The weather outside may be frightful this time of year, making a toasty fire indoors so delightful. However, for many Americans, this cozy inside feeling may not last very long due to indoor allergens and overall poor air quality.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports “50 million Americans suffer from allergies, making it the fifth leading chronic disease among all ages, and the third most common among children under 18.”

So, what exactly are allergies and why are they wreaking havoc in our bodies and lives? Allergies are due to an abnormal immune response, which prompts your immune system to overreact (by inflaming your sinuses, skin or digestive system) to foreign substances like dust or animal dander. The most popular type of allergy is called “indoor/outdoor” which can be triggered by items like tree/grass, pollen and mold. And in terms of risk factors, children with one allergic parent have a 50 percent chance of developing allergies; if both parents have allergies, the risk is 75 percent.

During the winter season where everyone is inside due to cold weather, family gatherings and special holiday occasions these allergies can become intense and without proper allergen reduction techniques, it can turn a cozy home into an indoor nightmare. However, no need to move just yet. The following ideas below contain many innovative steps in keeping your home allergy-free this winter season ranging from technologically advanced and high-end to quick, easy and affordable.

Rip Up Those Carpets: Removing carpeting and using hardwood or other flooring can greatly reduce indoor allergens. If removing your old carpeting isn’t an option, use low-pile carpeting and vacuum often with a cleaner that has a high-efficiency, small particle (HEPA) air filter.

Maintaining An Even Temperature: Humidity is a home’s worst enemy and humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintaining a temperature at 70 F and keeping humidity levels no higher than 50 percent can truly aid in keeping mold at bay. Replacing central heating and cooling system filters once a month will also result in longer lasting machines.

No Pests: Dust mites are one of the main indoor pest allergens, they can usually be controlled by vacuuming carpets, washing hard surfaces, reducing air infiltration in to the home and lowering the humidity level. If you have visible pests indoors such as insects or mice, there are many safe, green and non-toxic ways eliminate the problem. If you do not feel like dealing with pest control yourself, just call a professional. Some pest control companies now use environmentally friendly and less toxic methods of pest control.

Think Alternative Materials: Think alternative materials when building or renovating a home. While these materials can be pricey, better health and reduced respiratory allergy issues, especially in young children, far outweigh the one-time investment. Builders like Majestic Estates build healthy homes which eliminates the problem of indoor air pollution. Unlike most construction, no materials containing formaldehyde will be used in the building of their new healthy Dream Home and only high performance alternative and recycled materials like metal standing seem roofs will be used throughout the process. This construction eliminates the presence of toxins and poor air quality that contaminate the inside of traditionally built homes.

Steel Is The New Wood: Other bold new ways of healthier construction can be found in companies such as Hi-Tech Building Systems, a company that supplies ThermaSteel steel structural insulated panels (SSIPs). This product is made of recyclable steel that protects against issues associated with traditional wood construction such as rot, mold, mildew and unhealthy infestations and insects, significantly reducing unwanted allergens that can affect allergy sufferers.

January 6, 2014