Are You Allergic to Your Laundry?
A three-year laundry study conducted by scientists from the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit in Scotland revealed that people who hung up damp clothes to dry inside their homes were releasing excess moisture into the air. In damper and more humid climates, this can encourage mold growth and dust mites.
Common laundry allergy symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat and eyes, and wheezing. Also, using scented detergents and drier sheets can trigger laundry allergies leading to nasal symptoms, rashes, hives, and itchiness.
Tips to Prevent Laundry Allergies
To help you navigate the array of laundry allergy dangers, Allergist Kevin McGrath, MD, Fellow and Spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), provides the following safe laundry tips:
- Set your washing machine water temperature to 130 degrees or higher. This is especially important for bedding, since the high heat will kill dust mites and other allergens caught in the fabric's weave.
- Wash sheets at least once a week and blankets and quilts every two to four weeks.
- All of these items should be left in the drier in a few minutes longer than needed to remove any moisture and laundry allergy triggers.
- Avoid scented drier sheets. They can cause hives and rashes in many allergy sufferers. Opt for dye- and scent-free detergents and fabric softeners.
- If you must hang dry delicate items, run them in your clothing dryer until they are damp, and then hang them inside in a location that has little moisture. Basements and bathrooms are the most humid and moldiest rooms in the house so avoid these troublesome areas.
- Monitor your home's overall humidity level with a hygrometer. It's an easy-to-use tool you can buy at most hardware stores and garden shops for $20 to $30.
- Keep in mind that 35 and 45 percent humidity is optimal, while with levels above 55 percent mold and dust mites can most likely appear.
- Avoid the temptation to dry clothing outside, since these items can trap outdoor allergens such as mold and pollen inside the clothes.
- If you notice any damp areas in your home, be sure to promptly fix leaks and thoroughly clean the area to remove any mold, mildew, or dust mites that may grow there.
For more information about preventing and treating mold and other indoor allergies, visit the website of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
ACAAI.org. Mold Allergy." American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. N.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.
ACAAI.org. "The Allergen Overview: Mold Spores." American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. N.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.
Kevin McGrath, MD, Fellow and Spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). Email interview. 18 Nov. 2012.
Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit. (MEARU). "Environmental Assessment of Domestic Laundry." N.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.
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