It’s back to school time – and for college students, time for move in! With never ending to-do’s, shopping lists, and adjustments, it’s easy to put pesky environmental allergies on the back burner. But, like in any new environment, a dorm room may be loaded with allergens and make your new living situation uncomfortable.
Mattresses, bathrooms, vents
Indoor environmental allergies – including dust mites, mold, and pet dander – can strike in dorms, especially if the building is older.
Dust mites are everywhere. Mattresses are the first concern, as they’re passed from student to student, and are inevitably collecting a fresh crop of dust mites each year. They can also hide in closets, on top of shelves and dressers, and under beds.
Mold is most commonly found in dark, warm, and damp conditions. Be aware of mold lingering in windowsills and bathrooms, and in your mini fridge, too. Alert your building staff of any mold you see as soon as possible.
Though pets are typically not allowed in dorms, they may have been in your roommates’ home. Pet dander can stay on clothes and linens even after washing. For those with severe allergies, it may be best to determine if you’re potential roommate has pets at home before finalizing them as your roommate.
Many schools have modifications available for those with reported allergies. They may be able to secure you a room in a newer building, provide a new mattress, secure a single person room, or enforce strict cleaning policies. Contact them before move-in day!
Perfumes, diffusers, candles
When living with and sharing common spaces with hundreds of other students, irritants like perfumes, essential oils, candles, hair sprays, and other scents can be abundant. The irritants themselves can cause issues for those with allergies, but can cause additional symptoms for those who also have asthma.
Be sure to communicate your scent-free preferences to your roommates as soon as possible. If you create a roommate contract, add your scent sensitivity as part of it.
No air conditioning
Many dorms don’t have air conditioning, making it hot and muggy even with the windows open in summer, fall and spring – peak outdoor allergy seasons. When you’re forced to leave the windows open to get a break from the heat, outdoor pollens can easily sneak through and make a home in your room.
If you’re moving to an area far from home, you may also find you react at new times of the year because of new pollens.
Some schools may provide you with a window air conditioner if you have documented allergies. If this isn’t an option, vacuum with a HEPA filter frequently and wash bedding on high heat bi-weekly.
As you head into college, remember to continue your allergy medications and find a provider near you that can help you when you’re feeling sick.
The most important tip is to communicate your allergies with staff members from your dorm in ample time before you move in to provide time to make any necessary adjustments.
Living in a dorm may be a short term arrangement, but the years to come are sure to bring new living environments, and new allergies. Immunotherapy is the only option for treating the cause of allergy and building tolerance to problem allergens. Sublingual immunotherapy, or allergy drops, is a great option for college students because they’re taken on-the-go, don’t require frequent office visits, and are an affordable option for building long-term tolerance.