If cold, wintry weather is keeping you indoors, remember: Year-round, that’s home to many of the peskiest allergy and asthma triggers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So if you have allergies or asthma, it’s a good idea to ensure that your home is as free of triggers as possible—or at least find ways to reduce your exposure. Your doctor can help you develop a plan, but here is some advice to get you started.
Microscopic insects called dust mites are the most common allergy and asthma symptom trigger, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. They feed on human skin flakes and tend to thrive when rooms are above 40 percent humidity and at temperatures above 70 degrees. And while they like bedding and soft furnishings the most, they can be found anywhere in the house. To ward off dust mites, allergists recommend purchasing allergen-proof encasings for pillows, mattresses, and box springs, and washing linens in 130-degree temperatures every seven to 10 days. When it comes to cleaning, have someone else handle the vacuuming, or wear a mask. And use a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter or double-layered bag. Since stuffed animals collect dust mites, too, you’ll need a simple way to keep your child’s favorites trouble free.
The dander shed by pets can cause symptoms in susceptible people. But for reasons not completely understood, some allergic people are OK around certain breeds. While there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, some breeds, such as poodles and Portuguese water dogs, produce less dander. To test how you or your child fare around a particular breed, visit a friend or family member who has a pet to see how you feel, otherwise purchasing any animal while potentially having symptoms is like rolling the dice.
Indoor air quality tests, if done properly, can let anyone who suspects they may have mold know for certain. Mold can grow from leaks or elevated levels in humidity which can affect the immune system. Having your home regularly checked and properly maintained can eliminate the chance of growth. But prolonged water damage and insufficient dehumidification can lead to potentially dangerous growth which can cause several types of illnesses.
Cockroaches, an issue mostly in cities and the southern United States, are believed to play a large role in asthma in inner-city populations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The allergens are found in the saliva and feces of cockroaches. Having your residence treated on a monthly basis can eliminate this threat, while storing foods in containers, putting away your pet’s dishes, cleaning up after meals, taking garbage out promptly, and fixing leaky faucets or pipes because roaches need water to survive, also help to rid your home of these insects.
Many people don’t think of pollen as having an impact indoors. But if you’re outdoors during nice weather, you can bring it in on your clothes or shoes. Pets can bring pollen into the home too, leading some people to assume they’re allergic to their pets when in fact they’re actually allergic to ragweed or another type of pollen. To combat this problem, consider wiping pets down when they return from outdoors, keep windows closed in the home and run air conditioning during warmer weather, and change clothes and shoes immediately after returning from outdoors.
While not a traditional allergen, cigarette smoke is often an irritant for people with asthma and allergies. Secondhand smoke, which irritates the already inflamed bronchial passages in asthmatics, can cause asthma attacks and worsen the severity of the attacks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Moreover, studies have shown that exposure to tobacco smoke has incredible impact on increasing risk of asthma in kids. So allergists recommend that parents avoid smoking around children altogether, both at home and in the car. It’s thought that because kids are still developing, they’re more susceptible to the effects of smoke, and they may breathe more rapidly, causing them to take in more smoke than adults.
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