Allergy testing is a procedure whereby small amounts of common substances are injected under the skin to detect sensitivity (allergy) to that substance. This information can guide our efforts to avoid where possible exposure to those substances to which you are allergic. As well, consideration can be given to immunotherapy (allergy shots) in order to become desensitized to those substances.
ALLERGENS IN THE HOME:
If allergy testing has been done, the results can guide you here in order to get the most bang for your preventive buck. However, general guidelines can be given here, based on the allergens most commonly found in the home, which, unfortunately, happen to be the allergens to which most asthmatics are sensitive.
The following issues regarding home allergen exposure need to be addressed to expect maximal improvement in asthma symptoms:
-Smoking: There should be absolutely no smoking in the home of a patient with asthma.
-Did I already say there should be no smoking in the home of a patient with asthma?
-Domestic Animals and Pets: For sensitive patients, pets should not be living inside.
-Dust Mites: A common allergen, the dust mite requires action above and beyond usual housecleaning for control. First, the air filter from the supermarket for $4.95 is not enough. To filter out dust and its mites requires a HEPA, a High Efficiency Particulate Air filter. Dust mites are also found in and difficult to eradicate from carpets. Powders which help with mite control are available for applying to carpets prior to vacuuming.
-The Bedroom: Special care is needed in the bedroom for allergen control, as this is usually where asthmatic patients, especially children, spend most of their time. The following are helpful in minimizing household allergen exposure:
-Mattress, pillows, and box springs: should be encased in zippered coverings which are impermeable to allergens, and which are commercially available.
-Bedding: in order to control exposure to dust mites in the bedding, all bedding, everything, should be washed weekly, in 130 degree water, in detergent that is free of additives and of fragrances. Selection of blankets should favor those which will withstand the rigors of such washing, and wool and down filled blankets should be avoided. As an alternative to washing at 130 degrees, additives are available for the wash which will help control mites in the bedding. Or, a mixture of 100cc of eucalyptus oil with 25cc dishwashing detergent, added to the wash in a 30 minute warm water pre-soak, has received some attention. The eucalyptus oil treatment is recommended every two to three months.
-Dust-proofing the bedroom: attention to some of the following can minimize the accumulation of dust and the allergens they contain. Avoid dust collectors such as wall hangings, pennants, and throw pillows. Furniture should favor wipeable surfaces such as wood, plastic, vinyl, and leather, over upholstered furniture. Heavy drapes and curtains should be avoided in favor of window shades. Closets should remain shut to prevent dust accumulation on clothes. If carpeted, the bedroom should be vacuumed with the application of a powder specific for control of dust mites. Bare floors are best.
-Air filter: a separate, portable air filter for the bedroom should be considered.