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Why your bedroom is a 'hotbed of allergies'

Experts offer advice to cope with house dust mites, pets and mould at the start of Indoor Allergy Week
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
sleep apnoea

12th November 2012 - The bedroom is the most allergic room in the house, with house dust mites responsible for most of the problem.

National charity Allergy UK says among those with an indoor allergy, 77% experience symptoms in the bedroom, while 41% report that their symptoms are actually made worse by that room.

As Indoor Allergy Week gets underway, it says it wants to help people better manage the triggers associated with the main culprits for allergens: house dust mites, mould and pets.

Experts say that the house dust mite causes most of the problems, with 92% of people reacting to them. Allergy UK says this comes as no surprise as the average person shares a bed with over two million house dust mites. When you consider that the average person spends 52 and a half hours each week in the bedroom, the nation is literally sleeping with the enemy.

Feeding on dead skin

The house dust mite is a creature of the genus Dermatophagoides. It feeds on human skin scales and requires both warmth and humidity. Mattresses and pillows provide an ideal habitat.

Lindsey McManus, deputy chief executive officer of Allergy UK says in a statement: "House dust mites, like us, need food, water and warmth. While we sleep, these microscopic creatures absorb moisture from our breath and sweat, feed on our dead skin and thrive in our warm beds."

After the house dust mite, the principle culprits are pet dander and mould. Earlier this month the feline welfare charity, Cats Protection, issued advice to cat owners who find they are allergic to their pet.

As cats and other household animals groom themselves, allergens coat the hair and skin cells (dander), which, when shed, spread throughout the home or other buildings. Once the saliva dries, it becomes airborne very easily.

Protection in the home

When it comes to pets, Allergy UK found that 71% of cat owners and 47% of dog owners allow their pets to go anywhere in the home, meaning allergens are everywhere. Experts say it is important to restrict where pets are allowed to roam and ensure that there are some living areas that are animal free.

Allergy UK has a series of tips to help people make their bedrooms a less allergic place to be. These are:

  • As house dust mites can’t stand light, throw your covers and duvets back every morning
  • Keep the room well ventilated and have the window slightly open, ensure window frames are free from mould
  • Choose an anti-allergy mattress and bedding or enclose the mattress, duvet and pillows with allergy barrier covers which prevent the escape of the house dust mite allergen
  • Replace curtains with roller blinds, or wash curtains each month at temperature of 60 degrees or above, as 83% of indoor allergy sufferers have curtains in their bedroom, which house dust mites love
  • Because carpets harbour house dust mites, which 73% of indoor allergy sufferers have in their bedroom, consider Allergy UK approved flooring. If you need to keep your carpet, try a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter and vacuum daily
  • Making sure that all children’s toys are kept in a toy chest or cupboard and soft toys are washed at 60 degrees, or put in the freezer overnight to destroy the allergen and then washed at the recommended temperature
  • Using an air purifier in the bedroom in order to help trap allergens
Reviewed on November 12, 2012

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