Reducing allergens & toxins in your bedroom
When we realised that detergents and chemicals were a major trigger in our sons eczema he was still sleeping in our bedroom but for his second birthday we wanted to unveil his own new bedroom and he loved it! Big boys have their own rooms!
Being conscious of the fact he has several environmental allergies such as dust mite and pollen and is very sensitive to chemicals we wanted to make his bedroom as safe as possible for him as he would be sleeping there up to 12 hours a day, so this had to be his ultimate 'safe' zone. Here's what we did to reduce toxins and allergen triggers from his space:
Carpets and rugs are a prime habitat for dust mites, so these weren't considered as flooring. Instead we researched other materials. We realised that all flooring gases off chemicals especially with underfloor heating which we have. Even tiles. We eventually went with low VOC laminate flooring. VOC's are 'volatile organic compounds' that can be harmful to breath in if you have respiratory problems such as asthma or suffer from airborne allergens. They evaporate at room temperature due to having a low boiling point, and having underfloor heating makes that even more relevant. When buying flooring in Europe check the EU cert rating to make sure it is low to no VOC, and in the US I believe you can check the Greenguard certification system.
Paint also contains VOCs, as do varnishes so we chose paints with a low VOC rating and kept the door to the rest of the house closed while painting and for a few days after but kept the window open as much as possible. As you wait for the paint to dry use this opportunity to 'burp' the room to help volatile gases gas off and escape. Turn the heating up with all windows and door closed until room reaches a nice warm temperature and then open all windows, leaving door closed. Repeat once the room feels airy again and keep doing so for a week or so.
If you have a dust mite allergy then soft furnishings are not your friend. Couches, cushions or futon beds would not be good idea so we decided to get a blow up couch-chair for our sons bedroom for him to chill out on and didn't put any cushions on it. He does have a throw but this is washed at over 60 degrees Celcius and dried in the tumble dryer once a week along with the rest of his sheets.
Our son had a habit of moving upwards in his bed at night and hitting his head off the headboard so we needed a padded headboard but I didn't want it to be a surface dust mites could inhabit so I found a padded faux leather headboard which had an element of softness to it that was easily wiped clean and wasn't permeable for little critters.
We also had a look at more natural mattress options. Memory Foam, formaldehyde and fire retardants all gas off so we had a look at healthier options and found this mattress from The Little Green Sheep which contains cotton, coconut and wool. Wool is a natural dust mite deterrent and also fire resistant which means these mattresses still pass the European Fire Regulation tests.
On his mattress he then has an allergen friendly waterproof mattress protector which not only protects the mattress from accidents but also acts as a barrier for dust mites.
Curtains are obviously fabric ie. attractive to dust mites so we decided to go with a roll up blind that can easily be wiped clean and if fitted properly with child safety latches can be opened and closed by kids too with no worry about their safety.
There is quiet the debate as to whether feather/down duvets and pillows accumulate dust mite allergen more than synthetic bedding or not but we decided to go for synthetic allergen friendly bedding with cotton sheets. Initially when our son was a baby he only had organic cotton sheets, but now he uses synthetic allergen friendly bedding with cotton sheets and covers. I wash his sheets at 60 degrees on a weekly basis, and also tumble dry them as this is more likely to get rid of allergens. On sunny days I hang his uncovered duvet and pillows out into the sun after shaking them to air them out and give sunlight a chance to kill the dust mites. This may be an old wives tale, but either way, after hanging in the sun for a few hours and then being shook hard his bedding is definitely lovely and fresh. Just catch it and bring it in before the chill sets in in the evening so you don't have mould issues in the future or provide the lovely humid damp environment that dust mites actually love. Also, take note of pollen count the day you hang bedding outside so you don't accidentally drag a duvet back into the house that will irritate you.
Additional points on asthma
A few extra pointers to note when considering revamping a room for someone that suffers from asthma are these;
- When cleaning the new room, don't use detergents, use natural cleaners containing castille soap or simply use clear vinegar diluted with some water and essential oils. Also, check that the hoover you are using has a HEPA filter to stop dust from being circulated back into the room when hoovering and clean and dry the filter every two weeks. Keep the room dusted and hoovered as best you can.
- Also, consider moveable furniture as opposed to fixed furniture so you can move it and clean under and behind it easily to avoid build up of dust and allergens.
- Spring and Autumn seem to be triggers for sensitive people with respiratory problems due to pollen and fruiting of trees and I find this is strongest at sunrise and sunset. Try keep your windows closed at these times, but open the rest of the day to circulate air and keep the room fresh.
- Location may also make a difference. When our son was in our room, which is very close to the shower, his respiratory problems were a lot more noticeable. Once he was in his own room which is probably the furthest away from a shower we saw his issues become a lot less frequent.
- The fact that cushions should be avoided in a low allergen bedroom goes without saying but sometimes stuffed toys just have to get a look in in a kids bedroom because kids are kids and they love them. We do have a limited amount in our sons bedroom but I regularly put these in the freezer for 24 hours, then wash at 60 degrees and tumble dry to reduce dust mites and it seems to work.
I hope these tips are useful. If you'd like me to expand on any or have any questions or suggestions feel free to comment or get in touch via facebook, instagram or the comment section below. Thank you!