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Home may be the ultimate Comfort zone for many of us. But for the millions of Americans with allergies, home is where the sneezing, wheezing and coughing begin. That’s because houses and apartments are the favorite resting places for house dust, molds and other allergens.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the organization of physicians with advanced training in diagnosing and treating allergies, urges allergy sufferers to create an allergy-free environment-and to keep that a top priority. It is far easier, of course, to eliminate offending substances at home rather than in the workplace where we generally have less control.

Time to clean house
First and foremost, eliminate dust. Research has shown that people are allergic to mites which dwell in dust. Although these microscopic insects are found throughout the house, they thrive in worm, humid areas; therefore, keeping humidity below 50 percent (try an air conditioner or dehumidifier) helps control mites. Mites love to hide in upholstered furniture, heavy drapes, carpeting and on knick- knacks. Therefore, keep in mind that hardwood, tile and linoleum collect less dust than carpet.

Although weekly vacuuming helps, it can- not banish all mites. In fact, people who are allergic to dust mites often find their symptoms worsen one to two hours after carpets are vacuumed because most standard or water- filtered vacuums blow dust particles into the air. That’s why it helps to use a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter (high efficiency particulate air) that traps particles before they are blown back into the air. Double bagging also helps.

Helpful hints
Dust mites hide in bedding as well. Mattresses, box springs and pillows should be encased in airtight, zippered plastic or special allergen- proof fabric covers. Bedding should be washed weekly in hot water (I 30 degrees F) and dried in a hot drier. Comforters and pillows in natural materials such as down or cotton, a favorite with dust mites, should be replaced with those made from synthetic fibers or covered with allergy-proof encasings.

In densely populated urban neighborhoods, allergies are often triggered by cockroaches. If you must battle roaches, try roach traps. Boric acid placed under cabinets, stoves and other hiding places helps, too-or you may opt for the services of a professional exterminator.

After the roaches are gone, don’t forget to thoroughly clean the house and fix leaky faucets where they hide.

Sealing your pipes will help eliminate indoor molds and mildew, another trigger for allergies. Basement walls and floors, shower curtains, bathroom walls and fixtures attract molds, which are usually easy to locate as they look like reddish, black or brown substances. Use a cleaning solution containing five percent bleach and a small amount of detergent.

Dehumidifiers usually can’t control humidity throughout the house.–but when used in damp basements, they help prevent molds there. Don’t forget to clean units regularly as they can become contaminated with mold.

Although you may be tempted to “air out” indoor allergens, opening windows can actual-ly bring outdoor allergens, such as pollen and mold spores, into your house. Instead, the AAAAI recommends using air conditioning to clean, recirculate and dehumidify air. You also may consider in-home air filters that can be used with existing forced air cooling and heating systems.

The Academy says that filters’ plates should be cleaned frequently. Otherwise, they may produce irritating ozone. The academy also says that having air ducts cleaned-on expensive procedure-has not been scientifically shown to be effective in reducing respiratory symptoms.

Eliminate secret hiding places of molds, Windows sills, water-damaged wallpaper, garbage containers, plants, and damaged floating can hide and send out small mold spores that trigger symptoms. Never put carpeting on concrete or damp basement floors. Avoid storing clothes, paper, or other items in damp areas because this can stimulate mold growth.