Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Household Dust and Allergy Protections

Household Dust and Allergy Protections

Want Healthier Kids? Let Them Get Dirty! Harvard Doctor Says a Little Household Dust May Offer Allergy Protection

An article titled "A little household dust may offer allergy protection"  by Harvard University Medical Professor Dr. Anthony Komaroff  points out that, while it’s best to keep household dust under control, exposing newborns and infants to low levels of dust and dirt during their early lives may provide the immunological challenge that will make them healthier later in life. His comments are based on research from Germany  that shows that farm kids grow up with less asthma and allergies than kids raised in cities.

  “What is dust? It's a little like sausage: You don't want to know what's in it. But I'll tell you anyway.

 More than half of household dust comes from soil either tracked into the home or wafting in as airborne particles through doors and windows.

 The most vulnerable family members are the youngest: Infants are up to 100 times more susceptible to the health hazards of dust-borne pollutants than adults.”

 To keep dust down indoors, Dr. K recommends:

• Regular housekeeping.

• Frequent vacuuming; up to several times per week with a high-efficiency vacuum like the ones listed in the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval testing and certification program for vacuums.  

• Wear a mask when cleaning house

• Use door mats, or better yet, remove your shoes before you come indoors.  

• Install weatherproofing around doors and windows

• Change furnace and air conditioner filters regularly

• Consider using a portable HEPA air cleaner unit.
But is household dust always bad? Maybe not, says Dr. K.

“New research indicates that newborns and very young children who grow up in relatively "dirty" surroundings, such as farms, may actually be protected against developing allergies and allergic diseases (such as asthma) later in life. I'm not urging you to keep a dusty home for the first few years of a child's life, but someday you may hear that advice!”

~ Bethany


Allen Levy said...

Hi Bethany! This makes total sense and it is also very intuitive. My parents tried to balance my life pretty well. I'm a bit of a book-worm, but I was also active in sports. I don't have allergies. But I had several friends that tended to do more inside activities than outside. It seems to me that the friends who stayed inside more at young ages developed more allergies. It makes a lot of sense if you consider that the kids outside playing sports were exposed to more dust. They developed a sort of immunity. It sounds like there's still a lot of research to be done on the subject so I doubt it's exactly that simply, but it makes sense to me!

Bethany Richmond said...

Hi Allen, It makes sense to me, too! Babies need that "immunological challenge" - so pick that pacifier up off the kitchen floor, give it a quick rinse under the faucet, and pop it right back in that little mouth!!! (or something like that).

New Orleans Carpet Store said...

Very interesting article, Bethany. I think parents sometimes try to shield their children from every sort of microorganism and in the end, it makes their immune system weaker than it should be. The lesson is to be balanced and no go overboard one way or the other. Great info.

Allen Levy said...

@ Bethany, Now that you mentioned about the pacifier it reminds me of a story that a Doctor friend of the family told me. When his kids were toddlers, he used to let them crawl around on the floor of his examining rooms so as to expose them to all kinds of germs. Might be a tad extreme but who knows it may just work!

bethany Richmond said...

As with most things, Allen, I guess the real challenge is knowing how much is enough and how much is too much. :) There are lots of nasty bugs out there that weren't prevalent twenty years or so ago. But this is an important point, I think - that people were actually stronger when our bodies were challenged by more germs on a regular basis. Sounds like our indoor lives have turned us into "hothouse flowers".

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