Monday, December 12, 2016

Don’t Let Your Home Make You Sick this Winter: 4 Tips to Stay Safe

Image via Flickr by signal the police
Guest post by Charlotte Meier

When winter hits, we stay cooped up inside our homes much more than we do during the other seasons. For some people, longer hours inside means more sickness because their homes pose risks to their health. You should be aware of the home health risks you could be facing this winter so you can take steps to stay safe and better protect your family from unwanted illness.

1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous in winter. This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is deadly. Often caused by appliances that burn wood or fuel and are poorly vented or malfunctioning, carbon monoxide poisons people in their homes without their knowledge because early symptoms of poisoning mimic those of the flu: headache, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion. Your family is also at risk if you use gas-powered generators during winter storms.

To protect your family against carbon monoxide poisoning this winter, install CO monitors throughout your home. You should place one in every bedroom, common living areas, and on each floor of the home. Regularly check and replace batteries. If you find that carbon monoxide is in your home, but you have not yet experienced symptoms, open your windows, turn off your heat system, and call 9-1-1. If you experience the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the home and call 9-1-1.

2. Get a humidifier

If your home’s air is too dry because of your heating system, the surface membranes of your lungs can dry out and make you susceptible to colds and infections. If you get a humidifier to increase the moisture in your home, you may find that you are less sick this winter. For people with asthma, humidifiers may help with breathing issues during winter.

Another option is to get an air purifier that cleans the air and adds negative ions to it while adding moisture to your home’s air. Many of these appliances rid the air of dust, pollen, and smoke and release negative ions that attach to positively-charged pollutants in the air and make them fall to the floor.

3. Have Your Heating System Cleaned

Your home’s air may be making your family sick in other ways by making you more susceptible to the flu, colds, and other infections. Because the heated air in winter is recycled rather than fresh, it contains more pollutants and pathogens. Because you can’t open your windows to allow fresh air to come in and circulate, you need to protect against indoor air pollutants and pathogens by having your home heating system cleaned and your filters replaced.

Professional HVAC technicians will clean your heat pump, check your ductwork for seals and clean your ductwork to eliminate trapped water that can collect mold and mildew, and replace your air filters. This work will help reduce the amount of irritation you feel in your eyes, throat, and nose. You can also help protect your family from sickness caused by your home heating system if you consistently change your filter once every three months.

4. Change Your Bedding Frequently

In winter, we like to lie in bed longer, watch TV from the comfort of our covers, and throw blankets over ourselves to stay cozy. But, if you are not regularly changing and washing your bedding and blankets, you are putting your family at risk of colds, allergies, other illnesses. Dust mites accumulate more easily in winter because our homes are closed up tight. While some people think that making their beds helps to keep their sheets clean, it actually gives dust mites a perfect environment to live in during winter.

If you can, crack a window in your bedroom for about an hour a day and wash your bedding and blankets in cold water with antibacterial laundry detergent. It also helps to sleep with some clothing on to prevent bacteria from accumulating in the sheets.

Of course, you want to enjoy your home this winter. But, to truly be comfortable and cozy this winter and avoid illness, you should take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and illnesses caused by dry air, dirty home heating systems, and slept-in bedding and blankets.

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