Living with allergies can be miserable for those whose bodies react poorly to various materials in their home environments. Sneezing, runny noses, watery eyes, coughing, and even more serious symptoms such as respiratory troubles or life-threatening reactions can result from exposure to allergens. Maintaining an allergen-free environment is impractical. There are, however, effective tools and tactics you can use to control and partially eliminate the allergens in your living spaces.
Dust-related allergies are very common and are triggered by the dust and related substances that naturally occur in our environment. Dust is almost always going to be present in our homes. Dust consists of minute particles of the material we live with every day: cloth fibers, dirt, fragments of wood or metal, paper particles, and even the dead skin cells that we are constantly shedding.
To better control dust-related allergens in your home, take these steps:
- Clean, vacuum and dust your home regularly: Thoroughly vacuum carpets, area rugs, and floor coverings once or twice a week. Dust shelves, countertops, tabletops and other flat surfaces where dust collects at least weekly. Clean small rugs, furniture covers and other fabric items weekly, either by washing or by shaking the dust out of them outdoors.
- Clean bedding: Bedding is a major source of dust since it contains not only cloth fibers but accumulations of dead skin cells. Regularly wash blankets and sheets in 130-degree water. Put sealed covers on mattresses, box springs and pillows to help stop the accumulation of allergens.
- Change HVAC filters regularly: Check the air filters in your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump at least monthly and change them when they get dirty. Dirty filters cannot do their job of particulate capture and may let allergens back into your indoor air. Consider using higher-efficiency filters if you want better levels of particulate removal.
- Install air cleaners and purifiers: In addition to the regular filters in your HVAC system, add a whole-house air cleaner or air purification system. These devices provide extra filtration for the air moving through your HVAC equipment, removing even more particulates and allergens. Include disinfecting ultraviolet (UV) lights to kill microorganisms that could contribute to allergies or disease.
Our pets are important parts of our lives, like family members in many cases, but they can also be a source of allergens. Pet dander and skin cells are particularly common allergy triggers. Help keep pet allergies under control by:
- Regular brushing: Regularly brush your dog or cat to remove dander, loose fur and other potential allergens. Have a non-allergic family member take care of this task, or hire a professional groomer. Whoever’s doing this chore should do it outside.
- Bathing dogs frequently: Give your dog a bath once a week using an appropriate dog shampoo. Wash your pets’ bedding, toys and frequented areas weekly.
- Putting litter boxes in an out-of-the-way area: Keep litter boxes, newspapers or other elimination tools in a remote area of the home, where allergy sufferers will have the least amount of exposure.
- Controlling animals’ access: Keep pets out of the bedrooms of allergy sufferers. Monitor your pets’ activities as best you can to keep them off furniture.
Mold and Mildew-Related Allergies
Like dust, a certain amount of mold and mildew will be common in most homes. These living substances can start to grow when there is warmth, a food source, and excess moisture in your indoor environment, especially in your bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and utility rooms. Some tactics you can use to reduce mold and mildew include:
- Clean bathrooms regularly: Clean bathroom surfaces, especially corners of the tub or shower stall, to help prevent mold. Use hot water and a bleach solution or reliable commercial cleaner to clean bath mats and shower curtains.
- Control moisture: Clean up large spills as quickly as possible. Fix leaks immediately. Wipe down bathroom surfaces after a shower or bath to remove excess moisture.
- Use ventilation: Turn on bathroom fans, kitchen fans and other ventilation systems to remove moisture. Consider installing a whole-house ventilation system that will help you keep a healthy level of air circulation and ventilation everywhere in your home.
- Control humidity: Keep indoor humidity levels at 35 to 50 percent. Use dehumidifiers (either single-room units or a whole-house system) to keep humidity at the required percentage.
Black Diamond Plumbing & Mechanical provides expert heating, cooling, plumbing, electric and duct cleaning services throughout Chicago and the surrounding communities. Contact us today for more information on controlling allergies and what you can do to reduce allergens in your home.
Written by Rick Sperando
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