All of us want to take care of our families. We try to eat healthy foods. We get regular checkups for everyone in the family. We try our best to protect family members from accidents and illness. We want to live in a safe neighborhood. But, in spite of all our efforts, we may have hidden dangers in our home that affect the health of everyone living there. Since the weather is changing to another season, some of these hidden dangers may become more evident as we spend more time indoors.
1. Control moisture. Water and excessive humidity support the growth of mold, insects, rodents and dust mites. Keeping your home dry helps control mold and pests and discourages dust mites. Relative humidity inside your home should be maintained between 40 and 60 percent. When cooking or showering, use exhaust fans or open a window if the outside air is dry. Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outside and you clean the vent on a regular basis. Increase the airflow in problem areas including closets and behind furniture on outside walls. The three sources of moisture that require control are rainwater, groundwater and plumbing so make sure repairs to your roof, walls, doors and windows are made quickly.
2. Keep it clean. A clean house is a healthier house. Dust provides food for mold, insects, rodents and dust mites. In older homes, dust may contain lead, which is harmful to children. Clutter makes it difficult to clean and may serve as food for pests so keep it to a minimum. Control dust and pollen that comes in at each entry by using washable throw rugs.
3. Keep it ventilated. Ventilation provides a way to remove pollutants and to control humidity. Windows that open and exhaust fans that run help control pollutants. When outdoor air is brought inside your home, ideally it’s filtered to remove pollens and other outdoor pollutants. Changing your filter to your central heating and cooling unit on a regular basis can also help.
4. Keep it free of combustion by-products. Carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and soot shouldn’t be in your home. Furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces that burn fuel must vent to the outside. Stoves, ovens and cooktops that burn fuel must be used with fans that vent the combustion byproducts to the outside. Since colder weather will be here soon, remember to never warm a care in an attached garage because of the carbon monoxide it releases. If you use natural gas in your home, you need to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. If the alarm goes off, get out of the house and call 911 from outside. Don’t go back inside until all problems have been fixed.
5. Keep it pest free. Pests can lead to allergic reactions. To minimize pests, control the pest’s food and water. Just a crumb of food or a drop of water is enough to attract pests. Sealing the points where pests enter your home can also help. This includes the areas under sinks as well as around windows and doors. If you use pesticides, use the least toxic ones labeled for the pests you have.
6. Keep it comfortable. Do you maintain a comfortable temperature and humidity level in your home? During times of humid weather (usually summer and fall), you may need a dehumidifier to help remove excess humidity. If your house is too dry (usually winter), you can increase the humidity through normal household activities like cooking, showering, laundry and air drying dishes in the dishwasher.
What’s preventing you from having a healthy house?
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.