A family needs to take the environmental control measures that reduce exposure to a child's allergy triggers. Some require little changes in the home, while others can be costly or fairly time-consuming. Talk with the doctor about starting with environmental control measures that will limit those allergens and irritants causing immediate problems for a child. But know that allergies develop over time with continued exposure to allergens - dust mites may not be a trigger for a child now, but with continued uncontrolled exposure, they can become one. The doctor may suggest taking proactive steps now so your child doesn't develop new allergies.

The following are suggested environmental control measures for different allergens and irritants:

Indoor Controls

To control dust mites:

  • Use only polyester-fill pillows and comforters (never feather or down). Encase pillows and mattresses in mite-proof covers (available at allergy-supply stores). Keep covers clean by vacuuming or wiping them down once a week.
  • Wash sheets and blankets a child sleeps on once a week in very hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) to kill dust mites.
  • Avoid upholstered furniture, window mini-blinds, and carpeting in a child's bedroom and playroom. They can collect dust and harbor dust mites (especially carpets). Use washable throw rugs on vinyl or hardwood floors, and wash rugs in hot water weekly.
  • Use washable curtains and vinyl window shades that can be wiped down. Wash curtains in hot water weekly.
  • Dust and vacuum weekly. If possible, use a vacuum specially designed to collect and trap dust mites.
  • Reduce the number of dust-collecting houseplants, books, knickknacks, and non-washable stuffed animals in your home.
  • Avoid humidifiers when possible because moist air promotes dust mite infestation.

To control pollens and molds:

  • Avoid humidifiers, because humidity promotes mold growth. If you must use a humidifier, keep it very clean to prevent mold from growing in the machine.
  • Ventilate bathrooms, basements, and other dark, moist places that commonly grow mold. Consider keeping a light on in closets and using a dehumidifier in basements to remove air moisture.
  • Use air conditioning: it removes excess air moisture, filters out pollens from the outside, and provides air circulation throughout your home. Filters should be changed once a month.
  • Avoid wallpaper and carpets in bathrooms, as mold can grow under them.
  • Use bleach to kill mold in bathrooms.
  • Keep windows and doors shut during pollen season.

To control irritants:

  • Do not smoke (or allow others to smoke) at home - even when a child is not present.
  • Do not burn wood fires in fireplaces or wood stoves.
  • Avoid strong odors from paint, perfume, hair spray, disinfectants, chemical cleaners, air fresheners, and glues.

To control animal dander:

  • If a child is allergic to a pet, talk seriously with the doctor about the need to find a new home for the animal.
  • It may (but not always) help to wash the animal at least once a week to remove excess dander and collected pollens.
  • Never allow the pet into the allergic child's bedroom. Consider keeping the pet outside at all times.
  • If you don't already own a pet and a child has asthma, don't acquire one. Even if a child isn't allergic to the animal now, he can become allergic with continued exposure.

Outdoor Controls

  • When mold or pollen counts are high, premedicate the child as directed by his doctor. After playing outdoors, the child should bathe and change clothes.
  • Drive with the car windows shut and air conditioning on during mold and pollen seasons.
  • Don't let a child mow the grass or rake leaves.

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