With COVID-19 still a concern and flu season right around the corner, there’s more focus than ever on how your immune system affects your health. But what compromises your immune system and what can you do to protect yourself? Find out here.
Vacuuming to Minimize Indoor Allergens
For those with allergies, it has often been recommended that vacuum regularly can improve allergy symptoms by getting rid of allergy triggers like dust mites. Some people suggest keeping windows closed when outdoor allergens are at high levels, minimizing the use of window fans because they pull pollen from outdoors indoors, and to vacuum two or more times per week. Vacuuming is recommended because it is one effective way to keep floors clean, and though not always well recognized, dusty and dirty floors are often primary culprits for indoor allergies. Some people also recommend leaving shoes at the door, to minimize the dirt and dust that accumulates on floors in the first place. Nonetheless, whether shoes are worn indoors or not, dust will naturally occur, and it will need to be removed. Unlike vacuuming, sweeping actually stirs up dust and can therefore exacerbate allergies. Vacuuming is thus recommended as the best way to keep floors clean and allergen-free.
Though vacuuming is a great way to reduce indoor allergens, experts specify that vacuum cleaners will be most effective if they contain a high efficient particulate air (HEPA) filter because these filters are superior at pulling in dust particles. When vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters are used, filters need to be changed approximately every six months and should be changed outdoors so that the trapped dust particles are not released back into the indoor space.
Are Vacuums Really Effective?
Some recent research studies suggest that rather than improving allergy symptoms, vacuums can in fact make those symptoms worse. Careful inspection of the details of the research reveals that a key issue in whether vacuum cleaners help or exacerbate allergies is the vacuum mechanism – or how the vacuum cleaner works. Some vacuum cleaners, including those with HEPA filters, actually release tiny dust particles and bacteria into the air, which can cause allergies or infections.
A comprehensive study on air emissions of different vacuum cleaners was conducted in Australia, and its results were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. After inspecting 21 different vacuum cleaners, the researchers concluded that every single vacuum cleaner released allergens and bacteria into the air. However, there were differences in the extent to which the vacuums did so. Generally, newer and more expensive models polluted the indoor air less than did older and cheaper models. Additionally, though it is claimed that HEPA filters remove 99.9% of bacteria and allergens like pollen from the environment, cleaners with HEPA filters released only slightly less of these substances than did cleaners that lacked HEPA filters.
Despite these findings, experts conclude that vacuum cleaners are still a good way to remove allergens from the environment. Specifically, they claim that a vacuum cleaner would have be extremely old and dirty to do more harm than good in minimizing allergens and reducing allergy symptoms. As far as HEPA filters go, regardless of the precise amount of allergens they are able to remove, it is clear that they remove more of these allergens than are removed without the use of these filters, and it is thus recommended that people continue to employ these filters to get rid of environmental allergens.
Other Strategies for Minimizing Indoor Allergens
When recommending ways to reduce exposure to allergens, there are other recommendations related to cleaning as well. For instance, living in homes with hard wood floors is recommended over homes with carpet. For those with rugs in the home, cleaning the rugs weekly to remove dust and dirt particles can significantly improve allergy symptoms in the home. In addition, using microfiber, rather than paper towels or other types of cloths, can more effectively rid surfaces of irritating dust particles. Because microfiber cloths have small microfibers, they are able to cling to dirt and dust particles in small areas or cracks, which is difficult to achieve with other types of cloths. An added benefit is that to achieve good results, microfiber cloths can be used on their own, or with water, rather than with chemicals that can themselves act as irritants or allergens.
When microfiber cloths are used, it is critical to dust past the end of surfaces, or else dust and dirt will accumulate at the edges of surfaces that are being cleaned. One common suggestion for microfiber cloths is to use them after showering to clean surfaces in the shower and bathroom. This practice reduces moisture and prevents the growth of mold and mildew, which are common allergy triggers. Leaving the door open or keeping the shower curtain partially open can also decrease moisture accumulation by allowing air to flow into the shower rather than trapping moisture inside.
For people allergic to environmental agents like pollen and dust mites, reducing the levels of these allergens to which they are exposed can be a highly effective way to manage allergies and allergy symptoms. Vacuum cleaners can minimize the amount of both indoor and outdoor allergens that are present inside, particularly if they incorporate HEPA filters, which are capable of removing these allergens at high rates.