible
- Take up the carpets in your bedrooms. Carpets harbour dust mites and pollen, so a bare wooden floor will reduce them in the bedroom.
- Rugs which can be regularly washed can soften the effects of bare floors.
- Use mattress and pillow protectors
- Reduce humidity in the bedroom. Dust mites love moist areas so a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 50% will discourage them.
- Wash your child’s soft toys frequently in hot water and then dry them in the tumble dryer on the highest setting.
- You can also put soft toys in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer overnight as dust mites cannot survive freezing temperatures for more than 5 hours