November 2009 Newsletter

Allergy-Proof Your Home for the Winter

Allergies are often considered a thing of the spring and summer, associated with seasonal tree and flower blooms and high levels of pollen in the air. What people tend to forget is that while outdoor allergens are less of an issue during the winter months, when the weather is cooler and we spend more time inside of our homes, allergies can just as easily be triggered. It is easy to confuse allergy symptoms with the symptoms of the common cold. Pay careful attention to headaches, congestion, itchy nose and throat, and swollen eyes. It could be a cold, the flu, or allergies caused by polluted indoor air. If you have a fever, you probably have a virus, but without a fever, those symptoms could be caused by irritating particles in the air.

Top Five Indoor Contaminants:

  • VOCs from laser printers, new carpeting, fresh paint, etc.
  • Mold (caused by moisture from showers, sinks, leaks)
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Smoke from cigarettes, wood burning stoves, and fireplaces

No matter how clean your house seems, indoor air pollution is a reality. In an effort to increase efficiency, new homes are built with extremely tight seals on windows and doors which keep the cold air out, but unfortunately also trap VOCs, dust, chemicals from household cleaners, formaldehyde from stoves, and other contaminants inside. Carpet, clothing, furniture and clothes harbor pet dander and dust, and fumes from household cleaners tend to linger if a house lacks adequate circulation. Ventilation, if weather permits, is a simple way to increase air flow and push out toxins. Vacuum carpets and wash towels, clothing, bedding and furniture covers frequently to reduce pet dander. Use non-toxic cleaning products to reduce harmful fumes. In "The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality," the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies indoor air pollution as a serious concern. The EPA suggests source control, ventilation improvements, and air cleaners as three strategies for managing the air quality in your home. If your house is a destination for friends and family during the holidays, it is especially important to rid the air indoors of irritants, to ensure the comfort of your guests who may have allergies and sensitivities of their own.