When we think of summer, we typically think of heat, the smell of barbecue burning in the air or the satisfaction that comes from a brisk swim in a pool. But for some people, the dog days of summer can come with the inconvenience that is allergies.
Allergies are typically associated with the outdoors–however, your home could be the cause of your seasonal allergies–especially during warmer months.
How do you make sure your home isn’t the cause of your congestion. It’s actually easy! It all depends on how well you take care of your home’s air quality.
Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy, safe, and won’t have much effect on us since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, productivity, and more–even our quality of sleep.
Our air is filled with a variety of different factors that determine how healthy it is, and some of these factors can have a noticeable effect on our health–and even trigger allergies or allergy symptoms.
So how do you make sure you’re in control of the air quality in your home, before your allergy symptoms take control of you? To help you get started, we created a quick list of some of the most common ways these warm months can cause allergy triggers in your home:
Allergies can be triggered by pet dander and high heat causes common indoor pets like dogs and cats to shed at a higher rate. Pet dander can accumulate to become harmful to your health, especially if you suffer from respiratory issues or allergies.
Many of us believe pet dander is produced from pet’s fur. Pet dander is actually derived from the skin scales of the animal. As they shed their old skin, the dander can irritate your eyes, nose or throat and irritate them. Since the dander is so small, you can’t always see it, which makes it easy to transfer and harder to clean.
Pet dander can be found in various places around your home, including but not limited to areas such as clothing, curtains, bedding, carpeting, furniture and even your home’s air.
Not only is it difficult to beat a heat wave, but the last thing we need is an increase in pet dander allergies. Luckily they’re a number of steps we can take to mitigate this issue:
- Air Purifier
An air purifier will help remove contaminants from the air in a room. However, not all purifiers are created equally–consult with your allergist on which air purifier is right for you before adding one to your home.
- Keep Your Home Clean & Clutter-Free
We recommend vacuuming once or twice a week. Vacuum with caution since the act of vacuuming can kick up dust: always make sure to wear a face mask and that your vacuum has a HEPA filter!
- Bathe Your Pet
Bathe your pet frequently with a good pet shampoo that supports healthy skin. If a dog’s skin is dry
or irritated there is a higher chance for dander.
- Cover Your Litter Box
We may not realize most kitty litter is clay-based, which contributes to a
rise in dust. This dust can cling to your feline friend’s fur and spread throughout your home.
Volatile organic compounds–or VOCs–are very common chemicals that are found on everyday household items such as furniture, paint, flooring, cleaning products, packaging, and more. When any of these items are exposed to high levels of heat, the VOCs they contain will evaporate into the air in your home in a process known as off-gassing.
Breathing in high levels of VOCs has been known to cause a variety of health problems including headaches, nausea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and allergies.
If you experience allergy symptoms in your home on hot summer days it could be due to VOCs found in your furniture or paint off-gassing. To help prevent accelerated off-gassing in your home, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your home’s indoor temperature. A great solution for naturally keeping your home cool is to keep blinds closed throughout the day–preferably with white heat-reflecting blinds–to reduce the amount of heat and direct sunlight entering your home.
Another great way to reduce the levels of VOCs in your home is by opting for VOC-free products. Choosing hardwood floor varnish and oil-based paints that fall under the GreenGuard Environmental Institute Product Guide is also a great way to reduce and prevent off-gassing.
Higher outdoor temperatures can trigger certain plants to pollinate, and many of us can experience seasonal allergies in the summer as a result. It’s easy to believe that the best way to avoid seasonal allergies is to spend more time indoors, but we can easily forget that a heat wave can just as easily trigger our indoor plants to pollinate. If you’re sensitive to pollen, make sure you aren’t creating a second wave of seasonal allergies in your home by avoiding these allergy-inducing plants:
- Daisy and Chamomile
Daisies and Chamomile are notorious for producing pollen that can spread throughout your home.
- Bonsai Trees
Bonsai trees can be members of the juniper and cedar family-and the larger, outdoor versions of these trees are one of the most common causes of allergies. Don’t underestimate Bonsais due to their size-these miniature plants have been known to cause the same allergy symptoms as their larger cousins, especially in a small indoor area with limited airflow.
- Male Palms
Palm plants can be either male or female, and while female palms are considered safe for allergy sufferers, male palms are known to produce serious amounts of pollen.
Humidity and Mold
Have you ever wondered why some summer days are almost suffocatingly hot? More often than not, the culprit is humidity. Humidity is a measurement of the amount of water in the air we breathe-typically in the form of water vapor. Humidity plays an important role in your overall comfort, and too high or low humidity can cause health problems. Humidity can also play an important role in your allergies.
Air that has too much moisture creates a breeding ground for allergens like mildew, mold, dust mites and bacteria. These irritants make their way into your home through the ventilation system, windows, and doors. With the right conditions–like plenty of moisture in the air–they can multiply into whole colonies of allergens within hours.
Dust mites in particular can be a problem in humid areas. When there’s high humidity, dust mites feast off of our skin cells and absorb the moisture in the air through their bodies. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends keeping indoor humidity below 50% to keep dust mite populations down.
While you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to regulate the humidity inside your house to help reduce your allergy symptoms. We recommend keeping indoor humidity levels between 40% and 50%. Running your air conditioner will help remove excess humidity from the air as well as adding a dehumidifier to your home.
Keeping your home comfortable and allergy-free can seem extra difficult when it’s hot outside. The best way to keep track of the allergens in your home is with an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair 2nd Edition. Awair tracks toxins and chemicals in your air to help you stay safe and healthy-any time of year.