Allergic reactions happen when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance. When you have seasonal allergies, it’s often because there is a high amount of pollen particles in the outdoor air.
These particles enter your body through the respiratory tract when you breathe, causing symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, red and watery eyes, swelling around the eyes, and itchiness around the nose, eyes, ears, and mouth.
You can easily check to see if the air quality is good or bad before you walk out the front door with a weather app, but what about the air indoors? How do we prevent pollen and other allergens from reaching us inside our homes? Start with these three tips:
While there’s usually nothing wrong with letting a little fresh air into your space, it’s something you’ll want to be careful of in spring if you suffer from seasonal allergies. When you leave your windows open, outdoor particulate makes its way inside your home. If you have fans or your HVAC running, this will quickly circulate pollen throughout your home and leave you in an allergy flare up.
On high-pollen days, outside air coming in could be counterproductive due to high particulate matter from the pollen count. Try cleaning with the doors and windows closed during allergy season.
Like pollen, mold can create tiny particles that pass right through the respiratory tract and enter the bloodstream. If you’ve recently had a water-damage event, you could have mold or harmful bacteria particles circulating in the air in your home. For many people, exposure to these can produce an allergy-like reaction. That’s why it’s always important to take care of water damage.
If you have water damage, call your insurance company right away as it may be covered by insurance. Some molds can grow in as quickly as 24 hours, so it is important to have any wet building material removed promptly. Once that’s completed, it’s important to make sure the surrounding area stays dry. Use dehumidification machines, instead of air movers, as air movers could unintentionally blow mold and/or toxins around.
If you think the water may have intruded for longer than a 24-hour period, then you will want to hire a professional mold remediation firm to remove the building material under the proper engineering controls. Reacting as quickly as possible is the best way to ensure that the problem doesn’t get worse, causing adverse health reactions from neglecting to dry the space properly and quickly.
Cleaning up with just a towel is not enough as water can remain trapped between building substrates for longer periods of time, even after the surface itself is dry. Think about what happens if you leave a wet towel on the floor; the floor underneath the towel stays wet for a long period of time because it traps moisture between the floor and the towel. This is what happens between your walls and floors when there is a substantial leak.
Think of your heating and air conditioning system as the lungs of your home. Clogged HVAC filters are ineffective at cleaning the air and can recirculate allergens throughout your home. If these particles become recirculated and continue to be aerosolized, they can get into the respiratory tract.
Switching out HVAC filters is something you’ll want to do every three months. Some people may have main return boxes with filter grilles in a common area like a hallway where you can easily change out the filter. Others may have their filter located at the HVAC unit itself in the return duct right next to the unit. It’s uncommon that you’d have both, but it’s always good to double-check.
Have your HVAC equipment and ductwork thoroughly cleaned by a professional once a year. The best time to clean is during seasonal transitions, when you’re going from using the heat to the air conditioning or vice versa. Doing it at the start of spring will help you breathe easy for the rest of the season.