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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Newsroom > What's New

America's Real Estate Slump May Affect Your Health
Study finds home renters are unlikely to make environmental health changes

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (August 3, 2012) — When America’s housing bubble deflated, your health might have too. According to a new study, Americans who suffer from common household allergens are significantly less likely to make indoor environmental changes to improve symptoms if they rent, rather than own, their home.

The study, published in the August issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), found that 91 percent of surveyed patients who own their home make recommended changes. These changes include wearing a mask while vacuuming, adjusting home humidity and keeping pets out of the bedroom to eliminate dust mites, mold and pet dander.

Yet only 63 percent of renters make household modifications to reduce their allergy symptoms and suffering.

"By making recommended environmental changes around the home, people with allergies can substantially reduce their symptoms," said allergist Michael Schatz, MD, lead study author and fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. "While some changes are related to owning a home other changes, such as encasing your mattress with a dust-proof cover, can and should be done no matter your real estate status."

According to the study, most homeowners and renters are willing to wash bedclothes in hot water to reduce dust mites, clean visible mold and reduce home humidity below 60 percent to prevent mold. But a very low number will eliminate carpeting, cover upholstered furniture or obtain a room air purifier.

"Allergy season lasts all year long for people who suffer from common household allergens," said allergist James Sublett, MD, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Indoor Environment Committee. "When environmental changes aren’t made indoors, the home becomes a breeding ground for symptoms, rather than a place to escape allergens."

Although symptoms may not always be severe, allergies are serious and, in some cases, deadly. ACAAI advises those with household allergies make the following environmental changes to reduce symptoms:

  • Encase bed pillows, mattresses and upholstered furniture with dust-proof covers, and wash covers regularly using hot water.
  • Eliminate carpet flooring
  • Reduce home humidity to 60 percent via an air conditioner or dehumidifier
  • Have a family member vacuum weekly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, or wear a dust mask while vacuuming
  • Clean visible mold and obtain an air purifier
  • Keeps pets out of the bedroom and wash them weekly to reduce dander

If you have allergies, consult with a board-certified allergist. Treatments may go beyond environmental changes and over-the-counter medications, and include immunotherapy (allergy shots). Keep track of your symptoms, allergy triggers and medications by using the

The ACAAI is a professional medical organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., that promotes excellence in the practice of the subspecialty of allergy and immunology. The College, comprising more than 5,700 allergists-immunologists and related health care professionals, fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. For more information, visit

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