Spring has sprung. That means the northeast flora is in full bloom and with it comes the allergies. You and your clients may find yourselves falling victim to the usual suspects in spring allergy cases including stuffy noses, sneezing and irritated eyes. According to the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology, 10 to 30 percent of the population has an allergy.
In the northeast, the warmer season means we are moving from in-house allergy triggers such as dust, to outdoor allergy triggers such as pollen.
Preventing and treating the influx of allergens is crucial for everyone’s comfort.
We have a quick list of what you can do to ease the symptoms of the season. Arguably, the most important step is to always identify the source of the allergen. Some of the most common culprits for allergies during spring are these three things: pollen, mold and dust mites.
Let’s take a look at how you can fight these foes so that employees and clients are ready for a productive summer.
Common pollinators in the northeastern United States include maple, oak and hickory trees. Pollen most commonly enters buildings through ventilation systems. Although ventilation systems are a common source of pollen indoors, pollen can also be tracked inside on your clothes and shoes. Carpets and upholstery are magnets for trapping this green-and-yellow dust inside of buildings.
You can help minimize your clients’ exposure to that sneeze-inducing, red-eye-causing dust by making sure air filters are regularly cleaned and changed. It’s important during the peak allergy season to keep your air conditioning running, but it is just as important to make sure the circulated air is clean.
Ensuring that employees are aware of the allergens they are bringing in with them can also be key. This could be as simple as making sure that employees who are doing outdoor and indoor work have a quick change of clothes for each job.
In this issue of SERVICES, we have also explored the pros and cons of including air duct cleaning as one of the services you offer. While frequent air duct cleaning is not recommended, occasional cleaning may be necessary in order to remediate spring allergy problems.
Your next step in fighting pollen this season comes down to you and your vacuum. Pollen is trapped in the carpet, so how can you get it out without the dust escaping into the air? Double bag your vacuums or use a HEPA filter. HEPA filters are in most air purifiers because their fine-mesh filter locks in harmful particles, like pollen.
Mold allergies peak in spring as the temperatures outside heat up and the snow starts to melt, giving mold the perfect breeding ground. You can start your fight against mold with mold clean-up kits. Come armed with an all-purpose cleaner and a mask to avoid breathing in toxic fumes and spores. Depending on the severity of the mold, you can opt for a chlorine-free cleaner that will be easier on the environment but still tough on mold and mildew stains. Just like with vacuums, HEPA filters can also be installed in your ventilation systems for cleaner air.
As your client’s building service contractor, you can be proactive in preventing future mold outbreaks in their building. Check the outside of buildings for ground water, which is especially risky with recently melted snow, and make sure to seal below-ground walls. If you find standing water, use downspouts to route the water away from the building to reduce the risk of mold growth. Also, check for tricky leaks in your building’s foundation, pipes and roof. Fix them as soon as they are found to avoid excess moisture buildup.
Fight Dust Mites
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, dust mites are the most common allergy caused by dust. What’s worse is that mites and molds can actually work together in triggering allergies, according to a Mold & Bacteria Consulting Laboratories article. Mites feed on mold and can spread spores throughout buildings, so you have to fight the mites to fight the mold. Dust mites, like pollen, can be found in carpets, curtains and upholstered furniture. Unlike pollen and mold, dust mites can cause rashes and itching in addition to respiratory allergies.
Dust mites aren’t generally found in air ducts, so avoid duct cleaning just for the sake of mite control. Instead, get rid of these mites by using HEPA filters to ensure cleaner air in the building. Consistent and thorough vacuuming is another key to cleaner air, but you should opt for double bagging your vacuum or going for a HEPA filter. If your client is serious about getting rid of these mites or if it’s just time for new carpet, you can suggest going with wood or tile floors to prevent future dust-mite allergies.
Allergies are inevitable, but it’s up to you to alleviate the effects on your clients. The good news is that pollen, mold and dust mites can be combated with similar products like HEPA filters in your vacuums and ventilation systems. Moisture control during this time of year is essential to eradicating pollen, mold and dust mites to create a healthy environment. You should aim for about a 30 to 50 percent humidity level in your buildings.
Stay ahead of allergies this season for happier and healthier clients!