Families of kids with allergies should use environmental control
measures that reduce exposure to the child's allergy triggers.
Some require few changes in the home, while others can be costly or
Talk with your doctor or health care provider 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 now, but with continued
uncontrolled exposure, could become one. The doctor may suggest
taking proactive steps now so your child doesn't develop new
The following are suggested environmental control measures for
different allergens and irritants:
Controlling dust mites
- Use only synthetic polyester-fill pillows and comforters
(never feather or down). Encase pillows, mattresses, and box
springs in zippered dust mite-proof covers (available at
allergy-supply stores and many department and discount stores).
Keep covers clean by vacuuming or wiping them down once a
- Wash sheets and blankets a child sleeps on once a week in
very hot water (130Âº Fahrenheit or higher) to kill dust mites.
Young children should
be left alone in a bathtub or near faucets when hot water heaters
are set to this degree since scalding can occur. When possible, a
safe alternative is to set water temperature lower at home and
wash the child's bedding at a laundromat where hot water is
set to 130Âº F.
- Avoid upholstered furniture, window mini-blinds, and
carpeting in a child's bedroom and playroom as much as
possible. They can collect dust and harbor dust mites (especially
- 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 cleaner
with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter to
collect and trap dust mites.
- Reduce the number of dust-collecting houseplants, books,
knickknacks, and non-washable stuffed animals in your home.
- Remove all stuffed animals from your child's bed. Only a
few washable stuffed animals should be allowed in your
child's room, and these should be washed weekly. (Let your
child pick which washable stuffed animals can stay.)
- Avoid humidifiers when possible because moist air promotes
dust mite infestation. Humidity in the air should stay below 50%.
The amount of humidity in a room can be easily checked with a
humidity gauge (hygrometer) that can be purchased in most
hardware and home improvement stores.
Controlling pollens and molds
- Avoid humidifiers, since humidity promotes mold growth. If
you must use a humidifier, change the water every day and clean
the inside 2-3 times a week to prevent mold growth.
- 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
- 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
- Avoid wallpaper and carpets in bathrooms, as mold can grow
- Use a weak bleach solution consisting of 1 cup of bleach per
gallon of water to kill mold in bathrooms and other areas.
- Keep windows and doors shut during pollen season.
Do not smoke
(or allow others to smoke) in the house - even when a child is
not present (the smoke gets trapped in the upholstery and
- 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.
- Some kids develop symptoms or have increased symptoms during
the Christmas holidays when exposed to live Christmas trees.
Controlling animal dander
- If a child is allergic to a pet, discuss with your doctor the
advisability of finding a new home for the animal, especially if
your child has symptoms not controlled by medication alone, needs
a combination of medications for symptoms, or has symptoms
even when receiving allergy injections.
- It may help (but not always) 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 and
keep the door closed at all times. Consider keeping the pet
- If your child has asthma and you don't own a pet,
don't acquire one. Even if not allergic to animals now, kids
with asthma can become allergic with continued
The use of air filters such as HEPA filters or electrostatic
filters alone have not been proven to reduce indoor allergens
although they might be helpful when used along with other
environmental control measures. If using such filters, the
appropriate size should be used to filter the entire room. Ozone
air purifiers or ionizers are not effective and inhaling the ozone
that they produce may be harmful.
- When mold or pollen counts are high, premedicate the child as
directed by your 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.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend
allergy shots (immunotherapy)
when control measures and medications are not effective. Speak with
your child's doctor about these options.
Kathleen Trzcinski, RN, MSN
Date reviewed: November 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.