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Ohio Today

Rid your home of pesky particles

By Sara Schonhardt

No matter what the season, allergy suffers sometimes can't get any relief. If trees, grass and pollen aggravate your problems, you may take refuge inside. But even your own house can harbor the makings of an allergy attack. Assistant Professor Timothy Ryan, who coordinates the industrial hygiene program at Ohio University, has some tips on how to allergy-proof your environment:

Cleaning: "For the true allergy sufferer, it is important to clean thoroughly at least once a month," Ryan says. This means dusting, vacuuming and wiping down hard surfaces. Use a good vacuum cleaner. Many vacuums have a HEPA filtration system that, when changed often, is nearly 100 percent effective in filtering out dirt and dust particles. Because lots of allergens are found in the bedroom, you should wash bed sheets and pillowcases in hot water on a weekly basis.

House/water temperature: Your home should maintain a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take five degrees. Keeping your house too warm will promote mold growth. To effectively rid your home of allergens, Ryan says, it is best to clean using hot water.

Interior decoration: "Carpet creates a very conducive environment for collecting dirt," Ryan says. When dirt settles on carpet, it sits until action such as foot traffic stirs up the allergens and puts them back in the air. Hardwood or tile floors can be a solution, because they are easier to wet mop and don't hide as many allergens.

Heating systems: "Conduct preventative maintenance," Ryan says. This means changing your furnace filter every three months. Most homes have an updraft furnace, which pushes air up from the basement. These systems have a damper that is open in the summer to bring cool air up from the basement, but it should be closed off in the winter. These furnaces also are equipped with a humidifier that puts moisture into the dry winter air. This humidifier is a wheel surrounded by a foam-like substance that soaks up water from a tray and adds moisture to the air passing through it. When the water is not cleaned, this foam becomes moldy and bacteria-filled, causing mold allergens to spread around your home.

Solutions like these will improve your indoor air quality and hopefully let you breathe a little easier.

Sara Schonhardt, BSJ '03, is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

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