Some routine practices done at home contribute to the presence of allergies, which are caused by closed spaces and poor hygiene.
Alfonso Cepeda Sarabia, Allergy Specialist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
A healthy home means keeping everyday routines such as opening doors and windows. This is what the allergy specialist, Alfonso Cepeda Sarabia, suggests. Native to Barranquilla, Cepeda is one of the three Colombian participants of the ISAAC,* the most extensive and recognized study in the world on this topic.
According to him, the habits we form in the home contribute to the presence of allergies. Among many others, one cause of allergies is the fact that our lifestyles have become more and more enclosed and sedentary.
This new tendency of being in confined spaces has inspired Dr. Cepeda to refer to the new generation, which is glued to their cell phones and isolated from nature, as “the square meter children;” children who live in enclosed spaces not just in their homes, but throughout a vicious cycle of unhealthy practices. Because of this lifestyle, these children and youth develop symptoms in closed spaces such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny noses, pruritus or itchy eyes and nose, coughing, wheezing and even difficulty breathing.
Freshen Up Your Habits
In order to break this cycle, Cepeda suggests reducing chemical contaminants and biological contaminants as much as possible. Included in this first group of contaminants are detergents, disinfectants, chlorinated products, pesticides, perfumes, paints, formaldehyde woods and cigarette smoke. While it is impossible to completely stop using some of these products, it is possible to limit their use; other products with ecological seals of approval can be found in the market, and it is also important to keep the house well ventilated when these products must be used.
Included in the second group, the biological contaminants, are mold particles, dust mites and cockroaches. While it is impossible, and even ill-advised, to completely eliminate them, it is important to maintain certain practices that can keep them away.
The first way to do so is to reduce humidity, a breeding ground for mold. As research shows, mold is directly related to the number of asthma attacks in children. This can be managed by making simple everyday efforts which should be done regularly in all homes, but especially in those located near streams or rainforests, where humidity is prevalent.
Recommended steps include ventilating the home daily, even for just a small period of time, and opening the windows and doors of closed spaces (rooms, bathrooms, storage rooms, closets, cupboards or chest of drawers, etc.). Doing this reduces the amount of mold and dust mites that have collected there, therefore reducing the possibility of serious asthma and respiratory allergy symptoms.
It is also recommended to remove rugs and objects that gather dust from bedrooms. Vacuum pillows and mattresses for 10 minutes once a month, wash sheets and blankets with hot water once a week, and clean sofas and couches periodically. If it is still humid, the use of a dehumidifier is recommended, which can be purchased at your local department store.
Inspect Your Home
Pets are also a source of several different allergies. Dogs and cats produce small allergy-causing particles that float and stay in the air for a long period of time. Rabbits and hamsters can cause asthma, hay fever and pink eye.
When an allergy has been diagnosed and is caused by a pet, it is best to remove the pet. If this cannot be done, there are some strategies that can help, but only partially. For example, avoid allowing the pet to enter the bedroom and prohibit it from laying on the bed. Ventilate the home or use air purification systems with highly efficient filters. Vacuum furniture, curtains and pillows frequently. In maintaining the pet’s hygiene, bathe it once a week and pat them down with a wet towel every three to four days.
All of the above described tasks form part of set of healthy routines that keep homes ventilated, clean, with air flow exchange to the outdoors, and that prevent concentrated humidity and the use of chemicals.
As Cepeda explains, the idea is to seek out a healthy environment in the home, but also go outdoors and move beyond that square meter of space.
*The International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Childhood •
Cleanliness, a Healthy Habit
- In the bathroom: Wash shower curtains regularly with bleach or with a similar product to avoid the accumulation of mold. In addition to asthma, mold can trigger other allergies and cuase skin irritations. Get rid of unnecessary materials that it can accumulate on.
- In the bedroom: Keep the upper part of dressers clean. You can use newspapers to get to areas that are hard to reach. This also helps prevent the accumulation of grease, dust and grime in the kitchen. Eliminate small objects that gather dust, especially books.
- Ventilate: Regulate humidity, bring in oxygen and renew stale indoor air. It is best to do this daily, both during cold weather (avoid condensation) and hot weather (helps cool you down). Avoid dust gathering on fabric such as couches and beds.