Monday, December 10, 2007

Lung Disease: Reducing the Effects of the Environment on Lung Function

Environmental hygiene, which is reducing air pollution has a strong effect on lung function. Any person with lung disease or at risk for the flu needs to be protected against environmental pollution such as tobacco smoke. Other environmental exposures are also important to control including house dust and pet dander. Indoor environmental exposure increases during the winter months compounding any respiratory illness including the flu.

An approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.

Furnace filters come in many different designs and efficiencies and can be easily installed in your heating system.

Humidifiers can be installed in your heating system to maintain desirable humidity levels, or you can purchase stand-alone units that will serve your needs.

Dehumidifiers also serve a useful purpose. If your basement or other areas of your home have high humidity problems, a dehumidifier can correct these problems and maintain levels between 30 and 50 percent.

Seal off mattress and pillow encasings with zippered casings. Wash bedding frequently in hot water. Remove feather bedding (pillows, down comforters and mattress pads) and replace with products filled with synthetic fibers instead. Use 100% cotton blankets and pillow cases. Wash plush toys in hot water or bag and freeze for 24 hours every couple of days.

Bathe your pet with specialty shampoos at least weekly. Make beds and sofas off limits for animals. Remove carpeting and curtains to prevent dander build up that’s difficult or impossible to remove.