Is Your Home Making You Sick?

Written by Posted On Saturday, 28 July 2018 13:18
Is Your Home Making You Sick? Unity Point Health

Summer is known for being allergy season. Flus and other illnesses are rare (they’re waiting around for the first week of school!), and the occasional sniffle is blamed on stray pollen or wildfire haze.

But pollen and grass seed aren’t the only culprits of summer sickness. Our homes are illness central when it comes to fluke congestion, fevers, and body aches, and most of us don’t even know it!

Given the fact that the average homeowner spends a minimum of eight hours at home, lingering germs, molds, and other allergens may actually be the cause of your summertime sniffles. This is especially the case for residents of older homes or structures in damper climates.

In many cases, our homes are the last things we think of when symptoms of illness appear. In this post, I’ll address what you can do to ensure that your home is not the culprit for future under-the-weather days.

Inspect Your Home for Mold

Every structure is susceptible to mold. In fact, there are at least twelve kinds of mold that are known for their capacity to easily and stubbornly take up residence in your home!

Alternaria, for example, is one of the most common forms of household molds. This bugger accumulates on damp surfaces such as showers, bathtubs, faucets, and piping. Thankfully, it’s easily recognizable due to its dark brown and often forest green hair-like growth.

Exposure to Alternaria can cause respiratory problems, including difficulty breathing, congestion, and itchy eyes and throat. Exposure to other strains can lead to chronic pain, pregnancy complications, and lifelong illnesses.

Most molds will result from water damage or linger in areas prone to dampness, such as fabrics, carpets, wallpaper, and food storage containers. Others, however, may not be as dependent on moisture, so even if your home feels dry as a forest in summer, it may still be nurturing several sneaky strains of mold.

Some mold strains, for example, crave dark places, often those areas that are easily neglected during routine cleaning sessions (such as underneath your refrigerator).

I suggest regularly inspecting your home for mold. Aim for one “deep clean” session per month, when you access all of those nooks and crannies with your cleaning materials. If you live in a humid or naturally damp climate, it may be worth hiring professionals to thoroughly inspect your home.

This is vital as many home insurance plans do not cover mold exposure. Eradication of mold can be costly and time-intensive, so act now to ensure that your home stays mold-free.

Regularly Check for Leaks

Leaks of all kinds can be responsible for all kinds of medical issues, due to the fact that they can encourage mold growth, attract pests, and even contaminate food and beverages. Molds often accumulate around leaking pipes or faucets, and ants and cockroaches are huge fans of food spillage.

Keep pantries and other food storage containers water-tight, sealed, and clean. Ensure that all food items are securely contained, too—regularly check containers for tight lids and folded tops.

Fix leaking faucets or pipes immediately and consult your plumber about preventative actions for future leaks.

Air leakage can also change the humidity and moisture levels inside of your home. Inspect your home’s quality of insulation and consider replacing windows or doors that are contributing to air leakage.

If your home relies on a heating and cooling system of any kind, keep systems in prime condition by cleaning relevant areas, ensuring all valves are snug, and being mindful of your energy use.

Improve Air Quality

It’s easy to forget the fact that air transmits more than mere oxygen. The air we regularly breathe, both indoors and outdoors, harbors all kinds of particles and pathogens, all of which are invisible to the naked eye.

One of the first things you can do to ensure your home isn’t making you sick is to improve its air quality. I recommend using an air purifier if necessary or humidifiers, which can alleviate the effects of overly-dry air. Humidifiers can also help prevent common physiological responses to poor air quality, like bloody noses.

De-humidifiers, on the other hand, can help improve the air quality of spaces that are prone to too much moisture. Your use of any of these devices will depend on climate as well as your home’s exposure to outside air.

Another way to improve air quality is to ensure that air is actually flowing throughout your home regularly. This may mean leaving doors open or installing windows and permanent fans.


A cluttered space can make you sick—if not physically, then mentally. Studies indicate the power that space has over our psyche, particularly cluttered spaces.

Clutter can also act as a breeding ground for pests and pathogens, depending on the nature of the clutter itself.

Aim to keep your home as decluttered as possible. A great way to reduce clutter is to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, getting rid of excess possessions and relying on minimal, clean, streamlined interior designs.

I also love the power of storage solutions, such as floating shelves and closet organizers. Devise strategies to keep your home clutter-free on a regular basis, and not just when you have the time!

Dust Hard-to-Reach Places

Dust is quite the culprit when it comes to allergies and home-related illness. Dust consists of airborne particles that gather on surfaces in stagnant areas, such as the tops of bookshelves, fans, and appliances.

It is far too easy to inhale dust and irritate nasal canals and passageways. Keep your home dust-free by getting into the habit of cleaning hard-to-reach dust-prone surfaces. This may involve investing in cleaning items that make tackling these dusty jobs easier in the long run, such as bamboo feather dusters and stepladders.

When dusting these surfaces, consider using a specific cleaner designed to cut down on dust accumulation. Make sure the cleaner you do choose is “gentle” and non-toxic (as discussed below).

Replace What Needs to Be Replaced

Many times, budgets can limit our ability to invest in home improvement. However, older models of certain items in the home could be negatively impacting your health. Older dishwashers, for example, or refrigerators may be more prone to mold accumulation.

Leaky pipes and faulty windows can impact air quality, making all of your cleaning efforts moot. Replace what needs to be replaced with a high-quality alternative, and do so immediately.

Opt for Gentle Cleansers

Most homeowners assume that cleaning products are designed to clean—they eradicate pathogens rather than create them. However, a lot of general cleaning products, including detergents and floor cleaners, are packed full of chemicals that could be harmful to your health.

Always select cleaners that are non-toxic and/or crafted from plant-based sources. The shorter the ingredient list on the back of a cleaning product, the better.

If you are wary of most store-brand cleaning products, you can always create your own. A simple water and white vinegar wash, for example, is effective at cleaning counters and does not pose any health hazards to household residents.

Homemade cleaning products are also likely to be more cost-effective than store-bought options. They are also easy to store and less likely to generate any harmful fumes or odors. What’s more, they are far more likely to be kind to the earth; homemade cleaning products are frequently biodegradable, making them ideal for homes looking for ways to reduce their water footprint and waste.

Get an Allergy Test

If you’ve followed all of these steps and still feel as if something in your home could be contributing to your sniffles, fevers, or other unfortunate symptoms, get an allergy test. Such tests can give you insight into what allergens are more likely to impact you, making them easier to navigate and simpler to eradicate.

Some people are allergic to specific strains of mold or dust, too, meaning that standard household dust may not impact you (while other kinds may). Allergy tests can clarify these distinctions so that you know what to prioritize.

Change Up Your Waste Game

Our waste can also contribute to poor health, even if we take extra strides to manage it safely and effectively. One way to eliminate household illness is to reduce the amount of waste your household already produces.

A low-waste or waste-free home doesn’t have to worry about pathogens building up in accumulating trash. Nor do they have to worry about throwing away hazardous materials or potential pollutants.

I’ve discussed the benefits of a low-waste home previously. If the idea of a low-waste home feels insurmountable, consider starting by reducing your waste in one prominent area of your home, such as your bathroom.

When it does come to waste and recycling containers, keep these bins away from food preparation areas. Better yet, store them outside, on a porch or in a garage, to ensure that pathogens don’t transmit.

You deserve to be healthy and happy in your own home. Luckily, you can bypass the potential of illness by keeping your home tidy, regularly inspected, leak-free, and low-waste.

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Kate King

Kate King is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. 

Realty Times

From buying and selling advice for consumers to money-making tips for Agents, our content, updated daily, has made Realty Times® a must-read, and see, for anyone involved in Real Estate.