According to Asthma UK, around 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma. Just over 1.1 million sufferers are children less than 18 years old. On average, more than 1,500 people each year die as a result of their Asthma, and more than 200,000 people require hospital treatment each year.
The number of people diagnosed with Asthma continues to grow, and increasingly medical professionals are looking at ways to mitigate the triggers for asthma as well as treating the condition to help sufferers avoid some of the more severe and debilitating consequences.
There can be many different triggers for asthma including strenuous activity and as a result of illness, but common household dust can cause problems for many sufferers too.
The quality of the air we breathe is a major factor in our respiratory health. Air that is stale or has a lot of dust and other contaminants like mould and pollen can trigger allergic reactions, while damp air can also weaken the immune system.
Household dust is made up of many different things. A small part of dust is made up of tiny particles of dirt and pollen that enter the building through windows and doors, but the vast majority originates in the house itself.
One of the biggest constituents of dust is discarded skin cells from people. These flake off all the time as the skin is replaced, and end up mixing in with dirt, bits of hair, particles of paint and plaster from the building, mould spores, and even dried particles of cleaning chemicals. The amount of dust in an average home is quite high – think about how much your vacuum cleaner picks up each time you use it. In fact, it is estimated that an average household produces almost 20 kilograms of dust each year!
Household dust is not completely inert. It is actually a rich environment that supports a variety of species including dust mites. These tiny bugs thrive in dusty conditions, they eat some of the skin particles and other edible items in the dust and their waste and bodies gradually build up.
Many of the component parts of dust are allergens including the mould spores and dust mite faeces. When inhaled into the lungs, they irritate the airways, and in asthmatic people, can trigger an attack.
Regular cleaning can help to reduce the amount of surface dust in a building, but there is no way to completely remove it as it builds up constantly through natural processes. Instead, it is important to try and minimise the number of allergens that get into the environment.
Pollen is the allergic trigger for hay fever, and it is a particular problem during the spring and summer. Opening windows to allow fresh air into a building will inevitably allow more pollen to enter the building too.
The only way to reliably reduce the amount of pollen that gets into a house, and to speed up the removal of that pollen is through filtered ventilation systems. Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) systems filter the air as it is pulled into the house and remove small particles including pollen.
While it is possible to clean mould temporarily from walls and ceilings, this is only ever a short-term solution, and it is necessary to take steps to reduce the damp conditions where mould grows.
The most common cause of household damp is condensation. When humid air comes into contact with cold surfaces, it releases moisture which can build up and soak into the porous surface of a wall leading to a damp patch. Mould begins to grow quickly in these damp areas and soon starts to release spores that can become part of the dust problem.
Reducing condensation is the first step to eliminating damp. Ensuring that pan lids are used when cooking and closing doors and using extractor fans during showers and baths helps to reduce the amount of moisture that escapes into the rest of the house.
Good ventilation also helps to prevent damp by preventing the build up of moist air in cold areas – the air moves more easily around the property and doesn’t have the opportunity to settle.
Dust mites thrive in conditions similar to mould – they like damp spaces where dust becomes more compressed and thicker. Making the environment less friendly for them through reducing damp with better ventilation and taking away their mould spore food sources can be helpful in keeping populations down.
Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs are airborne pollutants that are released in our homes by aerosols, new furniture, and even the fabric of the building itself. As VOCs are released from many including cleaning products and air fresheners, keeping on top of issues like dust or damp can actually contribute to the concentration of these chemicals in your home.
Short term exposure to VOCs can trigger allergic reactions or cause breathing problems for asthmatics, but longer term they can contribute to more serious health problems and should be addressed.
Good ventilation helps to reduce the concentration of VOCs around your home and improves overall air quality.
If you or a family member suffer from asthma and you want to protect them by reducing the number of allergens in your home, then improving your air quality is a good place to start.
Talk to one of our team today or book a free survey to find out whether damp conditions in your home might be contributing to health problems.
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