There is a strong relationship between sensitivity to indoor allergens and the presence of allergic diseases such as rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, and asthma. More than 20 percent of Americans suffer from allergic diseases. Conditions that encourage allergic reasctions are common, and the negative impact they have on life in general can be significant. Elimination and/or avoidance of the offending agents is the goal.
As reported in the April 15, 2000 issue of Patient Care, the most common household allergens come from dust mites, cockroaches, house pet dander and fungi. Dust mites are tiny insects that cannot be seen with the eye. They feed on the dead skin scales shed by humans and pets. Dust mites live in mattresses, pillows, box springs, bedding, carpets, and soft furniture. If your doctor thinks you are allergic to dust mites, begin with washing all bedding in hot water every 2 weeks. Wool blankets or down comforters should not be used.
To further control for dust mites, remove or minimize upholstery. Tile or hardwood flooring is preferable to carpeting and rugs. Prtective casings for pillows, mattresses and box springs made of breathable microfine cotton fabrics or synthetic fabrics that prevent the dust mites or their allergens from passing through are available. Because dust mites like humid environments, try to reduce humidity to below 45 percent. An air conditioner is usually effective in removing moisture from the air, although a dehumidifier may be necessary in more humid climates. Use of a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is an excellent way to prevent particles that cause allergies from escaping into the air. Special multilayer vacuum cleaner bags and exhaust filters for your vacuum are available as well.
An agent that has proven to be effective in the environmental control of dust mites is benzyl benzoate (marketed as Acarosan®). Benzyo benzoate is a powder that kills mite reservoirs in carpets and rugs. Tannic acid, a product that denatures the mite allergen, is useful as a laundry agent for clothing, bedding, pillows and other washables. A one percent tannic acid is available. Because some persons are sensitive to benzyl benzoate and tannic acid, routine use of these products is not recommended.