Fighting Allergy and Asthma Triggers at Home
There are many sources of indoor allergens known to us: pillows, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpets can get infested with dust mites. There are also other items and rooms in the house that can trigger allergies and asthma. Jeffrey C. May, a certified indoor air professional and author of books on indoor air quality suggests that it is very helpful to know even the unrecognized sources to be able reduce these indoor allergy and asthma triggers.
Jar candles can produce soot that stains walls and ceilings. These very tiny soot particles can keep themselves suspended in the air and can be breathed deep into the lungs. It can also possibly carry other allergens. If you can’t give up burning candles, opt for the tapered type, which typically produces less soot.
Fish are often chosen by people and children who are allergic to cats or dogs. However, dust mites can still thrive on a fish-tank cover, where the conditions for breeding are suitable: warm, moist air and lots of food in from morsels of fish flakes which are protein-rich. It is not advisable to place a fish tank in an allergic child’s bedroom. Wherever you decide to place the aquarium, always keep it covered and keep the rim free of fish food morsels and dust.
Pet beds can become infested with dust mites, parasites, and their allergens. When your beloved pet’s fur is exposed to the allergens, and you cuddle your pet and allow it to sleep on you bed or couch, then you are exposed to the allergens, too. Use a thin quilt or blanket instead of a thick, padded pet bed. It is more washable. Have this washed once a month.
Feathered beddings, pillows, or furniture contains fragments that contain microscopic granules of bird allergens that can be irritating to breathe. Families with asthmatic or allergic members must avoid feather-filled items in their homes and pet birds, too—especially cockatiels. There are several respiratory diseases associated with frequent contact with the microscopic dander of birds. These include hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
Basements are prone to humidity and mold growth, especially during the winter. This could pose a potential health concern since it not always easy to spot surface mold growth. Use a bright flashlight to check for oval mold colonies. Molds have a tendency to grow on the bottom of a shelf or workbench, on dust captured in exposed fiberglass insulation, or on the ceiling joists, especially in unfinished basements. Molds in finished basements can grow on the lower part of wooden furniture legs, in basement carpets, and on furniture spaces facing cooler walls or floors. Dehumidifying the basement especially during the humid season can control the moisture which leads to mold. Using a hygrometer, measure your basement’s relative humidity (RH). Keep the RH below 50%. Keep the basement consistently heated in the cooler season, setting the thermostat not lower than 60ºF.
Kitchens and laundry areas can also contain allergen sources. Because lint or excess moisture can build up indoors, condensation and mold growth happens on cool surfaces. To control mold growth in these areas, always vent a dryer to the exterior. Lint containing potentially irritating laundry chemicals can enter the home on dryer airflows when they build up behind the appliance. A refrigerator drip tray may become filled with mold, bacteria, and yeast if it hasn’t been cleaned in a long time. If your tray is plastic, you may add three tablespoons of salt to inhibit growth of bacteria. Make sure you remove and clean the tray twice a year.
An air-to-air-heat exchanger refreshes indoor air by flushing out stale air and letting in fresh air in. However, condensation can still occur because cool air and warm, moist air flow by each other inside the heat exchanger. Most air-to-air heat exchangers can be filled with dust, pollen, and dead bugs due to inadequate filtration system, which may lead to mold growth. When this happens, unpleasant smells and other by-products of these biological growths are carried on the incoming air stream into the house. Installing a supplemental MERV-8 (minimum efficiency rating value) filter on both the intake duct for the house air and the intake duct for the exterior air for you’re air-to-air heat exchanger will help prevent this problem. To avoid dust build up, clean the heat exchanger at least twice a year.
It is essential to be vigilant against household allergens. Preventing mold growth and keeping the indoor air clean is an important practice in protecting the family’s health.