Air quality can make a significant impact on your allergies. Spring and summer are often the worst months for allergy sufferers, but air pollution and other factors can make allergies a problem year round.
Human activity and natural process both contribute to the quality of our air, and the resulting impact on our allergies.
Air Quality in the United States
What does it mean when we talk about air quality? The AQI, or Air Quality Index, was established in 1968 to rank air quality by six categories, indicating potential for increasing health concern. The index categories are:
- Green (good)
- Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups)
- Red (unhealthy)
- Maroon (hazardous)
There are also five categories of pollutants, regulated under the Clean Air Act, which is reviewed by the EPA every five years to reflect evolving health information. The pollutants are:
- Ground-level ozone
- Particulate matter
- Carbon monoxide
- Sulfur dioxide
- Nitrogen dioxide
These common pollutants can all have a significant effect on allergies. Other causes of allergic reactions can include vehicle emissions and wildfires, which irritate lung function and can impact quality of life.
Are you concerned about seasonal allergies and your health? Make an appointment to speak to an ENT doctor!
Indoor Air Quality
While outdoor air quality is a major factor for allergy sufferers, there are many things that can affect indoor air quality as well -- a lack of indoor ventilation being the primary culprit. Poor air circulation in general creates problems for people with allergies.
Other indoor allergy triggers include:
- Indoor use of pesticides or toxic cleaners.
- Increased dust mite exposure.
- Pet dander (also, pet fur harbors dust mites -- two great reasons to keep your pets as clean as possible!)
- A poorly maintained HVAC can incubate mold.
- Keeping many house plants can contribute to dust and mold.
- Faulty vents and chimneys can trap soot, dust, or other allergens indoors.
- Poorly adjusted pilot lights can contribute to increased carbon monoxide levels in the house, leading to irritation in the lungs.
- Poorly maintained sink traps can build up mold, which can lead to mold spore inhalation.
- Air fresheners, incense, plug-ins in a poorly ventilated home can increase coughs and degrade air quality.
Read more: Can an ENT doctor treat my allergies?
Addressing the Issues
How can you help reduce your allergy problems, especially during the winter months? Here are a few easy, productive steps you can take.
- If you have any of the problems listed above, address them. Fix your sink trap, clean your vents, bathe your pets, and get your pilot light checked.
- Be aware. It's easier to prevent many of the above problems than fix them once they've occurred.
- Make sure your home has proper ventilation.
- Keep your HVAC filters clean. Although even the more expensive filters say they last 90 days without cleaning, that might not necessarily be true. Clean them early and often.
- Purchase an air purifier and put it in the room you use most frequently, which is often the bedroom. The more expensive models usually filter smaller microns, meaning cleaner air and fewer problems with allergies.
- For people who have acute problems with dust, consider dust mite casings for bedding, and change the bedding once a week.