How to Allergy-Proof Your Home

How to Allergy-Proof a Child's Room, a Dorm Room and a Closet

All the advice on allergy-proofing your bedroom applies equally to other sleeping quarters. However, there are several other considerations that need to be addressed when allergy-proofing a child's bedroom or a dorm room. We will begin with your little one's room.

An Allergen-Free Bed

Children should start their sleeping lives with a new mattress encased in allergen-impermeable coverings. These casings, as noted earlier, are efficient at blocking out dust mites and mold spores, but they are also breathable and water permeable. That means that if a child wets the bed, all bedding and encasings need to be washed and the mattress allowed to dry. To prevent the mattress from getting wet, you can put rubber pads on top of the mattress and its encasing.

Many baby mattresses are made with a vinyl cover. If your baby's new mattress isn't sealed in vinyl, encase it first in a plastic, waterproof covering before the baby ever sleeps on it. Mold will grow underneath the plastic if there already is a habitat (such as moisture). Then, top the plastic or vinyl with a dust-mite-proof encasing. Replace mattresses if they start to smell or show signs of mold.

An Unlikely Culprit: Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals can be found in every child's room. They are cute and irresistible to kids and, unfortunately, to dust mites, too. If your child insists on cuddling with a stuffed animal, buy one that's durable and washable, and then wash it each week with the linens. Try not to let your child sleep with it. Since this is easier said than done, at least remove the toy from the bed once they've fallen asleep. Keep all toys in dust-free containers away from the bed and not on the floor.

Even if your child shows no signs of allergies, keep up the allergy-proofing if one or both parents have them. While such precautions won't prevent future allergies in your child, the data suggest that they may prevent your child from developing asthma. Allergy-proofing also helps reduce dust mites throughout the entire house and helps create lifelong healthful cleaning habits.

Allergy-proofing the home is easy compared to doing the dorm room. First, you're thrown into a small room with a complete stranger, who may or may not be sympathetic to your suffering. (Hopefully, your roommate won't be an inconsiderate slob, but somehow, once away from parental control, many people forget about household chores.) Second, there's the room itself, a place that has endured the wear and tear of countless students -- clean and not-so-clean. Unfortunately, sometimes there isn't much an allergic student can do about roommate or residence, but it is always worth trying for the sake of your sinuses.

Allergy-Proofing A Dorm Room

The following pointers should help you create a less allergenic dorm environment:

  • For students who suffer from serious allergies or asthma, a room of one's own is worth the fight. While such a living arrangement goes against the "dorm experience," it does offer asthmatics and allergy sufferers better control of cleaning. Have the allergist write a letter if it will help your case.
  • If you have a choice, request an air-conditioned dorm room.
  • If you're stuck with an old, battered mattress, put in a plea for a new one. Encase the mattress, pillows, and comforter in mite-proof encasings. Some dorm mattresses are extra long -- check this out before ordering a mattress cover.
  • Give the room a thorough wipe down before settling in.
  • Choose a nonsmoking dorm, not just a nonsmoking floor.
  • Watch out for old carpet or area rugs that may have both mites and mold.
  • Explain to your roommate (in a friendly fashion) why the room needs to be kept clean. Volunteer to clean it, if need be. If the roommate is disagreeable or just a natural-born slob, talk to the dorm manager about moving one of you out.
  • Don't eat in the room. Cockroaches like pizza, popcorn, and ramen noodles just as much as students do.
  • Consider bringing a portable HEPA air filter.

Allergy-Proofing A Closet

Make the closet uninhabitable for these allergens with a few simple steps:

  • Use closets for storing only laundered clothes. Remove all dust-collecting items, such as boxes and bedding. If you do store shoes in the closet, hang them on wire shoe racks to encourage air circulation and discourage mold growth. Off-season or special-occasion shoes should be stowed in boxes or bags to prevent dust buildup.
  • Be wary of hanging recently dry-cleaned items in an enclosed closet (air them out, preferably outdoors if possible). That goes for putting mothballs and fragrance sticks in there, too. All emit potentially irritating fumes.
  • Mold spores love dark, moist hideaways, so a closet laundry hamper is considered a four-star accommodation. Keeping a hamper in the closet is convenient, but make sure it's a well-ventilated one, which will limit mold growth. Avoid throwing wet towels in there, too, and wash the basket frequently.
  • Store out-of-season clothing in zippered garment bags or in easy-to-dust plastic boxes.
  • Don't store leather skirts or jackets in plastic bags, or you'll run the risk of creating a fashionable petri dish. Take one leather garment, place in a plastic bag, add humidity from the air, and stuff it into a dark closet for a few weeks. The result: a costly, moldy mistake.

Sure, the bedroom is an important part of the house, but the bathroom can also be a breeding ground for allergens. So how do you keep it allergy-free? We will discuss various allergy-proofing techniques in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.