Dust and dusting

People with asthma and allergies often assume they are allergic to household dust.

However, it is not usually the dust itself that triggers common allergies, it is in fact all the other little particles that are found in amongst the dust. Commonly these include:

  • human skin cells
  • animal dander
  • insect waste, including from house dust mites
  • food particles
  • building products, such as brick dust in an old house
  • particles from cleaning products

And all the things that get in from outside – dirt, pollen, traffic pollution and smoke.

The make-up of your home’s dust will depend on many factors including where your house is, what it’s made from, how old it is, the number of residents (including pets) and your way of living.

Climate, temperature and humidity can also play a part. For example, a home in a cold environment could have dust with more fine particles from heating sources, such as open fires.

Sometimes the impact is immediate and obvious, such as uncontrollable sneezing when you fling open old, dusty curtains. The more difficult and concerning health impacts to identify are the longer term or subtle problems, such as flare-ups in asthma due to pet allergies.

Understanding your asthma and its triggers is important in working out whether your home could be affecting your health. If you don’t know what your triggers are, ask your doctor about being tested. You can then focus your efforts on what’s most important for your family.


Tips for managing dust around your home

  • Try to work out what’s causing the problem and deal with it at the source. For example, looking at how you can reduce the amount of pet allergens around your home.
  • Get rid of the old feather duster. They just stir up the dust, leaving it floating in the air to resettle again a few minutes later. A dry dusting cloth can have the same effect.
  • Use a damp or electrostatic cloth, as these trap the dust on the cloth.
  • For hard floors like timber or tiles, use a damp, electrostatic or steam mop.
  • Look for vacuum cleaners with a good filter, like a HEPA filter.

If you have asthma or allergies, ideally get someone else to do the cleaning for you as most cleaning will still stir up some dust and allergens. If you can, stay out of the room during cleaning and for at least 20 minutes afterwards.

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