If dust and dust mites are the bane of your existence, then you should read this article. Early fall often is prime production time for several different allergens. If you already know that you are allergic to dust mites, animal dander or pollen, you can assume that dust will be an ever-present allergen. For those of us with sensitivities to mold spores, pollen and dust mites, early August to late November, the dust in our homes may carry with it an increased chance of triggering our symptoms. This is because dust basically is a collection of allergens that has settled in corners, under furniture and on window sills.
A Recipe for Dust
The primary ingredient in dust is dead skin. The tiny glimmering specs of dust that you see whirling in a ray of sunlight are actually your one shed skin cells. Your bed, armchair or sofa is overflowing with this sort of dust, which makes these items the perfect environment for dust mites. Dust mite allergen is a major factor in sparking attacks for those with allergic asthma (about 90% of allergic asthmatics are sensitive to dust mites).
Other little bits of debris joins the mixture, including fibers, dirt and sand tracked in on shoes, pollen, mold spores, specks of carbon from furnaces, sawdust, plant and insect parts, etc. Dust bunnies are a product of fiber dust-those tiny bits of fuzz from clothes, carpets and furniture collect to form a larger ball of dust.
Fall Dust Woes: why are dust allergies worse in the fall?
- During the months of July and August, dust mite populations hit their year-round peak because of the ample amounts of warmth and moisture (derived from your sweat and environmental humidity). So if you find that you are waking up with dry eyes or a stuffed up nose, you can assume that you have some sensitivity to dust mites.
- Early August to Early November is the pollinating season for ragweed, which is why it is the leading cause of fall allergies. Ragweed relies on the wind to spread its pollen, which means (unlike other plants that produce pretty or scented flowers to attract insects to pollinate them) this plant produces enormous amounts of tiny pollen grains that are carried on gust of air. Because this pollination technique is completely hit or miss, the more pollen the plant produces will increase its chances of pollination.
- As damp leaves pile up, mold growth is prolific. Leaves are a perfect food source for molds, so it only takes a small amount of moisture and a few warm days for molds to quickly sprout and produce large amounts of spores.
If you have moderate to severe dust, mold, pollen or dust mite allergies, now may be the time of year when the dust in your home is made up of these seasonal allergens. If you are looking for relief beyond basic cleaning, you want to dust-proof your room.
How to prep the room:
- pack up all your belongings as if you were moving and empty out the room.
- empty out your closet – clean the contents and seal in plastic bags or Tupperware containers.
- keep clothing in zippered plastic bags and shoes in shoe boxes up off of the floor.
- remove any loose carpets.
- clean and scrub the woodwork and floors to remove all of the dust present.
- Wipe all of the wood, tile or linoleum surfaces in the room with water, then wax or oil them.
- re-cement any lifted linoleum to the floor so that there are no hiding places from dust.
- if the room is a guest room, keep all of the windows and doors closed
- (Remember, if you are allergic to dust, you might want to wear a mask while cleaning.)
- thoroughly clean the room once a week.
- clean the floors, furniture, tops of doors and door frames and window sills with a damp cloth or oiled dusting rag.
- vacuum carpets and upholstery on a regular basis (preferably using a vacuum specially made to filter out allergens)
- Remember to wash your curtains, because they can collect a lot of dust. Soak them in a bucket of hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) to rid them of dust mites.
- open the windows and "air out" the room. Because of the airtight construction used to improve energy efficiency, there are 200% more allergens trapped indoors that older, drafty homes. Though you might think that open windows bring in more allergens like pollen and dust, the amount that collects in the room over the period of a week or two is substantially more. In the end, you have more allergens leaving the room than entering it.
- if you have wall-to-wall carpeting, you may want to remove it, because it tends to collect dust
- bedding should be washed weekly
- installing an air filter can dramatically reduce the amount of dust in the air and, in turn, cut down on how much dust is piling up on your belongings.