There are certain do’s and don’ts around that house that can make life significantly easier for those suffering allergies and asthma. In this post we’ll look at some top tips on how to reduce allergies and asthma in the home. These tips will also help promote a more healthy environment for everyone.
While we can’t always control what we’re exposed to outside the house, we do have considerably more control over our own homes. Areas that can be improved upon range from design features, to simply choosing more appropriate cleaning products and pest control. Even the smallest of positive changes around the home will help improve the quality of the air we breathe.
Solvent-based paints are the worst kind for allergy sufferers, and for the general health of all concerned. These paints emit toxins long after they are dry and the odour is “apparently” gone. They contain VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds.
Acrylic (or water-based) paints tend to give off far less fumes and toxic odours than their oil-based counterparts. Low volatile organic compound emission paints are also a good choice.
Although the finish isn't quite as pristine, use an acrylic gloss for doors, windows and trimmings rather than the traditional oil-based ones. Take advantage of organic oils for finishing wood products instead of chemical-based stains.
Dust and allergens tend to accumulate best on flat surfaces, and there is no greater flat surface in the home than the floor.
The best choice of floor coverings for asthma sufferers and general good health is to tile the floors. The less rugs and carpet around the better, as these tend to be chronic dust collectors no matter how clean you are or how often you vacuum.
Parquetry and cork flooring is also another good choice. Wooden floors are natural and look beautiful. However, they should be coated and sealed with a product that isn't solvent-based, or any class 2 carcinogenic Toluene Diisocyanate, TDI products.
Conversely, having all hard and bare floors can be rather clinical and anything but cosy, especially in the winter months. If rugs or carpets must be used, then rugs with a tight weave and short pile are less likely to trap as much dust and dirt. Wool carpets are definitely a healthier choice than their synthetic counterparts.
When it comes to allergies and healthy choices, we sometimes tend to forget about furnishings, their coatings and the materials they are made of.
Naturally occurring materials are often the best choice. Fabrics made of cotton, wool, hemp and leather. Materials that are non-chemically treated. Although not a naturally occurring substance, vinyl is a favourable choice as it doesn’t emit toxins and has no open weave in the material in which to collect dust and pollutants.
Wooden furniture should be coated in natural oils rather than varnishes and solvent-based stains. Metal furniture or furniture with metal framing is also a feasible choice. Metals such as stainless steel and chrome are the optimum choice. Avoid bare metals and wrought iron, or any metal that requires rust treating.
Glass surfaces for table tops and coffee tables are free of toxins, don't trap dust, are non-pollutant and easy to keep clean with natural products such as water and vinegar.
The bedroom is a very important room to take into consideration when striving for a low allergen home. So much time is spent in this room.
Regularly shake the dust out of blankets and adopt a frequent wash cycle for bed linen.
Good quality, hypo-allergenic bedding can be somewhat more expensive, however it’s definitely worth the money in the long run when it comes to feeling healthy. Latex mattresses and pillows are a far better alternative to synthetic fibres and padding.
Apart from the health benefits, they also tend to be more comfortable and maintain their shape and composure over a long period of time. In the long run, quality bedroom furniture will prove more cost-effective as it will last longer.
And who can measure the cost benefits of ones health?
The home is constantly being invaded by pollens, dust mites, mildew and various other dust-related, airborne pollutants. These pollutants in the air can prove very detrimental to the health of asthmatics, and can be a cause of irritation to everyone.
Air purifiers are an excellent way to filter out much of these pollutants and airborne impurities. There are several quality models on the market that are also energy-efficient to run.
They operate by not only filtering out the dust and pollen particles from the air. Integrated into the purifier is also a system of naturally occurring substances that actually break down the pollutants as they cleanse the air before returning the purified air to the room.
A decent air purifier is moderately priced considering the health benefits it provides. Asthma sufferers should definitely have one in their bedroom, and probably one in the living area as well.
A good, constant supply of fresh air is imperative. Kitchens and bathrooms should be equipped with air vents in the ceiling to expel the build up of cooking odours and steam.
Open plan homes tend to offer the best ventilation. If your home isn’t very open, then try to have the doors and windows open as much as possible. However, having the doors and windows screened is important. Screens don’t just keep out annoying flies and pests, they also tend to work as dust filters. It’s important to keep the screens clean. Vacuum them regularly. A small portable car vacuum is often handy for this purpose.
Ceiling fans are good for stirring up the air and keeping us cool, but they are also chronic dust havens. The fan blades must be cleaned frequently, probably once a week in summer. This will go a long way in preventing fans from spreading dust around the house. The same rule also applies to pedestal and desk fans.
Filters in air conditioners should also be cleaned on a regular basis.
Curtains and Blinds
Window dressing is another good source of dust and pollutant accumulation. If you suffer from allergies, avoid horizontal blinds at all costs, especially the wooden variety. All those flat surfaces to collect dust. Not to mention the headache to keep them clean. Vertical blinds are a far better option.
In the case of conventional curtains, select cotton or hemp materials and wash them regularly to remove pollutant build-up. Roman blinds not only look stylish in modern homes, but many of them are made from allergen-free materials these days.
House plants are the most natural way to purify the air we breathe in the home. Plants convert carbon dioxide back into oxygen. Like a natural air purifier, they trap and absorb many pollutants. Not only do they promote good health, they look great as well.
Some good indoor plants to consider:
- Bird of Paradise
- Kentia Palm
- Rhapis Palm
It’s probably a good idea to avoid freshly cut flowers. The pollens they release are a nightmare for hay fever and allergy sufferers and asthmatics. Obviously there will be occasions when flowers are an expected gift. In this case, be sure to dispose of them before they start to decay and drop buds and pollen everywhere.
Unfortunately pets can often be a great cause of allergies in us humans. If you are an asthmatic or allergy sufferer and you have a pet that you are allergic to, then you have a problem.
Generally though, sufferers won’t own a pet that they are obviously allergic to. Pet hair from cats and dogs can be an irritation though. Therefore pets must be groomed with regular washes, and even more regular brushing to eradicate some of that moulting problem.
The products used to clean the furniture, glass and floors in our homes is a very important point to consider when striving to obtain and maintain a healthy internal living environment.
A good rule of thumb is to select products made from naturally occurring, organic ingredients. Solvents, acids and bleach should be avoided as much as possible.
Using vinegar mixed with water to clean glass surfaces is a great way to keep the air pure. Steam cleaning carpets and floors is another healthy alternative to vacuuming and detergent-based carpet cleaning. A good quality vacuum cleaner with excellent filtration is very important, as some vacuum cleaners tend to blow some of the dust sucked up back into the air, creating an even worse situation.
The simplest method of all for dusting is to use a damp cloth so the dust is collected (without the aid of chemicals), rather that stirred up into the air.
Other Useful Tips
Let’s quickly list a few other handy pointers:
- Regularly clean the lint filters in washing machines and clothes dryers. When using a clothes dryer, keep the doors to the room it is situated in closed while the dryer is operating to minimise the spread of dust and lint.
- Always use non-allergen air fresheners. There is a good range of these on the market today as manufacturers’ awareness of allergies and the environment is at an all-time high.
- Scent-free, hypo-allergenic tissues is also a healthy and smart choice.
- With regards to wardrobes and walk-in robes, always keep the doors shut when not in use. This will help to avoid a build up of pollutants on clothing, not to mention keeping them cleaner and smelling fresher.
- One final tip. Try to avoid cluttering surfaces with too many ornaments and knick knacks. These not only aid dust built up, they also make it more difficult to keep these flat surfaces clean. The ‘less is more’ principal is a good one to keep in mind when it comes to asthmatics and allergy sufferers.
We can’t avoid every pollutant and speck of dust in the world, but applying just a few of the principals in this article will go a long way to helping everyone breathe easier in the home.