Do you suffer from allergy or flu-like symptoms, but only at home? Household contaminants are such a pervasive problem that there's a name for the condition: sick house syndrome.
In the late spring and early summer in Orange, TX, it might be hard to tell whether you have allergies, or whether your home is making you sick. Airborne contaminants like nitrogen oxides, formaldehyde, and bacteria can irritate and infect you at home. The EPA estimates that dangerous chemicals, often called Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs), are five to nine times more concentrated inside the home than outside. When your home has a higher concentration of these and other harmful substances, you're more likely to feel sick and have trouble breathing.
What Is Sick House Syndrome?
Just like your body becomes infected with disease, your house can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, mold, and other contaminants. When the levels of these harmful materials get high enough to cause people to become ill, your house has sick house syndrome.
What Kind of Illnesses Does Sick House Syndrome Cause?
Some symptoms of Sick House Syndrome, also known as Sick Building Syndrome, occur immediately or within a few hours of entering a sick building. Your sinus passages might become irritated, leading to allergy-like symptoms including coughing, sore throat, sneezing, running or stuffy nose, and eye irritation. You may also experience skin irritation in the form of itching or a rash. These symptoms go away after an hour or two of being outside the sick building.
The worst illnesses, though, develop over time with prolonged exposure to the unsafe air. Some people develop new allergies, asthma, sinusitis, and even lung cancer from spending too much time in a building with low air quality.
Where Do Contaminants Come From?
Many older homes (built before 1978) contain some of the most deadly culprits, including asbestos and lead-based paints. You can detect both of the substances at home yourself, but you will probably need a professional contractor to remove asbestos.
Other contaminants include gasses like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides that come from combustion, the process that heats your gas stove, furnace, and water heater. Other harmful gasses come from household cleaning products and chemicals. Still more can come from furniture and new appliances.
How Can I Cure My Home of Sick House Syndrome?
Ventilation plays a key role in improving your home's air quality. Make sure to allow fresh air in and stale, contaminated air out as often as possible. On days when you are running the air conditioner or heater, save energy and money by ventilating using an energy recovery ventilator.
Cleaning is another important step toward maintaining a healthy home. Don't overdo it with chemicals; just use soap and water to wipe away dirt and dust. If you find mold, a major irritant, use a bleach solution with one part bleach for every ten parts water. More contaminants are probably hiding in your ducts where it's difficult to clean. You should have a professional duct cleaning done once every year or two.
What Preventative Measures Should I Take?
Keep irritants out of your home as much as possible. When buying a new appliance or piece of furniture, look for a floor model that has already given off most of its harmful gasses. Limit your purchases of household chemicals and cleaners. Keep your home dry using a dehumidifier to avoid mold growth. Ask people to smoke outside or not at all. As a last line of defense against whatever contaminants do enter your home, use an air purifier.
Many of these techniques actually save you money as well as protect your air quality by limiting what you buy and bring into your home. Being a selective shopper is a great way to protect yourself. Always look at product labels to see if what you buy contains VOCs or is environmentally friendly.
Don't let your home make you sick. Call Thermacon at 866-797-1535 for a free consultation about inexpensive home air quality solutions. A professional HVAC service can suggest first steps toward a safer, cleaner, more comfortable home environment.
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