Improving indoor air quality and reducing exposure risks to outdoor allergens are the goals established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency this April in honor of Air Quality Awareness Month.
Stale indoors air from being cooped up during the winter months and poorly ventilated heating systems may have increased your and your family’s risk of exposure to allergy-inducing dust mites, mold spores or dander from pets.
“Improving indoor air quality is of primary importance as warmer spring and summer temperatures approach,” Shannon Johnson, Clinic Coordinator of the Flamingo East Office of Las Vegas Urban League WIC, said. “If not addressed, allergens can trigger respiratory problems such as asthma attacks, fatigue, sleepiness and digestive issues.”
Most homeowners love the look and feel of wall-to-wall carpeting, but it’s important to know that such floor covering provides the perfect environment for dust, molds and pet dander. Vacuuming carpets and rugs at least once or twice a week will greatly reduce these risks. It’s also important to clean bedding, drapes and other household items that trap allergens. Dust mite-proof pillow covers and similar mattress and box spring covers are other options.
Don’t forget to change heating and air conditioning filters as recommended by the manufacturers, as this will reduce any buildup of allergens in your ventilation system. Investing in an air purifier to capture indoor allergens is an excellent idea, especially if you have pets.
“Make sure your bathroom, another potential source of mold, is scrubbed regularly and is well ventilated,” Johnson said. “And every so often, open the windows to let in fresh air. Turn on fans to move the air about and blow contaminants out of the house.”
Besides reducing allergen and mold risks in your home, it’s important to be protected when you venture outdoors. Follow the Air Quality Index, or AQI, daily reports that track outdoor ozone and particle-pollution levels. Air pollution is harmful to everyone, but is especially dangerous for children, people with asthma and other lung diseases, individuals over age 65, people with diabetes or cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure and those who suffered a heart attack of stroke and anyone who exercises or works outdoors.
Modifying what you do on bad-air days can greatly reduce your health risks. AQI measures air pollution daily and ranks days on a scale of 0 for perfect all the way up to 500 for levels that pose immediate danger to the public. You can follow daily pollution levels by tuning into television, radio station and newspaper weather reports and by going to www.Airnow.gov.
While the CDC is currently still encouraging everyone to wear face coverings to combat the spread of COVID, for patients with asthma and those suffering seasonal allergies, masks may also reduce exposure to pollens and pollutants that make symptoms worse. Facial coverings can also help reduce the risk of catching other viruses that can trigger asthma or seasonal colds.
Some days are simply not safe to take babies out to play in the park or for a stroller ride,” Johnson said. “Please remember to follow the Air Quality Index daily warning system. If the day’s level is orange or worse, adjust your plans for the day. Avoid prolonged activities outdoors.”
The Las Vegas Urban League Women, Infants and Children Program is a 501c (3) program that is funded by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health.
For more information, visit the Urban League WIC website at: www.wiclv.org or their two convenient locations: 6480 W. Flamingo Road, Suite B, Las Vegas, phone (702) 227-1573 or 3320 E. Flamingo Road, Suite 50, Las Vegas, phone (702) 476-9561.