Indoor Air Quality and Allergies: What You Need to Know

February 4, 2024
Indoor Air Quality and Allergies: What You Need to Know

If you want to win the fight against allergies, you need to know how various indoor contaminants enter your house. You also need to know the best ways to reduce your exposure to indoor pollution and how to improve the overall air quality. Scheduling regular HVAC maintenance is a key part of keeping allergens at bay.

1. Dust Mites

One of the most common causes of indoor allergies is dust mites, which are tiny bugs that thrive in warm and humid conditions. Their excrement and other body parts are typical components of indoor dust that can cause allergic responses, asthma attacks and respiratory problems. You can lessen the likelihood of dust mite infestation by keeping relative humidity low. It’s also wise to wash linens in hot water and invest in allergen-proof mattresses and pillow protectors. Steam cleaning carpets and regularly vacuuming with a HEPA filter may also be helpful. All-natural methods for reducing dust mite allergies include using air purifiers, removing dogs from bedrooms and using essential oils such as tea tree or eucalyptus.

2. Mold and Mildew

The most common reasons for mold and mildew growth are water damage, excessive humidity and inadequate ventilation. Inhaled spores from these fungi can trigger allergic reactions and respiratory problems, including asthma symptoms and chronic allergies. Timely action, the use of dehumidifiers and adequate ventilation are vital weapons in the fight against mold. It also helps to clean using mold-killing chemicals, such as vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, and to maintain HVAC systems and bathroom exhaust fans regularly. Another option for getting rid of mildew and mold is to use natural therapies like grapefruit seed extract or tea tree oil.

3. Pet Dander

The small skin flakes that animals produce, known as pet dander, are a leading cause of allergic reactions. When pet dander disperses through the air, it lands on surfaces and amplifies symptoms like itchy eyes and sneezing. Some people can even develop anaphylaxis due to the proteins found in pet dander. Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs rapidly after exposure to an allergen. Regular grooming, washing and the establishment of pet-free zones will help minimize pet dander. It’ll also help to use a HEPA filter air purifier, vacuum often and wash pet bedding weekly. Alternative methods include using high-efficiency air filters, using pet-specific shampoos and feeding pets omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Pollen

Pollen, which are tiny grains generated by plants, is one of the most common allergens that makes allergies worse. This allergen comes from lots of grasses, weeds and trees and significantly aggravates stuffy noses, watery eyes and sneezing. During times when pollen is most prevalent, it’s best to remain indoors, close windows and use an air purifier with a HEPA filter. When coming in from the outdoors, it’s a good idea to take a shower and change into clean clothes. Alternative ways to reduce exposure include decorating with indoor plants that reduce allergens, like aloe veras, areca palms, dracaenas, English ivy and bamboo palms. Installing pollen-resistant window screens can help as well.

5. Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco smoke is one of the most pervasive indoor pollutants. Smoke contains chemicals and particle matter that irritate the respiratory system. This makes asthma and allergy symptoms much worse. In particular, being around people who smoke makes you more likely to have respiratory infections, wheezing and coughing. To lessen secondhand smoke, you should create smoke-free zones on your property, use air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters and encourage people to quit smoking inside.

6. Radon Gas

The radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soil produces radon gas, a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It poses health dangers and aggravates allergies when it enters houses via the ground. There is evidence that lung cancer can develop with prolonged radon exposure. Radon may not cause allergies on its own, but it worsens symptoms by creating problems with the respiratory system. Home radon testing can identify elevated levels; if found, radon mitigation equipment, such as vent pipes and fans, can be set up to reroute and lower radon concentrations. This is vital to protecting the quality of the air inside the house.

7. Volatile Organic Compounds

Many commonplace items, like paints, cleaners and furniture, are sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs in the air can make asthma attacks and other respiratory problems worse. Potential side effects of VOC exposure include itchy eyes, headaches and sore throats. One of the easiest ways to reduce exposure is to use products that don’t contain VOCs. You can also decorate with VOC-absorbing greenery like spider plants and snake plants. Alternative methods for getting rid of VOCs include using activated-carbon filters and increasing ventilation by using exhaust fans. It may also help to place bowls of baking soda in rooms to absorb and neutralize VOCs. As a bonus, baking soda acts as a natural deodorizer.

8. Pesticides and Herbicides

Insecticides, weed killers and other pest control and herbicide products can easily enter the home. The harsh chemicals used in some of these products worsen allergies and respiratory problems. Reactions to pesticides manifest as allergic reactions, skin irritation and respiratory distress when exposed to or inhaled. To reduce your risk of exposure, it’s smart to use integrated pest management strategies, wash your vegetables well and use natural pest control approaches. If you live on a farm or in an area that’s regularly exposed to pesticides and herbicides, reducing your exposure to these elements is of the utmost importance. Prolonged exposure can cause chronic respiratory issues and potential long-term health risks. People working in these areas should wear protective gear, handle chemicals safely and think about switching to organic farming.

9. Scented Candles and Air Fresheners

A lot of the chemicals and synthetic scents found in scented candles and air fresheners aggravate respiratory problems and allergies. These chemicals irritate the respiratory system, cause congestion and emit VOCs into the air, leading to headaches and other symptoms. If you want to use candles, try using soy or beeswax ones instead of using paraffin candles or fragrance-free or naturally scented alternatives. Some people find it helpful to use organic essential oils in a diffuser.

10. Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide in a home is a major concern for homes that use gas, wood or oil heating. Inhalation of carbon monoxide does not cause allergies per se, but it can cause other symptoms like headaches, dizziness and nausea. Extended exposure can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. The best ways to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide in the home include installing CO detectors, keeping heating systems well-maintained and ensuring enough ventilation.

C & C Heating & Air Conditioning improves indoor air quality with regular HVAC maintenance, duct cleaning, air filtration systems and more. We also help Roseville, MI, homeowners with ductless HVAC, water heaters, smart thermostats and heat pumps. Contact us today to learn more about combating allergies with better indoor air quality.

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