Preparing Your Home For Winter
With the winter months quickly approaching, millions of people will be spending more time indoors. What many of us may not realize is that, while preparing our home for winter, we may actually be creating an unhealthy indoor living environment.
One thing to keep in mind is that many asthma suffers find that their symptoms are worse indoors. The levels of pollution inside the home may be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. As a result, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has identified indoor pollution as one of the five most urgent environmental risks to public health. Indoor pollution can pose a health threat to the estimated 10.5 million Americans who suffer from asthma annually, as well as the millions who suffer from allergies.
The health risks associated with poor indoor air has been overlooked for years by the medical community and general public. Unfortunately making your home airtight and energy-efficient may actually increase such health risks, especially for those who suffer from allergies and asthma.
Some common indoor pollutants include: dust mites, molds, mildew, animal dander, insect waste and decaying bodies and tobacco smoke. These all have been linked to increased respiratory problems for people with allergies and asthma.
The Lung Association offers the following tips to reduce exposure to harmful pollutants that can trigger asthma and allergies and cause other health problems:
Make sure gas cooking appliances are vented to the outdoors and the kitchen fan is turned on when appliances are in use. These measures will help prevent dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide from accumulating in your home. Gas stoves have also been shown to trigger asthma.
Reduce indoor mold. Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements regularly to eliminate indoor molds resulting from high humidity-and make sure these areas have good air circulation. Keep humidity levels low. Dehumidifiers may help. Prevent leaks and standing water.
Prohibit smoking indoors. Secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone.
Control dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic animals that are found in house dust. To prevent exposure to dust mites put mattresses, box springs, and pillows in allergen-impermeable covers, wash bedding weekly in hot water (at least 130 degrees), and remove bedroom carpeting.
Bathe and groom pets often and minimize their access to carpeted areas and the bedroom of anyone with allergies and asthma.
Change furnace and air conditioning filters every two to three months, or as required by the manufacturer.
Avoid wood stoves and fireplaces. Wood stoves can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
Never store more than a few pieces of firewood indoors. Drying firewood can generate mold spores, which can easily contaminate the entire house.
Most of the time it is difficult to recognize indoor pollution because many of the substances don't provide warning or produce generalized symptoms. That is why it is important for those who suffer from allergies and asthma to take preventative measures to improve the air quality in their home.
The Allergy and Asthma Center
7230 Engle Road, Suite 300