For allergy and asthma sufferers, keeping indoor air free of any triggers is a necessity for comfort and good health. The best strategy is to create a plan for your entire house that helps remove any allergens and keeps them from coming back. In addition to using asthma prevention medications like Advair, try these residential tricks to keep your home’s air clean and fresh.
Improve Your Flooring
Carpet is comfortable for your feet and inexpensive, and thus it is a standard fixture in many homes. Unfortunately, it is also a great place for dust, pollen, dander and other allergens to hide. If you want to make your house as allergen-free as possible, consider removing carpet entirely and replacing it with more hypoallergenic options.
Wood floors are an excellent alternative as long as you stay away from fume-causing varnishes, and a wood floor can often raise your home’s value. Tile and linoleum flooring are other common options. You can use rugs or mats in areas where you still need a soft surface — the goal is to decrease the square footage of fibrous flooring allergens can cling to.
Your other fabrics can also harbor allergens over long periods of time and are more difficult to find alternatives for than carpet. This includes bedding, curtains and furniture. If you really want to make an investment, bamboo curtains and leather or leather-like furniture can cut down on the potential for trapped allergens. These furnishings can be opulent and expensive, but if you have different tastes — or a different budget — there are other alternatives.
Create and maintain a strict cleaning schedule that includes vacuuming all your fabrics, including those on the walls and chairs. Bedding should be washed every several days in hot water. This is a necessity if you are living with pets. In addition to cleaning your furniture, encourage clean air by buying houseplants for every room to help maintain a fresh, oxygen-rich environment.
Use a HEPA Filter
HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air, and HEPA filtration systems are one of the best tools in your fight against allergens. While they can be expensive, HEPA filtration systems constantly rid the air of even the smallest particles, including pollen particles that make it through other filters. They are ideal residential solutions for those with asthma problems or high sensitivity to pollen. HEPA filters can be installed in HVAC systems or used as standalone devices to clear out certain rooms in your house. If you choose a HEPA filter, keep a close eye on the filter and replace it as often as suggested.
Choose Heating Options Wisely
Heating your home sends new particulates into the air cycling through your house. When you turn on a gas stove, for example, you are creating exhaust made of water vapor and a small amount of particles. Burning kerosene creates more particles in its fumes and exhaust, which can send carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and other particles into the air. Wood-burning stoves may be the worst of all. To keep the air in your house clean, avoid these heat sources when possible. Radiant heating, electric heaters and similar options are better for air quality. High efficiency gas furnaces, which pass air through a filter, are better than spot heaters.
Remove Sources of Moisture
The long-term presence of moisture can lead to mold. Mold releases tiny spores into the air that float until they find a new surface to take root in. These spores can cause health problems even in those without allergic reactions, though they are especially annoying to those with allergies or asthma. Mold typically requires a wet, dark, porous space to flourish. This may include poorly ventilated bathrooms, the inside of vents, insulation in your walls, basements, old cupboards, leaks in your ceiling or attic and a variety of other locations. One of the best ways to prevent mold is to watch for and stop the accumulation of moisture. Check your HVAC for leaks, make sure your attic and basement are properly sealed, and allow no standing water to remain or ignored.
Manage Air Flow and Containment
While making sure your house is moisture free, double-check your weatherstripping and seals as well. During allergy seasons, you do not want any air leaking into your house through window cracks, under doors, or between poorly placed insulation in your roof. Not only will it waste money spent on cooling, but it will bring new allergens into the house. New options like spray-foam insulation allow for better seals if your insulation is showing its age.
With so many improvement options available, do not be afraid to take a weekend and start allergy-proofing your home for the long term. The more time you spend protecting your house, the bigger difference it will make to you and your loved ones.
Dust Bunny image by Kim Carpenter from Flickr’s Creative CommonsFilter image by John Loo from Flickr’s Creative Commons