Most everyone is familiar with that burning smell that fills the home when the furnace is turned on for the first time in the season. Although this smell can’t be completely avoided, proper furnace maintenance will help to minimize it. What people smell at this time is simply dust that has built up on the unit over time that burns off when the furnace is in use. One of the most important maintenance tasks for reducing this smell and keeping a furnace functioning efficiently is that of replacing or cleaning filters regularly.
Among board-certified allergists you will hear some differences on their opinions about furnace filters and dust allergy. For starters, there is a difference between allergy to house dust and allergy to dust mites. These allergies are common in adults and children. “If you were tested to house dust it’s important to know that this is a mixture of allergens like animal dander, molds and dust mites” says Dr. Robert Nathan, board certified allergist practicing in Colorado Springs for over 30 years. If you are allergic to dust mites then you are allergic to a tiny mite (or bug) that lives in bedding, mattresses, furniture and carpets. Dust mites enjoy a hot and humid environment. So, dust mites are not considered a major allergen in Colorado. “Dust mites were a major problem for kids and adults where I trained in New Orleans. Those little bugs could wreak havoc on eczema, asthma and nasal allergies”, says Dr. Daniel F. Soteres, MD MPH, board certified allergist in Colorado Springs. “We see a lot of patients who travel and many in the military have lots of opportunity for dust mite exposure. So, if you come to Asthma & Allergy Associates you will probably get tested for dust mites along with a variety of other allergens”, says Dr. Luke Webb who completed medical training while serving in the United States Army. If you are a patient at Asthma & Allergy Associates, P.C. of Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Canon City then you were tested for dust mite allergy because it is an important eczema, allergy and asthma trigger in many parts of the country. Control of this allergen can help control asthma and allergies.
To control dust mite allergy you should consider a couple of interventions:
- Dust mite proof covers on bedding, mattresses and box springs.
- Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water (130 degrees F) weekly.
- Vacuum the carpets with a cyclonic vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Some people decide to remove carpeting and install hardwood, vinyl or linoleum floors to help control dust mites.
- Use air conditioners to keep humidity low (below 40-50%) to slow down dust mites during warm weather. When it’s cold outside the humidity in your home (if you live in Colorado) is probably way below 40%.
- Replacing your furnace filter every 3 months is a good idea regardless of dust allergies. If you get a filter with a MERV rating of 8-12 then it might help as well.
- Use air conditioning to keep humidity low (below 40 percent to 50 percent) to slow down dust mite growth during warm weather.
- Change air conditioning and furnace filters every three months, and use filters with a MERV rating of 8 to 12. A MERV rating tells you how well the filter removes dust from the air as it passes through the filter.
- Remove or limit carpeting in the home. If possible, replace it with hardwood, vinyl, or linoleum floors that are easier to clean.
- Vacuum the carpets you do have once or twice a week. Use a cyclonic vacuum, which spins dust and dirt away from the floor, or a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Vacuums with HEPA filters can trap a large amount of very small particles that other vacuum cleaners cannot.
- Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water (130°F) weekly.
Homeowners who clean or replace furnace filters at the beginning of the year’s first cold snap also eliminate the source of many winter allergies. Filters, especially high-quality ones, keep dust, animal dander and other particles out of the air. Although a hard freeze generally eliminates outdoor allergens, those with indoor allergies can suffer greatly during the winter months, especially if HVAC filters aren’t regularly replaced or maintained.
Dust allergies are common in both children and adults. Dust mites are one of the most common sources of asthma symptoms. Dirty furnace filters that are too saturated to collect more particles won’t keep these particles out of the air. As a result, homes with dirty HVAC filters tend to cause more problems for those with dust allergies than homes where proper filter and furnace maintenance is carried out.
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpets. No matter how clean your house is, it’s impossible to completely get rid of dust mites. However, you can limit contact, especially in the bedroom, if you:
- Put special dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs. Remove and clean the covers frequently.
- Avoid bedding stuffed with foam rubber or kapok.
- Limit the number of stuffed animals kept in bedrooms or put them in plastic containers
The quality of air to which an individual is exposed has a direct connection to personal health and well-being. Even those without serious dust or dust mite allergies aren’t going to feel very well if they are continually breathing air full of these contaminants. Every step towards maintaining a clean living environment will help. After a visit to our office you just may “Breathe a little easier”.
Let us help you return to the healthy life and the sense of well-being you expect. For a thorough review and assessment of your indoor and winter time allergy triggers come see us at Asthma & Allergy Associates, PC and Research Center with locations in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Canon City.