Airing Out Your House
(BlackDoctor.org) — Do you perform a “spring clean” all year long, yet you are still suffering from the allergies and asthma attacks associated with dust mites? Keeping a tidy house is not the end-all to alleviating home allergens. If your house is already spic-and-span and you are still battling all of those irritants, your next step should be to “clear the air” by installing devices such as air purifiers and dehumidifiers.
To control humidity in your home and help alleviate indoor allergy symptoms, use a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. Dust mites thrive in moist environments, so it’s important to monitor the humidity level in your home with a humidity sensor. Keep the humidity levels between 38% and 40%. While individual allergists may all recommend a slightly different ideal humidity range, anything over 50% can contribute to the growth of dust mites, as well as mold. If you want to be certain that your dehumidifier is set at the right level, you can buy small devices to measure the humidity levels in different areas of your house.
You don’t want the air too damp, but you also don’t want it to be too dry — a healthy balance is key. In the winter, heating systems can make indoor air extremely dry, which can be irritating to the lungs. Overly dry air can also contribute to the spread of dust particles, animal dander and other allergens in the air, which are more likely to fly around without humidity to weigh them down. If your home’s humidity level is less than 30%, that’s probably too dry.
Air purifiers with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters can remove fine particles from the air, including the triple threat of pollen, animal dander and mold spores. There is no conclusive evidence, however, that having air ducts cleaned, which can be an expensive process, improves indoor air quality.
Air conditioners with HEPA filters can help clean, re-circulate and dehumidify the air all at the same time. In fact, air conditioners are a better alternative to airing out the house than opening windows. Plants pollinate in the early morning hours, so when you sleep with the windows open for fresh air, you’re actually increasing allergens in your home. Keep windows closed, especially overnight and during high-pollen season, and make sure doors and windows have good seals.
Vacuuming can make indoor air quality worse by stirring up fine particles. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is a better option because the filter can trap pet dander, dust mites and other tiny allergens in the carpet and on the furniture.
Since it’s impossible to completely remove all allergens from carpets, the better option is to get rid of the carpets altogether. Carpet, especially shag or deep pile, can collect dust, food crumbs and all kinds of allergens. Mold can also grow underneath the carpet. Many experts recommend wood floors for anyone who suffers from indoor allergies.
Exhaust fans, like dehumidifiers, can help alleviate moisture levels that are too high. Use them in the:
• Kitchen. Fans can do more than remove cooking fumes — they can decrease the humidity added to the air by boiling water.
• Bathroom. Here, a fan can counteract the steam created by showers and baths.
• Basement. Fans can pull out the moisture released by clothes dryers during the drying process.
Effectively managing indoor allergy symptoms may require you to try out various methods to see what works best in your home. Eventually, improving indoor air quality with these strategies and tools can reduce indoor allergy symptoms and help you breathe easier.