February 2001
Ask the Nurse: Allergy Strategies

Darian Veerman My daughter has asthma. I’ve heard that asthma attacks can be brought on by things like animals and dust. What should I do to keep my house free of asthma triggers like these?

Darian Veerman, RN, The Pediatric Asthma Center at Bridgeport Hospital, responds:

Girl with Allergies It’s true that allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants (particles that irritate the airways) can trigger asthma attacks. Here are some hints to help you reduce the allergens in your home:

  • Pets can be a major cause of allergies. Many people are allergic to a protein found in the saliva and urine of mammals. Since most animals lick their fur to clean themselves, they are covered with this protein. If possible, choose reptiles or fish for pets instead of furry animals. If this is not possible, at least keep pets out of bedrooms and off the furniture, and bathe them frequently.
  • Vacuum regularly to control dust and dust mites (microscopic insects related to ticks). Consider getting a vacuum with a HEPA filter (High-Efficiency Air Particulate filter) to prevent fine dust from filtering through the vacuum cleaner bag. If possible, choose hardwood or tile floors rather than carpets, which harbor dust and mites.
  • Dust often with a damp cloth. Damp-mop floor after vacuuming.
  • Reduce dust collectors like stuffed animals, knick-knacks and dried flowers in your home.
  • Wash sheets and blankets in hot water every week. Use allergen-proof mattress, box spring, and pillow covers.
  • Control mold in your home. Ventilate the bath room after showers or baths; clean refrigerator drip pans and humidifiers. If you find mold disinfect with a solution of 1 1/2 cups of bleach per gallon of water. Make sure your dryer is vented to the outdoors. Do not over-water your house plants—this can lead to moldy conditions.
  • Try to keep humidity below 50% in your home and basement to control mold and mildew. Humidity can be measured with a gauge called a hygrometer. Use a dehumidifier to bring the humidity level down. Remember to empty the dehumidifier’s water container frequently and to clean it with a 1:1 mixture of bleach and water.
  • Do not smoke in your home or car, and do not allow others to do so.

For an appointment at Bridgeport Hospital’s Pediatric Asthma Center, call 203-384-3520.

If you have questions you’d like to have answered in this “Ask the Nurse” column, please let us know. Write to Judith Demarest, Bridgeport Hospital Planning & Marketing, 267 Grant St., Bridgeport CT 06610. Or email, kjdema@bpthosp.com.