Your House Might Be to Blame for Your Child’s Allergies
Parents’ number one concern is keeping their kids safe and healthy. But many don’t take into consideration that their home, or “safe haven,” may actually be making their little ones sick. If you’ve been taking the kiddos to their pediatrician with repeated symptoms of allergies and respiratory issues, read this article closely because your very home may be to blame.
Recent studies show that allergic diseases, asthma, and respiratory infections are on the rise in industrialized and developing countries, especially in children. In fact, one study conducted by the CDC found that from 2001 to 2009, asthma prevalence shot up by 12.3 percent. While every cause for this is unknown, one thing is clear: indoor air pollution is a definite culprit and contributor to your child’s health.
The countries with the highest rises in asthma and allergic diseases are typically those experiencing rapid urbanization and increased energy consumption. This has resulted in more children being exposed to harmful air pollutants as well as a larger variety of contaminants. One study even found that toxic transportation-related pollutants contribute to the actual development of allergies. This means that fumes and exhaust from vehicles, which oftentimes gets into the home even in rural areas, is actually causing allergies.
Not only does air pollution contribute to the rising rates of asthma and allergic diseases in children, it also decreases the ability to fight off respiratory infections. So if you’ve been taking the kids to the doctor with reoccurring coughs, colds, and sinus infections, it is likely time to clean up the air in your home. The most common indoor pollutants include:
Secondhand smoke. It is the greatest indoor air pollutant, whether it’s in your home or a public place, and can linger for a very long time within building materials like carpets and dry wall. Secondhand smoke is strongly related with the development of childhood asthma.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Are off-gassed into homes from building materials, new furniture, and fresh paint. They often cause allergies and respiratory distress symptoms. Some of these compounds include: benzene, toluene, styrene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, and others.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). Exposure is linked to ER visits, wheezing, and medication use in children with asthma. NO2 is a gas that comes from vehicle exhaust as well as electric utilities and industrial broilers.
Ozone (O3). Is created by a reaction that occurs between NO2 and VOCs in the air. This means there’s no direct source of O3 in your home, but if NO2 and VOCs are present, you can almost be positive there are also levels of O3 in your house.
Cockroach allergens. One study found traces of cockroach allergens in nearly 2/3 of the American homes tested.
Pet dander. The same study found pet dander in 100% of homes surveyed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, even those that were pet-free. This means that dander is dragged in through the home’s inhabitants, including children.
Dust mites. These are small, microscopic bugs that live in carpeting, furniture fabrics, and bedding that cause asthma exacerbation.
Molds and fungi. Lurk in homes, especially damp and dark places like basements and attics.
The following are the best tips for keeping little ones safe and healthy and the air clean and fresh inside your home:
- Clean and dust routinely.
- Minimize carpeting and fabric.
- Purchase furniture that doesn’t have stain-resistant coating.
- Vacuum and steam carpets regularly.
- Install air filters over heat and A/C vents.
- Diffuse essential oils in the air that are known to be antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.
- Clean bedding often.
- Don’t let pets in sleeping areas.
- Keep pets out of carpeted areas.
- Get kids into the great outdoors, away from cities, as often as possible.
- Have your home routinely inspected for pests, making sure to look for a company who doesn’t use harsh extermination chemicals.
- Minimize pesticide and herbicide use in the yard.
- Try to reduce emissions by buying wood furniture instead of particleboard.
- Use safe, non-VOC paint.
- Use green and eco-friendly cleaners (you can clean pretty much the entire home with lemon, baking soda, and vinegar).
- Purchase a room-by-room air purifier that is known to remove even the smallest of airborne contaminants (look for one that reduces particles 2.5 microns or smaller).
 Lee, S., Chang, Y., and Cho, S. (2013). Allergic diseases and air pollution. Accessed October 12, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736369/.
 Natural Resources Defense Council (2011). Asthma rates rise dramatically—cause unknown. Accessed October 12, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.nrdc.org/living/healthreports/asthma-rates-rise.asp.
 Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (n.d.). Glossary of volatile organic compounds. Accessed October 12, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/clusters/Fallon/Glossary-VOC.pdf