Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mmm, Dust Mites

I finally went to an allergist to find out why I've had a runny nose pretty much 24/7 all my adult life. Yep, I'm like a granny, constantly with a folded Kleenex in the pocket of my cardigan. It's very sexy.

They stuck me with a million needles and here is the report of what I'm allergic to, from most to least:

1) Grass pollen ("the worst reaction I've ever seen!" said the needle-sticker excitedly)
2) Ragweed pollen
3) Dust mites
4) Cats

There's not much I can do about 1) and 2), besides staying inside during the summer and taking drugs. I was offered allergy shots, but I'll have to think about that. And there's not much I can do about 4) that won't involve offending the cats. If I ban them from the bedroom, which is what you are supposed to do, I imagine them scratching down the door. "Wash your cat weekly," another suggestion, also puts horrid images in my head.

Dust mites, however...I could start there. Dust mites, as the doctor's informational brochure will tell you, are microscopic organisms that feed on human skin cells. They reside in bed linens, mattresses, carpets, and upholstered furniture. Since you spend a lot of time in bed, the bed is a good place to start. So here is the action plan:
  • Encase mattress, box springs, and pillows in dust mite covers. I'm looking for these online. Damn, they are expensive.
  • Wash bed linens every 7 days in hot water, including mattress pads, sheets, blankets, and bedspreads. The down comforter can't be washed—I guess it will need a cover too.
  • Remove carpets from the bedroom. Check—I'm glad we have wood floors. I also de-cluttered around the bed to get rid of dust-collecting areas, moving a bookcase to my office, etc. I no longer store anything under the bed.
  • Keep the humidity at less than 50%. We used to have a humidifier in the bedroom in winter, but it's been banished.
  • Vacuum weekly, avoiding the area for 30 minutes afterward. Dust mites remain suspended in the air after being disturbed.
I will report on how this goes. Not having to get allergy shots would be great.

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