Is Your Indoor Air Affecting Your Allergies?

Staying indoors during allergy season may seem like a good strategy when you have allergies, but indoor air can be just as irritating to allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s website, “dust mites, animal dander and even cockroaches can cause problems indoors.”

Dust mites are a chief culprit for allergy sufferers, affecting up to 8 out of 10 Americans. The best way to control dust mites is to minimize their effect  by keeping all surfaces in the home clean, and by minimizing clutter. The AAFA recommends eliminating carpet altogether, or at a bare minimum to use only washable throw rugs or a low-piled carpet. The AAFA goes on to say that:

The single most important method is to put zippered allergen impermeable or plastic covers on all pillows, mattresses and box springs. Encasing mattresses works better than air cleaners to reduce allergy symptoms. Every week, wash bedding, uncovered pillows and stuffed toys in hot water (130 degree F.) to kill mites.

Animal dander is another culprit, impacting up to 6 out 10 people in the U.S. Doctors recommend not having pets if you are allergic to pet dander. If you must have a pet, first take a break from the animal, either by vacation, or keeping the pet out of the house for at least two months, since pet dander can linger in homes that long. The AAFA recommends slowly introducing the pet back into the home, and seeing if symptoms are attributable to the pet. If so, they advise carefully considering if the pet is worth the discomfort. They also recommend keeping the pet out of your bedroom, and perhaps choosing a pet without fur or feathers.

By vacuuming once or twice a week using a HEPA filter or double-bagged vacuum, some allergens can be controlled. Also cleaning dust with a damp cloth is another good method for keeping irritating particles at a minimum in the home.

Keeping moisture out of the home wherever possible can help control mold, which is another offending allergen. Also keeping only a few house plants and using a dehumidifier will help as well.

Cockroach debris is another culprit that reduces indoor air quality. Following recommended methods for controlling cockroaches can limit the effects of their debris.

Finally, running air conditioning in warm weather, recycling the indoor air, goes a long way to control outside allergens from entering the home. Window unit filters should be changed often. Also, air purifiers and cleaners can help to keep allergens at a minimum.

“January in July”: The Mysterious Case of Over-Cooling in the Summer

ColdIn the sweltering heat of the summer you may have noticed the contrast between the high temperatures outside and the frigid indoor temperatures of certain buildings. In the New York Times‘ Sunday Review, Elisabeth Rosenthal noted this common disparity, pointing out how she often needs to wear a sweatshirt indoors when the weather outside is close to 100 degrees.

The recommended setting for a thermostat during the summer is 78 degrees, which helps conserve energy costs and fights against increasing greenhouse gas emissions. However, many homes and businesses set their thermostats to temperatures in the low 70s or high 60s. Many are aware of this trend, which explains why some will go to a movie theater simply to escape the heat.

Rosenthal explains that this is likely attributed to the expectation of having “January in July.” Alan Hedge, a Cornell University professor specializing in Design and Environmental Analysis, states that “in the United States there is a strong marketing emphasis on cold. When you get a soda it’s chock full of ice. We serve beer chilled. We make a virtue of freezing things.”

And certainly it’s the people being chilled too. Low indoor temperatures were once a necessary trend, but many wonder if it’s necessary now when air conditioning has become such a staple of residences. Businesses across the world have started to reduce what is known as “over-cooling.” Whether it’s Italian energy company Eni or Japan’s Cool Biz initiative to increase thermostats to around 80 degrees, the issue has been noted and solutions are being offered.

While some may enjoy the cold or not deem it necessary to do anything about over-cooling, Rosenthal argues that the rising cost of energy and the increase of greenhouse gas emissions make this is a necessary endeavor.