Getting Sick Indoors??

Taking Shelter Indoors Could Lead to a Serious Case of the Sniffles

This winter has been strange, to say the least. The Polar Vortex brought oppressively cold record-breaking temperatures to parts of the United States in January, and ice storms across the South and the East Coast caused all kinds of problems on Valentine’s Day weekend. Right now, there are actually 49 states with snow -- Florida being the anomaly – according to a report from USA Today. Even webcams in Hawaii are showing snow on mountain peaks. Despite all of that, Arizona, New Mexico, and California all had top-10 warm winters.

Unfortunately, the harsh cold weather doesn't mean that staying warm and being extra careful on the way to work is all that Americans have had to deal with this winter. In addition, many have to fight winter allergies. Staying inside might be the best, if not only, way to stay warm when the temperature plummets, but doing so might allow indoor allergens to have a greater effect.

“If you experience more than nine days of continuing congestion, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal drip, chances are good that you are reacting to the presence of either dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, or mold somewhere in your home, office or school," said Dr. Joan Lehach of the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “"Many times, and especially in the inner city where populations are dense, all four of these allergens are present and must be addressed."

Homes are hardly as ever clean as owners might prefer, especially when owners don’t have time to do extensive cleaning every week. As a result, there are all kinds of allergens and bacteria that might be unseen but could cause you to get sick. Sarah Lonsdale writes that, “Our homes are reservoirs of a toxic ‘chemical soup’ that can cause asthma, eczema, allergies and other autoimmune disorders,” even though they might look clean. That idea might be a bit of an exaggeration, but spending all day indoors breathing in allergens can certainly make people sick.  

The dirt, grime, and bacteria that work their way into homes are not the only health risk. In reality, some of the cleaners used to get rid of them can actually have a negative impact.

Alan Berman, an architect at Berman Guedes Stretton and author of <em>Green Design: a Healthy Home Handbook</em> says, “While a single spray of a cleaner won’t cause harm, these chemicals build up in the home environment, particularly in carpet dust.”

“Commonly used substances like cleaners and paints have a whole raft of unknown substances in them,” adds chief executive of the National Eczema Society Margaret Cox. “Thirty years ago household cleaners were much simpler – soap, bicarb, vegetable oil and vinegar.”

Thankfully, there are several things homeowners can do to prevent dirt and allergens from building up in the first place. They can make the difference between adding to allergens with sprays and cleaners all the time and keeping the air in a home clean and easy to breath.

Dr. Lehach has a number of recommendations for fighting back against winter allergies. Her list includes inspecting for mold, lowering home humidity, eating properly, and washing bedding on the “hot” setting, amongst other things.

But the best method of keeping carpets clean is to use walk off mats. Giving people a place to wipe their feet might seem like a bit of a novel concept, but it really does help to keep carpets clean, especially during the winter months when salt, dirt, slush, and snow can cling to shoes and clothing and find their way into the living room.

Until the cold subsides for good this year, which might seem impossible considering how endless it has felt, staying indoors is often the only way to stay comfortable.  But since that might mean spending more time breathing in allergens, using tips to keep carpets and other items clean can be quite beneficial.

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