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Ahh-Choo! May is "Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month"

Asthma and allergy sufferers face tough season, even indoors

May 17, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Sneezing, itching and watery eyes are all signs that spring allergens are in the air. This time of year is particularly difficult for people who suffer from asthma and allergies; that is why May is set aside as “Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.”

Many people try to escape the problem by heading indoors; however, according to Environmental Protection Agency studies, indoor air pollution may be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors. Asthma and allergy sufferers are especially sensitive to contaminants in the air within their own homes. Most people spend almost 90 percent of their time indoors. Children, the elderly and people with health problems will likely spend more time indoors and they are the most susceptible to the effects of poor indoor air quality.

“It is important to vacuum at least once a week,” said Dana Evans, clinical instructor of respiratory therapy at the University of Missouri-Columbia's School of Health Professions. “However, vacuuming stirs up a lot of dust. If the person doing the vacuuming is bothered by allergies, a mask should be worn.”

A few of the top offenders can be found in the bedroom. Dust mites thrive in warm, dark places and feed off of human skin particles. These microscopic organisms give off particles that cause allergic reactions when inhaled. To reduce dust mite exposure, Evans advises to cover mattresses and box springs in zippered mite-proof encasements and encase pillows, including those designated as “hypo-allergenic.” Pets never should be allowed in bedrooms.

“Always wash bedding in hot water because cold water does not kill dust mites,” Evans said. “You can have the cleanest house in the neighborhood and you are still going to have dust mites.”

In the bathroom, mildew or mold can be an allergy and asthma trigger. Shower curtains should be washed regularly and mold can be removed by washing with a solution of ¼ cup of bleach in a gallon of water. Bathrooms should not have wall-to-wall carpet. Children's bath toys need to dry so mold cannot grow on or inside them. Mold also grows on plants so it is important not to over water.

“Also, pollen is very sticky,” Evans reminds. “When you go to bed you are just rolling around in it. So, it is a good idea to shower and wash your hair before going to bed.”