by Kimberly Blackford
As the days grow cooler and families settle back into their busy school year routines, everyone has cold and flu season in the back of their minds. The home is supposed to be a harbor of health and safety, a place where families can let loose and relax – unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Taking a few precautions now can make help keep your home a happy and healthy oasis.
Good ventilation - When the weather turns cold, it is a natural desire to seal your house from top to bottom. In actuality, completely airtight homes can trap stale air inside making indoor air pollution all the more likely. There are a number of steps to take to keep your home warm and cozy while keeping the air flowing:
- Try to leave doors open between frequently used rooms to keep air moving and temperature balanced. Unused rooms can be shut off if they do not need to be heated, but open them regularly to allow air movement.
- Open windows whenever possible to get fresh air in. Keep an eye on the pollen count to ensure you are not introducing too many allergens into your home, but on the right days, the fresh air can do wonders.
- Change filters and clean vents regularly.
- Have chimneys, furnaces, and other heating appliances inspected to ensure they are working efficiently and safely.
Moisture Check - Good ventilation is the place to start for ensuring a healthy indoor living environment, but evaluating moisture goes right along with it. Too little moisture in the air can be uncomfortable for inhabitants, but too much can be disastrous for a house.
- Use exhaust fans or dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture. Too much moisture can result in hidden mildew and mold issues on any surface. While bathrooms and laundry facilities are obvious targets for moisture problems, window treatments and rugs are at just as much risk. Humidity should be kept under 50%.
- Repair leaks and drips immediately. Small leaks are an annoying drain on a family’s budget that can lead to big problems. Little drips can result in water pooling out of sight, spawning mildew and mold. While a danger to the physical structure of a home, mildew and mold are also a danger to the home’s inhabitants, especially children and the elderly.
All The Little Things - Sometimes the little things that are easily forgotten or overlooked are the ones that can keep a home healthier than expected.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be placed throughout the home, especially near sleeping areas. Remember to check the batteries regularly and replace them at the first sign of need. Never detach a detector, for any reason. A smoke detector sounding off during a cooking experiment gone awry is annoying, but forgetting to reattach a disconnected detector could be deadly.
- Life is busy, but regular dusting and vacuuming is not just for vanity’s sake. Consistently doing both removes dust mites and allergens that irritate even the healthiest people.
- Regular shampooing of carpets and deep cleaning of upholstery is also recommended to keep allergen from collecting. Taking your shoes off as soon as you step inside can cut in half the amount of dirt and irritants tracked into your home.
- Regularly washing linens and household blankets in hot water (130 degrees) also removes allergens.
- Eliminate smoking indoors. As more and more public spaces move to being entirely “smoke-free,” the same sentiment can be applied to your home. Even limited smoking indoors can cause issues. Indoor ventilation systems filter second-hand smoke throughout the entire home. If possible, keep smoking outside and keep inside a little bit clearer.
- Re-evaluate the household cleaning supplies. Even those labeled as “green” are not necessarily good for you or safe to be around. Remember that homemade cleaning solutions such as vinegar and baking soda can do the job just as well.
In the future there may be opportunities for new technology that will help us keep our homes germ-free and entirely regulated. In the meantime, these simple steps can be used by any homeowner in any household, all with great results- a healthier, happier home.
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