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Oregon Family Magazine

Breathe Easy

04/01/2020 08:58PM ● By Lisa Bruckner, Marshall’s Heating and Air
Air Pollution is often thought of as something outside… smog, ozone, and smoke.  But the truth is, the air inside our homes and offices can be more polluted than the air outside! Indoor air can be polluted by lead (in household dust), fire-retardants, radon, VOC’s from fragrances in cleaners and air fresheners, and even from the new mattress or couch we just bought.

If your seasonal allergy symptoms are getting worse lately, you are not alone! According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), due to climate change, pollen counts are rising and lasting longer - extending allergy season up to 10 months in some areas. The AAAAI also reported pollen counts are expected to double by the year 2040. (yikes!)  That’s a big problem for adults and children with seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever). Research has found nearly 80 percent of people with seasonal allergies report symptoms that significantly impair their quality of life. Common symptoms include coughing, runny nose, sore throat, itchy, watery, and puffy red eyes, headache and trouble sleeping. Many people mistakenly think they have a bad cold or the flu because symptoms are so bad.

Minimizing Allergy Symptoms

Help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms by pollen-proofing your home environment. How?  …You might be surprised!

In Consumer Reports “How to Ease Seasonal Allergy Symptoms" they advise people who suffer from allergies to: Run the air conditioner. You may be tempted to throw the windows open, but those lovely breezes carry pollen into your home. “You want to keep doors and windows closed, so no pollen can get in,” Lockey says. An air purifier might help, too.

The Mayo Clinic advises allergy sufferers to keep indoor air clean. There's no miracle product to eliminate all allergens from indoor air, but these suggestions may help:

  • Use air conditioning in your house and car.
  • If you have forced air heating or air conditioning, use high-efficiency filters and follow regular maintenance schedules.
  • Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
  • Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in bedrooms.

4 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Air Purifiers 

There are several brands of air purifiers (some with NASA technology!) that can be installed directly into a furnace/AC system. Using these, along with smaller plug-in wall units is helpful – they’re less bulky, more energy efficient, and take up less space. The point is, bigger isn't always better. Air filtration is important and goes a long way in taming allergens. If your furnace uses a filter, you can also utilize a thicker, 4-5 inch high-efficiency media filter for better air filtration, which also helps reduce the frequency of filter changes.  Additionally, you can opt for high-efficiency carbon (charcoal) filters to help eliminate indoor odors from pets, cooking, etc. usually cleared by opening windows (not advised during allergy season).

Clean Up Those Floors!

Chemicals and allergens can accumulate in household dust for decades.  Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter reduces concentrations of lead in your home. In high-traffic areas vacuum often and diligently.  Mopping can pick up dust left behind by vacuuming and doesn’t require additional soaps or solutions. Plain water works just fine!

Don’t Let it In

We track a lot of dirt, pesticides, and pollutants inside by way of the dirt on our shoes. Using a large door mat at every door will keep most pollutants on the mat – not your floors.

Make Home a No-Smoking Zone

"Probably the single most important aspect of indoor air pollution is secondhand cigarette smoke," says Philip Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. With cigarette smoke containing 4,000+ chemicals, indoor smoke increases a child’s risk of developing respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and SIDS.

More Help…

Your health and well-being are important. Seasonal allergy symptoms can flare up when pollen counts spike, so being aware of daily pollen counts can help you take extra precautions. Here are some additional links and references to help you know when pollen counts are on the move.

  • Oregon Allergy Associates here in Eugene is one of approximately 50 stations across the nation that collects pollen count data and provides it to a scientific database for the National Allergy Bureau. They have an easy to read pollen count web page you can check regularly to monitor if pollens you are sensitive to are high or low in your local area. 
  • The AAAAI also offers a pollen count report on their website as well as a Pollen/Mold mobile App.
  • LRAPA (Lane Regional Air Protection Agency) also has a great Air Quality Index Report for Cottage Grove, Eugene/Springfield and Oakridge which changes throughout the day as air quality changes. This report is especially helpful during wildfire season.