Maxima Skelton, founder-director of The Healthy House offers Tips on establishing a healthier and allergen free home.
The very title is a bit of a misnomer I since everyone’s allergies and sensitivities are so individual. However, we can offer some general guidelines which will help not only to reduce exposure to allergens but also to create a healthier environment for all the people living in the home.
General areas to look at:
Air pollution including furniture, furnishings and fittings
Air pollution is often associated with outdoor air but it can actually be a bigger problem indoors! Pollutants can come from furnishings and fittings, carpets, cleaning products, bedding, toiletries, pets and moulds. It can also come in from outside in the form of petrol and diesel fumes from traffic, pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers if you happen to be living close to a farm.
Take a look around your home and take note of what you see. Do you have relatively new carpet or vinyl flooring? Have you painted recently or installed MDF cabinets, a new sofa or memory foam mattress. Do you use easy care bedding or have a PVC shower curtain? Do you use natural or bottled gas for cooking? Many people don’ t realise that these items can all be sources of toxic chemicals. They can give off what’s known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This is a term for the variety of gases that can come from certain natural or synthetic sources and are present almost everywhere. Not all VOCs are bad, but some can cause lung irritation, worsen allergy symptoms and exacerbate MCS symptoms.
Though you can certainly help reduce the number of items in the home that may be polluting it, some of them are integral to the building itself and others come from fittings such as cupboards and carpet s. It’s not practical to think these can be eliminated from most people’s homes so need to be dealt with differently.
You can help to reduce your exposure to VOCs by using organic or natural items whenever possible. It’s easier than you think and also kinder to the environment. We love Lakeland paints and would never use anything else in our home or office.
An air purifier that is designed to filter out chemicals as well as particles and allergens will help to reduce the total load that you are being exposed to. If you haven’ t already got carpets and vinyl flooring, a better choice is to go for solid wood and ceramic tiles (a bit more pricey initially but won’t have to be replaced a few years down the road.)
We wrote about water in the last issue. Water may contain chlorine, chloramines, added fluoride and possibly heavy metals from old pipe work. A drinking water filter system will offer you filtered water on tap for drinking and cooking with most impurities removed. A whole house water filter system will remove chlorine and heavy metals from all the water coming into the home. Removing impurities from the water, especially chlorine and chloramines is important for anyone but particularly for those with either with a respiratory condition or a skin condition such as eczema.
Install an under-sink drinking water filter which will give you filtered water on tap free of chlorine and heavy metals. A whole house water filter system filters all the water coming into the house – it’s a great addition to any home, though bath and shower water free of chlorine can be also be achieved using a shower filter or a Crystal Ball bath dechlorinator.
Toiletries, Cleaning and Laundry
Take a look in the bathroom cabinet or in your sponge bag or make-up bag. You may be surprised at the number of strange sounding chemical ingredients that the products contain. For example, parabens can be found in products such as anti-perspirants and have been linked to long term health issues.
Cleaning products may make your home look and smell squeaky clean, but they actually contain a cocktail of toxins.
Look for natural and organic alternatives and you will immediately reduce your overload to chemicals. Bear in mind that many of the natural cleaning products and toiletries do contain essential oils, which may affect very chemically sensitive people. If this is the case, try to go for fragrance free products. We use fragrance free detergents and cleaning products whenever possible.
Even if you go for organic, it’s a good idea to check the labels as some items labelled organic may only have a very small percentage of organic ingredients. If you are on a tight budget there are many daily use products that you could make at home. For example, organic coconut butter may be used as a substitute for a wide range of cosmetics leaving your skin nourished and natural.
Exposure to electronic devices and general electrical appliances.
Our exposure to electromagnetic fields has grown enormously in the last 15 years. Most people have an array of electrical appliances, Wi-Fi, a virtual assistant such as an Alexa, iPads, iPods, laptops, Smartphones, smart meters, DECT phones, games consoles – the list is becoming endless. You can’t see or hear the fields unless you use a meter to measure them. Then you realise the amount of electrosmog you are living with. An increasing number of people are becoming sensitive to these now everyday devices and for the rest of us, research is indicating that they may not be as benign as they look.
We always recommend that people turn off their Wi-Fi off at night, leave their electronic devices out of the bedroom and use analogue products where there is a choice. For example, most young parents like to use a baby monitor and they are available either in analogue or digital version.
A DECT (digital cordless phone) gives off high fields 24/7, so it is best to switch back to a corded phone if you can since the DECT phone is constantly searching for a signal and giving off fields not just when the phone is being used.
Rent a meter to determine the level of electrosmog in your home and take precautions by moving furniture (i.e. beds and chairs) further away from the source of the fields.
We have a wide selection of products from shielding materials and shielding products to harmonising products. The harmonising products do not block the fields but change them into a healthier frequency.
Specific allergy causing substances
Moulds can be a problem for allergic and chemically sensitive people. If there is visible mould or a smell of mustiness, this should be addressed. Mould spores can be inhaled and affect people with respiratory problems. They can also affect chemically sensitive people. One reason for this is that they give off VOCs.
Find the source of the mould and get it attended to (i.e. a leak somewhere). Ventilate the home well each day, particularly after having a shower, and in the bedroom when you get up. If possible do not dry laundry on radiators as this adds moisture to the air which then encourages mould growth. A dehumidifier does an amazing job of extracting excess moisture from the air, rendering it unconducive to mould growth. You can measure the humidity with a hygrometer to monitor the levels and see how they change. An Airfree air steriliser will incinerate any mould spores in the air and has been very successful for those with both dust mite, mould allergy and hay fever.
Dust mites live in most homes, however clean they are! They love warm, moist conditions such as those found in bedding and can cause a lot of misery to anyone affected by them. Some people think it’s normal to cough, wheeze and sneeze at night or in the morning, but this can be a direct result of dust mite allergen in the bedding.
We always recommend that the bed should be made dust mite proof with dust mite proof barrier cases or a combination of a dust mite proof mattress case and a dust mite proof pillow and a dust mite proof duvet. This significantly reduces exposure to the dust mite allergen. The cases create a barrier between the dust mites in the bedding and the person in the bed. We also recommend the use of allergy sprays as part of the general cleaning process. We recently had a real success story from one family whose son had always coughed as soon as he went to bed and overnight resulting in very disturbed sleep. Using our Anti Allergen/ Mould Pack in the air, on the furnishings and in the laundry when washing the bedding had an instant effect and he hasn’t coughed at night since. We recommend that they now go forward and create a dust mite proof bed for their son with dust mite proof bedding.
Pets can be a great addition to any family but may also cause one or more members to have unpleasant symptoms – sneezing, itchy eyes, contact dermatitis etc.
We recommend that pets are kept away from the main relaxing areas and certainly not allowed into the bedroom. Our daughter was allergic to our cats and we used Petal Cleanse (a lotion to wipe onto the coat of the pet to clean it of allergens). It enabled us to keep the cat, but our daughter would always know if we had forgotten to use it from the reoccurrence of her symptoms. For anyone very allergic it’s a good idea to leave clothes that may have pet allergen on them out of the bedroom. If someone in the family is allergic to cats or dogs we usually don’t recommend introducing one into the home. However, if you already have pets, there are solutions that will help most pet allergic people.
We’ve spent many years improving our allergy free home since our daughter is allergic to many things and we are both chemically sensitive. I’m quite grateful that years ago we had to change the products that we use, since they are so much kinder to us and to the environment. We are fortunate to live in an old Cotswold stone house and did not have to contend with new carpets and MDF fittings or even vinyl flooring
This article first appeared in Allergy Newsletter No. 123. Summer 2018.
Should you be suffering symptoms that you can’t get to the bottom of and think it may be something in your indoor environment, we are happy to help with the detective work. Call us on 01453 752216 or visit http://www.healthy-house.co.uk