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Dust Mites Elude High-End Vacuums

Researchers Say Even With HEPA Filter, Vacuums Don't Abolish Home Allergens

Keep Vacuuming

No vacuum cleaner in the world is going to cure your family's allergies, says allergist Clifford W. Bassett, MD, of Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, N.Y. But since you have to vacuum your carpets anyway, a HEPA-filtered vacuum can be part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce household allergens.

If you or a member of your family suffers allergy or asthma, don't run out and buy a vacuum. Get tested and treated, Bassett advises. The key, he says, is to develop an individualized allergy-reduction program. This may include immunotherapy, what patients often call "allergy shots."

"Treatment with allergy or asthma medications and immunotherapy is very successful for dust mite allergies," Bassett tells WebMD. "Four out of five patients find good success with immunotherapy. This would let you use any vacuum you want."

About 10% of home allergies can be traced to pets. The worst offenders, Bassett says, are cats -- particularly those with dark color and male sex.

If you've got a child with asthma and have a black cat named Dude, it's probably a good idea to find another home for the Dudester. Since people rarely part with their pets, Bassett says, the next best thing is a broad allergen-reduction effort.

"We need to look at a combination of measures, not just the vacuums or HEPA filters," Bassett says. "Just because this study found no benefit, it doesn't mean that as a part of a comprehensive allergy and allergen prevention and treatment program, a HEPA-equipped vacuum would not have some benefit. Because along with this would go other environmental interventions."

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