Whats under your bed?

This topic submitted by Kat Byerly, Yosuke Kawai, BJ Bohr, Katie Hange, Chelsea Dorman (Kawaiy@miamioh.edu) at 11:00 PM on 12/8/02. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Nicholson

Natural Systems 1 Fall, 2002 -Western Program-Miami University


Yosuke Kawai
Kat Byerly
BJ Lohr
Katie Hange
Chelsea Dorman

What’s Under Your Bed?
Introduction
Students in McKee Hall encounter many respiratory problems while living in their rooms. Questions that we wanted to answer were: What kinds of allergens are present in our rooms? What is the diversity index of our samples? How do the amounts of allergens differ from season to season and/or floor to floor? Our hypothesis is that the amount of allergens collected between each floor of McKee hall will be the same and that there will be no difference in the amount of allergens collected between our two weeks of collection. We plan to collect samples of allergens from under the beds of one room on each floor of McKee. We hope to identify the different types of allergens floating within students’ rooms and determine which is/are most abundant. With this, we hope to discover what’s causing the increase in allergic reactions among students. As students living in Western dorms, we are curious about what actually exists on the floors and in the air circulating throughout our rooms. Many of our roommates have experienced increased allergic reactions after moving in, and we would like to find out why.

Relevance of Research Question; Background Information
Our research will explore the kinds of allergens that live in students’ room in college dorms. This is a national problem because there are thousands of students living on college campuses across the nation, and it is very important to know what these students, including ourselves are being exposed to on a regular basis.
Cancer Web defines an allergy as "a state of hypersensitivity induced by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen) resulting in harmful immunologic reactions on subsequent exposures, the term is usually used to refer to hypersensitivity to an environmental antigen (atopic allergy or contact dermatitis) or to drug allergy" (CancerWeb).
Studies have shown that many types of allergens grow in dorm rooms: molds, dust mites, bacteria, viruses (Mold Allergies). Add perfumes, hairsprays, cigarette smoke, etc. and you have the perfect mix for severe allergic reactions. It is mostly older dorms that are plagued by allergens – even students who don’t typically suffer from allergens can be bothered by mold and dust that colect is rafters, air-conditioners, and other enclosed places.
Signs of allergies can include sneezing, runny/clogged nose, coughing and post-nasal drip, Itching eyes, nose, and throat, allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes cause by increased blood flow near the sinuses), and watery eyes. Conjunctivitis is also a result of allergens. This is a condition where the membranes that line the eyelids become inflamed and red, causing red-rimmed, swollen eyes and a crusting of the eyelids.
If people are not allergic to present allergens, however, mucus in nasal passage moves to throat and is coughed out or swallowed, causing no allergic reactions. If you are allergic to allergens that are present in your environment, the allergen lands on mucus membranes, causing the cells in mucus to release histamine and other chemicals. In turn, the cells contract, allowing fluids to escape, making the nasal passage swell, and resulting in nasal congestion. Histamines can also cause sneezing, itching, irritation, excess mucus production, resulting in a runny nose, or allergic rhinitis.

Kinds of Allergens
Dust (Advice)
A varied mix of allergenic materials
- fibers from different fabrics – cotton lint, feather, stuffing materials
- dander from animals
- bacteria
- molds and fungus spores
- food particles
- bits of plants
- insects
Dust mites
- inhabit dust particles
- eighty percent of western homes
- feed on human skin flakes and waste products of cockroaches
- live on mattresses
- can be the cause of eczema and hay fever
- When reacting to dust – usually reacting to mites’ fecal matter
- Thrive in summer, die in winter, unless inside warm, humid house

Molds (Mold Causing Allergies):
- Present almost everywhere
- Warm, damp, dark environments
- Old buildings good places
- When inhaled – can produce violent reactions
- Yeasts – single cell that divide to form clusters
- Molds – many cells that grow branching threads called hyphae
- Seeds – spores
- When inhaled – allergic rhinitis
- So small – evade protective mechanisms of the nose and upper respiratory tract to reach lungs
- Found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, source of needed chemicals
- Rotting logs, fallen leaves, compost piles, grains
- In home – damp basements, closets, bathrooms (shower stalls!!!), places where fresh foods are stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture
- Airborne allergens – abundant, easily carried by air currents, allergenic in chemical compound
- i.e. Alternaria, cladosporium most common
- Can cause several illnesses – infections, allergies, can lodge in airways or lungs, forming compact sphere called “fungus ball”
- Can lead to asthma, lung disease

Pollens (Tips):
- Pollens: microscopic grains that plants use to reproduce
- Transported by insects, animals, wind
- Most common causes of allergies
- Plain looking plants – trees, grasses, weeds – without showy flowers
- Small, light, dry pollen granules – wind transport
- Ragweed- 1 million grains of pollen a day
- Others – sagebrush, English plantain, Russian thistle, timothy grass, Johnson grass, Bermuda grass, elm tree, hickory tree, pecan tree, box elder tree, mountain cedar tree, oak tree
- Seasonal in nature
- Depends on relative length of day and geographical location rather than weather
- Further north – later the pollen/allergy period

Materials and Methods
We will cover four slides with Vaseline and place them under beds on three floors in the three bedrooms in McKee hall and place one in the basement of the same building. The three bedrooms will be directly above/below one another. We will leave the slides in place for one week, allowing them to collect various allergens that may be present in those rooms. We will then collect those slides and analyze their content. We will then repeat the process three weeks later, in order to determine if there is any change in the amount of allergens present.
We will be measuring the amount of allergens (pollen, molds, dust mites, etc.) found in the rooms and determining how those measurements change with the dropping temperatures and/or change in floors.
The residents in each of the three bedrooms will be interviewed following the collection and review of the samples as to any notice of respiratory problems or allergy increase dealing with allergens since they have moved or since the weather has become colder.

Steps:
a. We will place slides covered in Vaseline under beds in one room on each of the three floors of McKee Hall. These rooms will be situated directly above and below one another. The slides will be used to collect samples of pollen, molds, dust mites, etc. so we can observe and analyze them.
b. We will use scientific slides covered in Vaseline to collect allergens from students’ rooms. They will be placed under a bed in each room for a period of a week and then collected and the allergens recorded. In order to involve the class in our study, we will be using their rooms for the experimentation, and we will also be comparing our results to other students who are testing allergens in Peabody Hall.

Results
After collecting the slides from both sections of the experiments, we found a variety of objects, though few of them were true allergens. We found various colored fibers, skin cells, leaves from grass, feathers, dust, hairs, insects and insect parts, etc. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to the amount and distribution of each of the objects we found on our slides. In our first trial we found seventeen fibers in an assortment of colors, five skin cells, four dust bunnies, eight pieces of grass, two hairs, and three insect parts between all of the floors. Our second trial showed twenty-three fibers, six skin cells, one blade of grass, fifteen dust bunnies, and two insect parts. The average distribution rate in each room, as given to us by the Shannon-Weiner Test was 1.92312309.


Data Sheet A
Data Sheet B
Data Charts


Discussion
Many of the particles that we found came from articles of clothing that were worn in the room. For example, the some of the red fibers that we found in room 303 probably came off of a red shirt that one of the residents of the room was wearing. One of the important implications that can be drawn from this information is the ability to observe what is happening in an area by sampling the dust. In fact, scientists have recently taken this idea and developed it so that they can detect what chemicals are in the area.
Since not many allergens were found in our samples we believe that dust and fibers are what is causing people to sneeze.
For further investigation it would be interesting to see how quickly dust collects. This information would be useful by telling people how often they need to clean to prevent allergies and sickness.

Preventing Allergies (Fact Sheet)
1. Dust frequently
2. Vacuum often to reduce buildup
3. Use dust mite covers on beds
4. Wash bedding frequently
5. Make dorm smoke-free and avoid cigarette smoke
6. Reduce excess heat and humidity – dust mites and molds do not like dry, cool environments
7. Remove any source of moisture – leaky pipes, poorly vented clothes dryer, leaky windows, etc
8. Ensure ventilation systems are working properly
9. Clean with supplies that kill many molds and mites
10. Obtain necessary medications
11. Keep dorm room clutter to a minimum
12. Take the top bunk – avoid inhaling bedding dust from your roommate
13. Get annual flu shot, wash your hands, eat balanced diet, get enough sleep

Literature Cited
“Advice From Your Allergist: House Dust Allergy.” 24 Feb. 2000. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. November 20, 2002.

“Fact Sheet.” October 2001. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. November 20, 2002.


“Medical Dictionary.” 3 Dec. 2002. CancerWeb.com. 3 Dec. 2002.


“Mold Allergies.” 2001. Lifespan.com. November 20, 2002.

“Mold Allergy.” January 1999. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 24 Sept. 2002.


Additional References
“Airborne Allergies.” Patanol.com. June 2002. Alcon Laboratories. 24 Sept. 2002. http://www.patanol.com/airborne_allergens.html.
Even more information on airborne allergies.

“Coping with Asthma and Airborne Allergens in the Home.” 10 June 2002. 24 Sept. 2002. http://www.allergies-and-asthma.com/html/inhalants.php3.
This article explores ways people can cope with various allergies.

“Dust Mites and Other Airborne Allergies” CFS Recovery. 24 Sept. 2002. http://www.cfs-recovery.org/airborne.htm.
This site provides information on dust and dust mites that affect allergies in people.

“Mold Allergy.” January 1999. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 24 Sept. 2002. http://www.personalhealthzone.com/airborneallergens8.html.
This website offers information on the different kinds of molds that affect allergies.

“Something in the Air: Airborne Allergens.” 21 May 2001. 24 Sept. 2002. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/publications/allergens/title.htm.
This website offers additional information of airborne allergens.


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