Is Your Home Making You Sick?
We like to think of our homes as sanctuaries, but far too often, they harbor health hazards that can leave us feeling constantly run down, sick and out of energy. Even the cleanest home can hide these pests so itâ€™s not always obvious that our symptoms are coming from our house. Here are a few of the most common household health hazards and what you can do to avoid them.
How to Avoid these 3 Common Household Health Hazards:
Household dust mites are incredibly common. They feed on the skin cells that we all shed daily and are easily transported into our beds via clothing, toys and bedding. Dust mites are often found in carpets/rugs, mattresses, bed linens, pillows and upholstered furniture. They need moisture to survive which is why many of them thrive in bedding, which is often warm and humid.
Not everyone is allergic to dust mites, however it has been estimated that as many as 1.2 billion people worldwide have at least some sensitivity to the allergens that they produce. Itâ€™s important to be aware that not everyone reacts to dust mite allergens in the same way and that the symptoms are easily written off as being the common cold or allergies to other substances, particularly in young children who are often expected to have chronically runny noses. Besides sneezing and coughing, dust mites allergens can also cause itchy skin, irritated eyes and eczema.
You can significantly cut down on the number of dust mites in your home by taking a few simple precautions. Wash bedding frequently in hot water and use nonporous dust mite bedding to keep them from colonizing your mattress and pillows. Carpets should be vacuumed frequently with a HEPA filter equipped vacuum or removed completely if allergies or asthma are severe. Keep the humidity in your house to less than 50% by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers. Use HEPA filters in your HVAC, furnace and air purifiers.
There are numerous species of mold, some of which are more dangerous than others. Mold spores are ubiquitous in our atmosphere, which makes battling mold an almost constant challenge, particularly for those who live in damp climates. Some of the dangers of mold exposure include asthma attacks, allergic reactions, skin irritation and respiratory problems. Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly known as toxic black mold, has been in the headlines recently as being linked to â€œsick building syndromeâ€. Some molds produce harmful mycotoxins that can cause neurological damage as well as chronic inflammation.
Molds thrive in moist environments. While mold can grow in any room of your home, the most commonly affected areas are ones that get a lot of moisture such as basements, bathrooms and kitchens. Proper ventilation, humidity control and prompt attention to leaks and other moisture control problems go a long way towards preventing mold growth in the home. Aim for keeping the humidity in your home between 30-60%. Use ventilation fans in the kitchen and bathroom. Do frequent inspections for leaks and areas of dampness in basements, attics, closets and other areas of your home that you would not regularly see. Repair any problems that you find promptly and clean up mold immediately. Keep condensation under control by insulating windows, walls and pipes.
Rats, Roaches and Other Pests
These common household pests not only cause a visceral reaction in most of us, they are also a major health and safety hazard. Many diseases are spread by household pests including staphylococcus, salmonella and streptococcus. These can be left on seemly clean household surfaces including food preparation surfaces and toys that small children might put in their mouths. Pests, especially rats and other rodents can also cause structural damage to your home and present a major fire hazard by chewing through electrical wiring and making nests in appliances and other electrical equipment. Feces, dander and urine are also asthma and allergy triggers for many people and can be circulated by your homes ventilation system.
Itâ€™s important to keep your eyes out for evidence that you have a hidden pest problem in your home. Looking for insect and rodent droppings behind appliances and in basements, attics and crawl spaces is usually the most reliable indicator that you have a problem. You can also look for evidence of damage such as bite marks and holes.
If you have a current infestation of pests, it might be necessary to call a professional to safely remove them from your home. Ask about any chemicals that he or she may use, especially if you have children or pets or suffer from chemical sensitivities. A pest control professional can also help you find where the pests are entering your home and advise you on the best ways to seal them. Additionally, they can help insure that the problem doesnâ€™t reoccur by using barrier treatments.
You can make your home less attractive to pests by keeping all food cleared away, removing any sources of water such as leaking taps and sealing any holes or cracks as soon as you find them. Be aware that pests can be found in even the cleanest homes so you must be vigilant about finding them.
Jacob Maslow works for AllergyBeGone, an online retailer that sells products designed to keep you healthy in your home, including a wide range of dust mite bedding and air purifiers (allergybegone.com)