What modifications can I make to my son's room to make it allergen-free?
August 10, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

My 10 year-old son suffers terribly from allergies (pollen, dander, etc., etc.). We really want to make his bedroom a sanctuary - a place he can go and feel good because it's allergen free (or as close as one can get to it).

So, my question is what modifications can we make to his bedroom - from floor to ceiling - to ensure an allergen-free environment? What are the best products for allergy sufferers, best flooring, best bedding, etc.? What really really works? How can we ensure a great air quality in there?
posted by Sassyfras to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you live in a humid area getting dust mite covers for the mattress and pillows can make a big difference.
posted by gillianr at 9:20 AM on August 10, 2013

I was an allergy girl!
Dust mite covers for the pillows and mattresses.
Hard floors that can easily be cleaned, if he does have carpet get a good allergan reducing vacuum, growing up i had that drew the aur through water so no dust was inadvertently puffed back into the air.
If he is still into stuffed animals, only get non plush ones and wash them (in pillowcases ) frequently.
Curtains should be minimal, if present, and washed frequently.
If you have pets, make sure they don't enter his room.
Keep his door closed and run a good air filter.
posted by stormygrey at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2013

Best flooring: hardwood, no rugs or carpet fragments. At all. This is the most important thing you can do. Curtains are also a dust magnet - dump 'em, get blinds that you can clean easily instead.

Allergen covers for pillows are key - if he's allergic to goose down (he probably is) then buy a good synthetic pillow, they are out there. We got ours (covers and pillows) at Bed Bath & Beyond - people's pillow preferences are pretty varied, so have him try out a whole bunch.

I know a lot of people who love air purifiers. They don't do much for me, but I am pretty sure I'm an anomaly.

Launder all bedding frequently. Ditto washable toys and any other textiles in the room.

What kind of heat do you have? When we had gas forced air, it was hell on my allergies. Radiator heat is the best for allergy sufferers, but that's probably not something you can change.

(And sign him up for allergy shots. I know I talk about this all the time, but I was about 10 when I started getting them, and my allergies went from "basically asleep all the time due to taking 5 Rx drugs + the max dose of Benadryl every four hours" to "totally manageable with two Rx drugs and Benadryl during spring." It's a huge huge difference - better than allergen management will pull off.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:33 AM on August 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

No curtains or bedskirts because those trap dust like crazy.

His mattress and pillows (if you don't want to get new ones) need to be encased in allergy casings. Good ones are available on Amazon and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I use the Claritin brand personally.

He would also probably benefit from an air filter that is cleaned every week.

This though is a question for his allergist. Mine set me up with a really good regime now that we know I am very allergic to dust mites. They know best about what really really works -- we can just recommend brands once we know what the allergist believes should be a staple in your son's life.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2013

I have an IQ Air air purifier and I do think it makes a difference. Eliminate any stuffed animals, upholstered chairs. Change the filters for your A/C frequently and use the highest filtration you can find. Clean often, swiffers are your friend!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:48 AM on August 10, 2013

I know someone who is a toxicologist turned health home renovation consultant. She swears by hardwood, engineered hardwood, laminate and marmoleum. Marmoleum is interesting for kids' rooms, inexpensive and easy to install. She recommends going with a zero VOC flooring cover that meets the California standards. (Shaw, Bruce and Trillium are good brands here in Canada and I think they are available in the US. Stress to any flooring store that you want zero VOC, because I find most of them have no clue what you are talking about. Greenguard Gold or Greenguard Gold for Schools is the best designation, but others are now offering zero VOC.) She also recommends zero VOC paint, blinds or no window coverings. Remove anything else that might be offgassing too - he may be chemically sensitive, given other allergy issues. Vacuum regularly with a hepa filter and use a hepa air purifier sometimes. (I also personally recommend a robotic vacuum that cleans up before you get home, so no dust is kicked up around your kidlet.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:07 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Launder all bedding frequently. Ditto washable toys and any other textiles in the room.

posted by shivohum at 10:24 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was your kid's age, I had similar allergies. The thing that would have helped me the most was being on medication/treatment to keep the allergies under control, followed by showering before bed so I wouldn't be sleeping in whatever pollen or dust had gotten in my hair during the day.

After that, I'd reduce or elimiate fabrics and surfaces that can concentrate/collect and release pollen and mold, like carpet and drapes.

But all that would have been secondary to getting on the right meds/treatment for my symptoms.
posted by zippy at 11:59 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is all in addition to being under the care of an allergist and finding the best medication/treatment for him (currently on sub-lingual drops as well as Benedryl).
posted by Sassyfras at 12:12 PM on August 10, 2013

Have him change his clothes as soon as he gets home so the pollen and dust from outside is not around him all the time and does not get on his bed.
I also had a nebulizer machine as a kid, had to use prescribed meds but remember that inhaling the mist of pure water even did bring relief. Not sure if those machines are still common or not but maybe worth asking his allergist.

The others are spot on about floors that can be mopped, basically no fabrics in the room (no heavy bed covers/quilts, curtains, throw pillows etc.) and anti-allergy pillow and mattress covers. If he loves stuffed animals I'd let him keep one/his favorite and put it in the freezer regularly to kill off the mites.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:10 PM on August 10, 2013

Over the years, some things I have tried and found helpful:

Buckwheat pillows.
Minimize bedding, upholstered furniture, curtains, etc. Consider an organic cotton futon in place of a mattress.
Clean frequently with non-toxic cleaners.
Paper is evil. This includes dead-tree books. Get them out of the bedroom if you must have them.
Get fanatical about reading labels. When I was real sick, I had big problems with polyesther and strongly favored 100% cotton (I tolerate polyesther better these days). I have also found that both white and patterned items can be problematic. White is probably due to bleach. Patterns is probably due to additional dyes. So I favor solid colors as less chemically offensive.
A lot of furniture, including dressers, shelves, etc, is particle board. I have big problems with particle board. It is very chemical. I favor glass and metal and small amounts of real wood.
Leave all shoes at the front door.
Yes, have kid change clothes when he gets home and shower before getting into bed so pollen..etc..isn't getting in the bedding.

(I am mostly trying to say "new" stuff here. A lot of other good suggestions have already been covered.)
posted by Michele in California at 2:10 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I second the IQ Air, I saved up to put in a whole house air filter. It is spendy but WORKS. This is the same system being put into schools in high pollution zones near the ports in Long Beach. The local air district tested a slew of competitors and this one came out on top. You will notice the difference in the amount of dust you clean in the room.

Make sure to use non-toxic, low fragrance everything--laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning products, personal care products. My favorite laundry detergent is BioKleen and I use unscented dryer sheets. I use an unscented body lotion from Alba.

Get a good vacuum with a HEPA filter. As a long time allergy suffer, I like the bagged not bagless systems. I use a Miele canister vacuum. I got a previous year's model for cheaper on Amazon.

Seconding shoes off at front door and allergy covers for all pillows and mattress. I bought my covers from Target, Amazon and BB&B. I have heard of asthmatics getting prescriptions for these items from their doctors but you have to see if your insurance will cover it. Regularly wash blankets and stuffed animals. I switched to a natural latex bed and I love it.

CHECK outside for plants he is allergic to. Make sure the windows aren't letting air in from the outside where those plants might be.

I got a Sprite shower filter that filters out the chlorine in the tap water. I noticed that my skin instantly felt less itchy.

Good luck and take heart--my allergies were the worst when I was a child and it has gotten a lot better as I grew up. I think part of that is learning to manage my surroundings better and part of it is my body changing.
posted by dottiechang at 2:28 PM on August 10, 2013

Cleanable surfaces. So the floor is hardwood, and emptied of clutter so someone without allergies can mop or swiff at least once a week, probably more often. Don't sweep with a broom, you want something that absorbs the dust and doesn't kick much of it back up. I personally use a swiffer-esque thingy with cleanable microfiber pads, but there are probably many options.

You'll want to dust all tops of dressers, desks, doors, windowsills, any items on display too. Also with something that adsorbs and doesn't push the dust into the air.

When I was a kid my household cleaning job was dusting. That was really not such a great idea, given the allergies; if you want the kid to learn some how to manage his own allergies for the future, picking up clutter so someone else can clean is probably a better idea. Oh, another thing about cleaning: might be best to do it when he won't be in the room again for a while, so if you do kick up stuff (despite using a hepa vacuum or whatnot) it can settle.
posted by nat at 6:46 PM on August 10, 2013

Switch to all natural soaps and laundry detergents, no dyes and NO PERFUME. Turns out for years I was having reactions to the perfumes in the laundry that clung to my bedding. Do not use scents or febreeze products in the house. Have an absolute minimal amount of clutter in the room, and try to store what you can in sealable boxes so that dust is easily wiped up.
posted by Dynex at 11:52 AM on August 11, 2013

I love my HEPA filter! Life saver.
posted by Neekee at 1:23 PM on August 11, 2013

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