Is your home making you sick? Sneezing, itchy watering eyes, wheezing, a runny nose are all signs of allergies. When these symptoms arrive we are quick to blame pollen and other outside allergens, but what about the irritants that are inside the home? Researchers confirm that the home not only contains many sources of allergies including dust, mold and animal dander but also tends to intensify allergic reactions due to restricted airflow. Although it is impossible to eradicate all indoor irritants, you can take preventative steps to dramatically decrease the likelihood and/or duration of allergic reactions. Time spent identifying and limiting the source of allergies in the home, as any chronic allergy sufferer will verify, is well worth it considering the daily misery of allergy symptoms.
- Dust and Dust Mites – Dust mites are tiny spider like insects invisible to the naked eye. Their droppings and carcasses are potent allergens. Did you know? According to Dr. Koehler of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, “The average bed contains 10,000 dust mites…A two year old pillow can get about one tenth of its weight from mites, dead mites, and their droppings”. To counteract this fact you can cover pillows, mattresses and box springs. Bedding should be washed often in very hot water (over 60 degrees Celsius). Frequent dusting with a damp cloth and routine vacuuming of carpets, curtains, furniture and mattresses will minimize any dust build up. Vacuums can actually redistribute dust around your home if the bag has not been changed in awhile. Ensure that any filtering devices in your home including your furnace filter and air vents are clean. If you live in a dusty environment you may want to purchase an electronic air cleaner. Similarly, a dehumidifier can be used to drop the humidity level to less than 40 percent, effectively minimizing dust buildup.
- Pets – Animal dander contains skin, fur or hair shed or secreted from an animal. Many allergy suffers are not only allergic to animal dander but also animal saliva. Pets should be kept in restricted areas (i.e. not allowed into the bedroom or kept to the floor area). If your animals are outside a lot, you may want to bath them more frequently to cut down on the tracking in of irritating pollens. Frequent vacuuming (once to twice a week) will reduce the amount of airborne dander in your home.
- Moulds and Mildew – Showers, tubs, walls and floors can all accumulate moulds and mildews especially in the bathroom areas. Purchase a mildew remover and use it daily after taking a shower. Occasional airing out of the house and low humidity levels will help control mold. Potted plants can develop mould and should be examined frequently or avoided altogether.
- Household Chemicals – Chemicals inside your home can aggravate an allergic reaction by lowering your immune system or by irritating sensitive mucous membranes such as lungs, nasal passages, or eyes. Formaldehydes, paints, personal care products, and cleaning products are common aggravators. You may want to consider this before you pile on the cleaners in an effort to decrease other allergens. It may be doing you more harm than good.
- By limiting exposure to the above-mentioned irritants, you can reduce allergy symptoms. However, the climate, season and type of house you live in, among other factors, are not within your immediate control. Did you know? Energy Efficient Homes – Super-Insulated homes (triple glazed windows and sealed cracks) may cut down on your energy consumption but will increase allergen levels. Some studies suggest that the level of allergens is over 200% higher in energy efficient homes because they keep the allergens contained inside the home. All in all, you cannot completely rid your life of allergies but a little effort combined with some knowledge can go a long way.