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Hiding Indoors to Escape Allergies Could Make the Problem Worse, MU Expert Says

May is "Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month"

April 29, 2008

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, according to a University of Missouri respiratory therapist. May is designated 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 two to five times higher than outdoor air pollution. 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 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 School of Health Professions. “However, vacuuming agitates 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 release particles that cause allergic reactions when inhaled. To reduce dust mite exposure, Evans advises to cover mattresses and box springs in a zippered mite-proof encasement and encase pillows, including those designated as “hypo-allergenic.” Pets never should be allowed in the bedrooms of asthma sufferers, Evans said.

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

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 one-quarter 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 them.