Asthma Facts

Towards the Low Allergen Home

Low Allergen Home (PDF)

The Low Allergen Home Concept
The design of the low allergen home addresses potential trigger factors and incorporates features which will reduce those triggers that may cause asthma. This living environment will help reduce dust mites and the incidence of other allergens in the home.  It can provide an environment which has a uniform temperature with little build up or disturbance of dust, and low humidity to help reduce the growth of dust mites and mould.  Most features can be incorporated into your new home or adapted in your existing home at little additional cost.

Does the design of the house affect asthma?
People with asthma have trigger factors. As part of a person’s asthma management, it is important to identify and avoid contact with known trigger factors. Within the home and environment, potential trigger factors that have been identified are:

·      Dust mites

·      Humidity

·      Airborne particles

·      Temperature Changes

·      Fumes/gases

·      Inhaled Irritants

·      Mould

 

Important Issues

Ventilation: It is important to ensure adequate ventilation in the home. Unless windows have been completely sealed most homes provide this adequately.

Windows and Doors: Large windows and doors which are positioned to allow good ventilation are preferred.  Direct sunlight will reduce humidity and reduce the number of any dust mites.

Flooring: Removal of carpets in favour of hard floors is sometimes recommended but this has not been shown to reduce asthma symptoms.

Heating: Electric radiant heating products heat evenly with no concentrated hot or cold spots in the room. A static heating system does not disturb dust particles and other airborne allergies.

Air Conditioning: Air conditioning helps to provide a more comfortable temperature. Points to consider include circulation of fresh filtered air rather than re-circulated and the removal of dust, pollen and other foreign matters through effective filters.  All systems should be serviced regularly to maintain efficiency. 

Extractor Fans: Effective removal of moisture and fumes from wet and cooking areas are essential.

Horizontal Surfaces: (e.g. ledges, exposed tops of cupboards) Keep these to a minimum to reduce dust. Choose closed cupboards rather than open shelves.  Floor to ceiling built in cupboards, wardrobes, etc are better than free standing ones.

Insulation: Insulated areas should be completely sealed to make sure that no airborne particles can be released from the insulation material. These particles can cause irritation to people with asthma. Where insulation areas are not sealed, foil or polyester batts should be considered.

Cooking Appliances: The use of an electric oven, hot plates and appliances overcome any problems associated with gas emissions.  Extractor fans in the cooking area are essential.

Vacuum Cleaners: A ducted central vacuum with external dust collection points is ideal as it does not release the dust into the home.

Pollution: Fumes from a variety of sources such as paints, varnishes, adhesives and burning gases can be potent triggers in some individuals, and exposure to these should be minimised wherever possible.  Consult stockists for low allergen alternatives.

Furnishings: Furnishings should be selected with the intention of reducing dust and dust mites.

Floor Coverings: Scatter rugs which can be hung out and beaten to remove allergens are ideal.  If carpet is layed it is preferable to use short pile carpets as they are easier to clean than the twist or loop pile.  Synthetics have lower moisture content than wool making them less conducive to dust mite growth.  Steam cleaning is a preferred cleaning method as the temperature of the steam will help reduce the dust mites.  Rapid drying is vital to minimise any mould growth.

Furniture: Leather and vinyl coverings are easier to clean and impervious to dust mites as opposed to fabric upholstery.  Cane and rattan seats do not provide an environment conducive to mite growth.  Removable cushions may be added as they are easy to clean.

Window Coverings: External blinds and shutters are preferred to drapes.  Vertical and rollers blinds are also suitable.  If recessed into the window the use of a pelmet is avoided, otherwise build pelmets to the ceiling to reduce dust collection surface.

Bedding: Warmth and moisture provide ideal conditions for the dust mite.  The nutrients in skin flakes and proteins such as feathers and wool pillows, doonas and blankets also provide ideal conditions for them to thrive.  Products made from feathers and wools are therefore not recommended.   Encasing the mattress and pillows in protectors will stop the transfer of dust mites. 

Removing dust mites from bedding: Hot wash (greater than 55C) bedding e.g. sheets, pillow cases and quilts, in soapy water at least once every two weeks.  Cold water does not kill dust mite.  Eucalyptus oil added to the wash is also beneficial.

External Environment: See our low allergen garden Fact Sheet for more details.