It’s that wonderful time of year when the weather is mild, a breeze is in the air, and the sun is shining….but it’s also one of the peak allergy seasons of the year. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies annually, and it’s the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. Even those who aren’t allergic can still have adverse symptoms related to biological pollutants.
Common biological pollutants include bacteria, mold, mildew, viruses, pollen, animal dander and saliva, house dust, and mites. These pollutants can be distributed throughout your home without proper air filtration. In addition, a contaminated central air handling system can become breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and other sources of biological contaminants and can then distribute these contaminants through your home. That’s why we’re uncovering the sources, and showing you how you can limit your exposure.
Types of allergens that affect indoor air quality
There are three main categories of pollen: tree pollen, weed pollen, and grass pollen. In each category, there are different species that produce more pollen than others. We’ll break down these categories to show which species are the biggest offenders in our local Houston areas. Pollen counts are highest in the morning, between 5 and 10 am, so avoid going outside when possible during that time. Pollen masks are available and great to use when doing yard work or mowing the lawn. Always be sure to change your clothes and shower after spending time outside to get rid of the pollen or grass clippings clinging to your clothes and skin and reduce the contamination of your indoor air. If you have allergy sensitivities, keep your windows closed and avoid drying your clothes outside Changing your air filters at least once a month during the pollen seasons is an effective way to reduce the allergen contamination in your home.
- Oak (Quercus)
- Hickory, Pecan (Carya)
- Hackberry (Celtis)
- Cedar (Cupressaceae)
- Pine (Pinaceae)
- Willow (Salix)
- Mulberry (Morus)
- Sycamore (Platanus)
- Cottonwood (Populus)
- Sheep Sorel (Rumex)
- Sedge (Cyperaceae)
- Plantain (Plantago)
- Rye Grass
- Bermuda Grass
- Johnson Grass
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Timothy Grass
- Sweet Vernal Grass
- Orchard Grass
Mold produces irritants, allergens, and – in some cases – mycotoxins (which can cause a variety of serious adverse health effects). They reproduce by releasing spores that travel through the air, typically during the seasons similar to pollen but a couple species release them all year. Mold spores can even produce allergy symptoms in people who aren’t allergic and more serious conditions for those who are allergic or sensitive to them.
Mold grows best in moist environments. So, to prevent the growth of mold, regular and thorough cleaning is important. In addition, your central air conditioner helps control the humidity levels in your home. A properly sized air conditioner will keep the humidity levels around 45% to 60% at 74 degrees. This will greatly reduce the ability for mold to grow and spread throughout your home. Pay close attention to commonly damp areas like bathrooms. Immediately fix leaks, provide proper ventilation, and consider investing in an air purifier and a dehumidifier. More from the EPA
Even “hypoallergenic” pet breeds can cause allergic reactions in allergy sufferers. When you have these allergies, your body’s immune system reacts to proteins in the pet’s urine, saliva, or dander. Even if you do not have a pet allergy, the hair that collects on furniture and other surfaces can actually carry additional allergens like dust and pollen. While owning pets, one of the best things that you can do to reduce allergens associated with them is regular grooming. Consider replacing any carpet with hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring. Vacuum and steam clean carpets and upholstery consistently. Invest in whole-home air purification systems that can remove or eliminate these contaminants, and follow recommended grooming guidelines for your pet.
Dust & Mites
The dust in your house is a nasty mixture of dead skin cells, fibers shed from carpet and upholstery, and tracked-in dirt or airborne particulate from the outdoors. Household dust not only contributes to allergy symptoms, it creates a home and breeding ground for allergen-producing dust mites. These microscopic insect-like pests feed on dead skin cells from people and pets and live on upholstered furniture, curtains, mattresses, carpets, and any other dust-collecting surface. They are a leading source of allergens and can worsen asthma and other allergy symptoms. While there’s no way to completely rid your home of them, there are steps you can take to control their effect. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels at, or below, 50 percent. Protect your mattress and pillows with dust-proof or allergen-repellent covers. Wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water, 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, to kill dust mites. Non-washable bedding can be frozen overnight. Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. Never use a dry cloth, as it will only stir up allergens. Use a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner or consider investing in a central vacuum cleaner.
There are countless pollutants and allergens in the air each day, and there’s nothing you can do to completely eliminate them. But you want to keep your home’s air quality clean and comfortable, especially if you have allergies or sensitivities. Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When left untreated, indoor air contaminants accumulate to dangerous levels, posing a great risk to our health — especially for children, the elderly, and those with existing respiratory illnesses.
How to improve the air quality in your home:
Whole-Home Air Purification
Whole-home air purification eliminates irritants and allergens like pet dander, pollen, and mold spores. It can help keep your family healthy by reducing illness-causing pathogens, bacteria and airborne viruses, and improving your overall air quality by eliminating up to 90% of airborne particulates.
Air cleaners can extend the life of your heating and cooling unit while maximizing efficiency. A quality air cleaner saves you money on your electric bill while keeping your HVAC equipment clean. It can also trap indoor allergens, larger contaminants, and microscopic particles that can cause or irritate respiratory issues. Morgan Pro’s air cleaners last longer than a standard furnace filter – up to 4x the lifespan!
Intense and prolonged UV light is an effective way of eliminating organic pollutants like mildew, mold, fungi, bacteria, and viruses present inside the air conditioning system. They can also be installed near the evaporator coil to keep A/C equipment clean while improving air flow and preventing microbial build-up from becoming airborne.
According to the EPA, the relative humidity in your home should be kept below 60 percent — ideally between 30 and 50 percent. For Houston’s climate, Morgan Pro recommends between 45 and 60 percent at a temperature of 74°F. Whole-Home Dehumidifiers work to reduce overly humid conditions and help protect your furnishings and other belongings from warpage, mildew, and rot. They inhibit unhealthy conditions by reducing the growth of allergens like mold, mildew, dust mites, and even cockroaches. Dehumidifiers increase the overall comfort in your home while eliminating odors from must and mildew.