Keeping a clean home for an asthmatic child

As parents, we want to keep our home as clean as possible for our kids, as well as for ourselves. When babies enter the picture, many moms and dads clean more than before in order to give their babies the healthiest environment possible. When you have children who have allergies or suffer from asthma, your cleaning load increases exponentially.

Every single day brings more dust and a new opportunity for an allergic reaction. Some parents go overboard and spend more time than necessary attempting to keep allergens at bay. This not only leaves already overscheduled, busy parents with a much longer to-do list, but it also brings about more daily anxiety by trying to adhere to maniacal standards.

Mary Stockton of Brooklyn Heights can relate.

“After I had my son a year ago, I became obsessive about making sure every particle of dust was immediately removed. I vacuumed daily, even my curtains, and I drove myself crazy.”

Already exhausted from late night feedings, Stockton explains that when her son was diagnosed with asthma at 8 months of age, she went into overdrive and saw every speck of dust as a deathtrap.

“My husband saw me in the throws of frantic cleaning and pointed out that I couldn’t live like this. I was spending all my time dusting and wiping down furniture rather than enjoying my baby. That’s when I stopped being so preoccupied with dirt and dust.”

So what is absolutely necessary when it comes to cleaning routines when you have an allergic or asthmatic child? We asked Dr. Paul M. Ehrlich, a partner at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill, and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. Ehrlich, also the co-author of “Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent’s Guide” and co-founder and blogger at, explains that with a little prevention, a parent can certainly protect her child without driving herself insane in the process.

What are the basics when it comes to cleaning your home with an asthmatic or allergic child? What absolutely needs to be done in terms of cleaning daily and weekly?

The most important thing is to know what your child’s allergies are. For example, we all know that getting rid of visible dust is a matter of good housekeeping, but if your child is allergic to dust mites, you should use special dust mite-resistant mattress covers and bedding.

Also, avoid cleaning supplies that have added scents. “Lemon fresh” may sound attractive, but as far as your child’s allergies are concerned, it can irritate the sinuses and the skin when used in detergent.

What is not necessary? What are some of the extremes that parents go to that they don’t need to do?

The emphasis on antibacterial cleaning supplies is oversold. Soap and water remove both allergens and bacteria from hands, dishes, bathrooms, and kitchens very effectively. Antibacterial agents do not neutralize allergens.

What other precautions need to be taken when you have pets?

This is a huge dilemma. There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat. There’s an urban myth that “hypoallergenic animals” have hair, not fur. This ignores the fact that the allergenic proteins in and on these animals emanate from other tissue besides hair or fur, particularly skin and in saliva.

If regular bathing is possible — very hard, particularly with cats — do it, and brush shedding dogs regularly to keep shedding to a minimum. There are also preparations marketed under the Allerpet name that can reduce dander.

Above all, keep the pet out of the patient’s room to keep allergen bombardment to a minimum during a healthy eight or nine hours of sleep. Beware, however, that cat dander is particularly sticky and travels from room to room on clothing. Better for your child to change out of day-time clothing into fresh PJs outside the bedroom.

If you have any doubts whether your child might be allergic, do not get a dog or cat. It is in no one’s interest (especially the poor pooch or kitty) to have to give up a pet.

Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.