Do Pets Really Impact Air Quality?
Could your furry family member be making you sick? The short answer is, yes, it’s possible – but don’t panic. If this is the case, you’re not alone and you don’t have to give up your four-legged best friend in order to feel better!
As much as we love our pets – 65% of American households, or nearly 80 million families, have a pet – there are pros and cons that come with having an animal in your household.
Pet dander (the dead skin cells that pets shed throughout the day) can introduce airborne irritants into your home. Humans shed dead skin cells as well, but the problem with animal dander is that these irritants can trigger reactions in humans, ranging from itchy eyes and a stuffy nose, to severe breathing problems. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 3 in 10 people with allergies have reactions to cats and dogs – and cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
If you have a pet, and notice some of the symptoms of poor air quality in yourself (or your family members), it doesn’t mean that you and Mr. Mittens can’t live together. Here are some simple steps you can take to minimize the problem, and improve the air quality in your home.
Keep Your Home Clean
In order to decrease the amount of pet dander in your home, establish a regular and vigorous cleaning routine. Vacuum your carpet and furniture frequently with a vacuum that has a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration system. A HEPA filter forces air through a fine mesh that traps potentially harmful particles; such as pet dander, pollen, dust mites, and tobacco smoke.
Clean your floors and hard surfaces regularly, with microfiber cloths that pick up dander. Dust other surfaces with a damp cloth twice a week.
When you allow pets to sleep with you, pet dander and other allergens find their way into your bedding. If you’re experiencing strong symptoms, purchase a comfortable – and separate – bed for your pet, and keep it out of your bedroom for less exposure to irritants.
Wash your pet’s bedding frequently in hot water, and wash your own hands thoroughly after touching the bedding. Those with very strong reactions to dander should consider training pets to stay off the furniture, as well.
Keep Your Pet Clean
Your pet may be spreading more than just dander around your home – pet hair can actually attract other allergens such as dust, pollen, and mold spores. To reduce allergens and dirt from hitchhiking into your home, bathe your dog once a week. Give her a bath more often if her outdoor exercise (or the weather) requires it.
In between baths, brush your pet on a daily basis (both cats and dogs). It is a good idea to do the brushing outside, so you don’t spread more dander inside your home. Clean the brush and carefully dispose of hair collected in the bristles.
If you brush your pet inside, vacuum the area when you are done, and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. If you are particularly sensitive to dander, it’s a good idea to ask someone else to do the brushing for you.
If you have an indoor cat, be fastidious about changing and cleaning the litter pan. Wear a mask and gloves when you clean the pan, to reduce irritation to your nose and eyes.
Keep Your Home Well Ventilated
Proper ventilation is critical for improving air quality in homes with pets. If you have a forced air HVAC system, you should clean or replace your filters every few months. Try covering your bedroom vents with a filtering material or with cheesecloth, to keep allergens out of your sleeping area.
Consider running an air cleaner for four to five hours each day. Air cleaners are available as room units, or as systems for the entire house. Some air cleaners (or purifiers) have indicators to let you know when the air quality level has dropped, alerting you to make proper adjustments to your cleaning or pet habits.
Fortunately, most of us do not have to choose between having a pet and having our health. With these steps, you can enjoy the love and companionship your furry friend provides, while breathing cleaner, healthier air at the same time.