How Allergens Can Sicken Your Household, and How You Can Fight ThemPublished on: February 5, 2014
As you pull into your driveway after a long day of work, you probably feel a big sigh of relief – your home is that special place where you can kick up your feet and spend time with your family. You should be able to rest assured that it’s a safe and comfortable place to be, but this isn’t always the case. At any given time, there may be a host of allergens – many of which are unseen – wafting their way throughout your house. When these things trigger an allergic reaction in anyone in your household, the idea of “home sweet home” goes right out the door. While a mild allergic reaction such as a sneezing fit and sniffling can be downright annoying, a severe reaction can be deadly. Find out what may be causing all that wheezing and what you can do to alleviate the symptoms of common allergens.
Household Allergens and How to Combat Them
For an animal lover, finding out you’re allergic to dogs or cats can be devastating news. While most allergists will recommend finding another home for your furry friend, you may consider your pet part of the family, like many people do. The idea of giving them up seems inconceivable. But, allergic reactions to pet dander can range from mild to severe. It’s one of the most prevalent, resilient allergens and can remain potent for several months, easily sticking to walls, clothing and furniture. Therefore, reducing the amount of pet dander in your home is necessary if you want to keep your pet. Find out what steps you can take to improve indoor air quality, so your whole family can stay together – including the members with paws.
Relieving Pet Allergy Symptoms
Following are some ways someone who’s allergic to pet dander can find relief:
- Wash your hands right after you pet your cat or dog – make sure not to touch your eyes until you do so.
- Make sure your pet is bathed once a week and brushed outside every day (preferably by someone who’s not allergic.)
- Vacuum your carpets every day (using a machine with a HEPA filter, if possible). Give your carpets a deeper steam cleaning every few months.
- Use a damp cloth to dust all the surfaces in your home a couple times during the week, making sure to wear a dust mask while you do.
- Open your windows and use exhaust fans whenever possible to keep your home well ventilated.
- Have your forced air HVAC system serviced every few months (where applicable).
- Make the bedrooms of anyone who is allergic pet-free zones and don’t allow your cat or dog on any furniture in the house. Rather, get a comfy pet bed for your furry loved one to curl up on.
- Get an air cleaner and turn it on for a few hours (or more) every day to help remove some of the allergens from your environment. You can find whole-house or room air purifiers – some even come with a meter that continuously monitors your air quality level so you know when to do some extra cleaning.
Dust exists everywhere, providing the ideal environment for dust mites to claim as their home. These microscopic, spider-like insects are thought to be the main irritant in house dust when inhaled by those who are sensitive. They thrive when humidity levels are above 50 percent and the weather is warm, leaving their waste pellets all over the place. They will live for about 30 days, during which time a female will typically lay one egg per day. Even after they die they can still continue to wreak havoc – their bodies disintegrate into tiny pieces that can be inhaled as soon as the air around them is stirred up.
To combat these nasty allergens, have a home that’s as dust free as possible. Regular cleaning can go a long way toward keeping the mites at bay. Find out what areas you should pay particular attention to and the best methods for cleaning up the dust.
Clearing Away the Dust Mites
Be diligent about deploying the following methods to fight dust and you can significantly reduce allergic reactions:
- Avoid having carpeted floors. Hardwood or tile flooring is much better for healthier indoor air in general, but especially beneficial in homes with people who have allergies. If removing carpets isn’t an option, be sure to vacuum a couple times per week, ideally with a machine that has a HEPA filter. You can also use washable rugs over carpeting to help reduce the spread of dust mites.
- Dust all the surfaces of your home a couple times during the week, including any blinds you may have. Use a damp cloth rather than a duster or dry cloth, as dry cleaning will just waft the dust mites into the air and your breathing space. You can make dusting easier by keeping clutter to a minimum.
- Dust will also pile up on drapes and other soft surfaces, including stuffed toys. Washable toys are a better option for those who have kids, but all of these dust mite favorites should be cleaned regularly.
- Use a dehumidifier when humidity levels are at 50 percent or above.
- The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says the most effective step you can take to control dust mites is to have allergen impermeable or plastic covers that zipper over every box spring, mattress and pillow in your home. Millions of dust mites can be found in a person’s bed at any given time. Therefore, keeping your bedding covered is even more effective in mitigating allergic symptoms than using an air purifier. Every week, you should also clean your sheets, pillow cases, uncovered pillows and blankets in hot water to avoid sharing your bed with these insects.
Mold and Mildew
Mold is a fungus that plays a vital role in nature – it rots and breaks down organic material such as leaves and wood. Some molds are miracle workers, used to cure illnesses and to create penicillin. But that’s not the kind most people are familiar with – the kind that infiltrates homes and degrades indoor air quality.
Mold develops from tiny spores that are commonly found lying dormant on many surfaces throughout homes and other structures. The spores don’t become a problem until they mix with moisture, nutrients and the right temperatures. These allergens can even grow in the winter. The difference in temperature between your cold, uninsulated outer walls and windows and the heated indoor environment creates the ideal conditions for mold growth. Mildew develops from mold, and both can become quite problematic if left to spread.
Many people are allergic to mold, but even those who are not can experience negative health reactions when exposed to it. Skin irritations, headaches and breathing issues are just some of the symptoms any person may have. The severity of these symptoms can range depending on factors such as a person’s age and how long they are exposed. Since mold can be very prolific, it’s vital that you are earnest in your efforts to stop it in its tracks.
Cleaning Up and Preventing Mold and Mildew
The following tips are designed to help you take care of any existing mold and prevent its return in your home:
- If you know you have mold anywhere in your house, clean it up immediately with a bleach solution.
- Any areas where there’s excess moisture should also be disinfected and thoroughly dried.
- Fix water leaks as soon as they’re noticed.
- Keep the allergens out of your air by using an air conditioner and/or a dehumidifier.
- Vacuum your carpets at least once a week.
- Clean all the surface areas of your home a couple times every week.
- Ventilate your attic and crawl spaces. Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawl spaces to prevent mold’s access to you home through the ground.
- Use washable area rugs and floor covers in places where you notice water usually collects.
- Clear refrigerator pans regularly.
- Wash damp, dirty or food-stained clothing and materials immediately.
- Have a UV light system installed. The lights help to eliminate the microbial buildup in your HVAC system, which stops it from being released into your indoor air. The UV lights also will keep your HVAC system running as efficiently as possible.
- Keep house plants to a minimum, as mold can grow in the soil.