Feb. 8, 2000 Q: I’m preparing for spring cleaning, but I’m worried about my vacuum stirring up a lot of dust. Is there anything I can do to keep dust out of the air?
A: A vacuum cleaner equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can be effective for people who have problems with airborne allergens and irritants such as animal dander, pollen and dust. People using HEPA filters say they feel better and have reduced symptoms. And studies do show some reduction in the amount of cat and dog allergens with the use of the filters. However, to date, the majority of clinical studies do not prove conclusively that HEPA filters result in reduced medication use.
HEPA filters attached to vacuum cleaners reduce dust by trapping small particles, comprised largely of dust mites, and not re-releasing “dirty” air. Effective HEPA filter-equipped vacuums require enough power to draw up all dirt and allergens, and need to be airtight to ensure that the smallest particles don’t escape.
Regular vacuums redistribute the same dust, dirt and allergens sucked from carpets back into the air.
HEPA filters also are designed as freestanding units that trap airborne allergens, such as pollen and animal dander. Many people with allergies have a freestanding HEPA filter in the bedroom, a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum or both. Filters need to be changed regularly on freestanding units and vacuums.
Neither filtering device, however, is a substitute for standard medical treatment. For pet allergies, the best defense is still reducing exposure to pets, keeping the dog or cat out of specific rooms and bathing the animal frequently. For non-airborne allergens, such as dust mites, encase pillows and mattresses.
A major airline is now experimenting with HEPA filters on flights to protect passengers against airborne germs, bacteria and viruses that might otherwise be recirculated. They say HEPA filters produce 99.97 percent pure air and create a healthier travel environment.
For more information, call LUNG LINE, (800) 222-LUNG, e-mail, email@example.com or visit our Web site, http://www.nationaljewish.org/pa.
Maria Gutierrez, M.D., treats adults with asthma and other respiratory diseases at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver
EDITOR’S NOTE: A patient should consult his or her personal physician before changing or considering any medical treatments.
The Number 1 Respiratory Hospital in the U.S. for Two Consecutive Years, U.S. News & World Report, 1998-2000.
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