Allergies, Asthma, and IAQ: What You Need to Know
Improve IAQ for Asthma and Allergy Relief
Written by CW Suter
Air Quality Health
National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month
If you’ve checked us out on social media lately (we encourage it), you probably know that May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. To help raise awareness of these conditions, we will be discussing allergies, asthma, and how you can improve indoor air quality make your home more allergy & asthma friendly. Let’s start with the basics:
Allergies: What You Need to Know
An allergy is when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance called an allergen. An allergen could be something you inhale into your lungs, eat, touch, or inject into your body. This reaction could cause itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, a scratchy throat, and runny nose. If a severe reaction a occurs, it can cause hives, rashes, breathing trouble, low blood sugar, asthma attacks, and even death. Allergies are on the rise. They effect about 30% of adults and 40% of children.
Asthma: What You Need to Know
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that narrows and inflames the airways, and according to the CDC, the number of people with asthma is on the rise as well.
One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of the population) had asthma in 2009, compared with 1 in 14 (about 20 million, or 7%) in 2001. More than half (53%) of people with asthma had an asthma attack in 2008. More children (57%) than adults (51%) had an attack.
Asthma causes chest tightness, wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing. An attack can be much more severe, and if you don’t have asthma, it’s hard to imagine what an attack feels like. Some have described it as feeling as though they are breathing through a straw, while others say it feels like they are suffocating, choking, or drowning.
How Does an Asthma Attack Occur?
An asthma attack can happen when someone is exposed to asthma triggers. Asthma triggers vary from person to person. The most common triggers include:
- Tobacco smoke
- Dust Mites
- Cockroach Allergen
- Air pollution
- Smoke from burning grass or wood
Indoor Air Pollution: A Contributing Factor
Many different things in our homes can be asthma triggers and can affect people with both asthma and allergies. With over 90% of our days being spent indoors, it’s important to have healthy indoor air quality to reduce the exposure to triggers of these conditions. Poor indoor air quality can make the symptoms of an asthma sufferer worse, but beyond that, it can play a role in the development of asthma in small children.
Odds are, you either suffer from asthma or allergies or you know someone who does. Healthy indoor air quality is extremely important, and there are many ways you can make your home more allergy and asthma friendly.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Every HVAC system is different, but no matter which type of system you have, proper ventilation, filtration, and humidity control are the keys to healthy indoor air quality.
Ventilation – Houses are being built with energy conservation in mind, but a tight building envelope makes for poor indoor ventilation. Poor indoor air ventilation is a recipe for disaster when it comes to allergens and irritants. It’s important to allow clean, outdoor air in to dilute the allergens and irritants whenever possible. This will improve indoor air quality.
Filtration – Change your filter regularly, because a clogged filter can affect the health of your family. Airborne particles are not removed efficiently through a clogged filter. Also, you may want to consider a filter upgrade to further improve your indoor air quality. Ask one of our HVAC experts about different filter options at your next Spring or Fall check up.
Humidity Control – Generally, you want to keep the humidity in your home between 30-50%. This will help in the prevention of mold growth which occurs from high humidity, while ensuring that members of your family don’t suffer from the effects of low humidity (nose bleeds, dry throat, irritated sinuses). Living in Iowa, the relative humidity levels may need to adjust a bit more depending on the outside temperature. If you’re interested in what the humidity levels should be in your home based on the outdoor temperature, or you want more tips on how to improve indoor air quality, you’ll want to check out our article “6 Ways To Improve Indoor Air Quality.”
It’s important to have an HVAC expert inspect your system regularly (we recommend twice a year) to ensure that everything is operating safely. During these times, we will also be able to catch and fix any indoor air quality issues. Contact us to schedule your appointment.
These graphics are provided by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. Feel free to download and share them! Let’s get the word out: There is no cure for asthma, but there are ways to take control!