6 Home Renovation Tips For Asthmatics
Having a disease like asthma means recognizing asthma triggers, or potential asthma triggers, in your home and learning how to control them. This is something my wife and I have to deal with, as both myself and three of our children have asthma/ allergies. So far we have gotten by with what we have, although as our home gets older we’ve decided it’s time for some home updates to make our home look nicer, and also to allow for easier breathing. Here are six home renovation tips for people with asthma.
1. Get rid of wall to wall carpet. Carpet is nice in that it provides a comfortable surface for sitting and playing, which comes in handy especially when you have small children. It also creates a warm environment inside your home. At least I find this to be the case in our home.
The problem with carpet is that it acts as a breeding ground for microscopic flakes of skin that naturally fall off our bodies during the course of a typical day. This may sound like no big deal, especially considering you cannot see these flakes of skin.
But, if you have allergies to dust mites, it is a big deal. This is because these flakes of skin are the favorite food of dust mites, which are harmless microscopic, spider-like creatures. Each mite makes about 20 “waste droppings” every day, and when you consider there are about 100,000 in a square yard of carpet, that makes for a ton of potential allergens. Their feces can get into the air for you to inhale, and they contain a protein that can trigger allergy and asthma attacks.1
Vinyl flooring is an inexpensive option, although wood floors are very stylish right now and are a nice option for asthmatics. Actually, our neighbors went with wood grain tile, and it was inexpensive and looks very nice. When we get rid of the carpet in our home, this is what we are thinking of replacing it with.
Even as dust piles up, the smooth surface makes floors easier to clean and keep dust free. If you must have carpet, go with low pile carpet that can be easily vacuumed (HEPA filter a must) and shampooed frequently. Rugs and floor mats should be washed weekly.2
2. Get rid of upholstered furniture. Another place that harbors flakes of dead skin is upholstered furniture. This is what we have in our home mainly because it was an inexpensive option that fit into our budget at the time.
We often sit, and sometimes even sleep, on our brown upholstered couch in our living room for a good portion of the day, and so you can imagine it can easily become infested with dust mites. The upholstered couch in our basement has sat unused and uncleaned for so long it even smells like dust.
Accidental water spills on upholstered furniture can also create a nice breeding ground for mold spores, and this recently happened on our living room couch (the culprit never confessed). This is something we had to deal with recently, and it was a hassle.
So, a better option is to go with vinyl, wood, plastic, leather, or faux leather. These are all good options because they can easily be wiped clean. If you must have upholstered furniture, do not sleep or lie on them. I will have trouble heeding this advice.3
3.Get rid of wood stoves. There are actually two reasons for avoiding the use of burning wood as a source of heat and comfort. The first is the wood used for burning has to be piled up somewhere, and often inside the home, or next to the fireplace. This wood can contain outdoor allergens, particularly mold spores.
The second is that the burning of wood causes a series of chemical reactions releasing chemicals and other airway irritants into the air that you breathe. This can be a serious asthma trigger, and it can also make asthma worse in general, and harder to control.
This was a serious issue for me when I was a kid, as my parents decided when I was very young that wood heat was less expensive than other options. I do not fault my parents, as they did not know what I know now about wood heat.
As the old saying goes, you do the best with what you know today, and as you learn better you do better. When the time came for me to buy a home, wood heating was not an option. Our home is heated with a central heating system that has a filter that can be easily replaced. If you use wood heat, you may want to consider other options, such as…
4. Adding a central heating and cooling system. Central heating systems both warm and filter air, keeping it free from potential asthma triggers. Central cooling systems offer their own advantages. As the air gets warmer (as in the summer months), it tends to hold more humidity. Humid air tends to be heavier, and harder to inhale. It also creates a nice breeding ground for both dust mites and mold spores.
Dust mites love temperatures between 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity between 70-80%. Mold spores love humidity greater than 50%. Because cool air can become dry and irritate airways, thereby triggering asthma, most experts recommend keeping the humidity in your home between 30-50%, and this can easily be accomplished with a central heating and cooling system. Make sure the filter is easy to remove and either clean or replace it at least once a year. 4, 5, 6
Our home was brand new when we moved into it, although we did not have it built. If we did, it would also have central air. However, considering the cost, we decided to go without it. This may have been a poor decision, as the humidity in our basement during the summer months allowed for the growth of mold, which was a bummer to clean. We now run a dehumidifier, although plan on adding central air before next summer.
5. Fix any leaks in your home and remove mold. Speaking of mold, anywhere there is standing water in your home there is bound to be mold. Any leak, no matter how small, should be fixed right away.
Common places for leaks and mold build-up are in your bathroom and basement. These rooms also have an increased risk for high humidity needed for mold growth. Make sure you have a vent in your bathroom, and that you run it during and for about 30 minutes after taking showers. If possible, keep the bathroom door open to allow for ideal ventilation.
If mold is recognized, it must be cleaned. Mold can build up around your shower walls, on the tub, and shower curtain. It can also build up on walls and furniture in your basement, especially during the dog days of summer.
I had some antique wood furniture in my basement that was special because my grandma gave it to me. A few summers ago I realized it was covered with mold. At first I thought I would have to toss it, although my wife’s aunt advised that I take the furniture outside, wear a mask, and wipe the mold off with a mixture of ½ cup of bleach and a quart of water. This worked like a charm.
Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to clean up mold without making sure the area is well ventilated. I stupidly attempted this when I first observed the basement mold, and it caused a very serious asthma attack. If anyone should have known better it would be me, but even we asthma experts can get brave and stupid from time to time.
Mold can be cleaned, although make sure you wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Better yet, have someone else, someone without asthma, do it. 7, 8
6. Get rid of blinds with slats, shutters and curtains. Blinds, shutters, and curtains work nice for providing privacy and blocking out light, although they can easily become infested with dust mites, mold spores, and pollen, and can be difficult to clean. I can tell you this from personal experience, as I can gather quite a bit of dust between my fingers as I rub the slats over our bed.
And, as I’ve read, there can be hundreds of dust mites in a pinch of dust. So, if you can see dust, there are bound to be dust mites and dust mite feces to be inhaled. 9
A better option is to replace these with pull down shades. Shades have a smoother surface that are less likely to hold allergens, and they can be easily wiped clean. The window itself can also harbor these allergens, and shades that roll up to the top of the window make it easier to clean the window. You can, however, get curtains that are washable if you want to go that route, although you’ll have to make sure you clean them routinely to prevent allergens from building up on them. 10,11,12
These are the recommendations. The home renovation tips offered here should help keep the air in your home and my home asthma trigger free. Of course it will also entail cleaning your home regularly to keep surfaces free from these triggers.
As I can attest, this is not an easy task, and it can also get to be quite expensive. However, our present budget should allow for us to make many of the renovations mentioned here. Yes, I shall heed my own tips, so long as no unexpected bills pop up.
So, what do you think? Is your house allergy proof? Or are there renovations in your future? Let us know in the comments below.
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