By Bhavik Patel
Even though Halloween is still many months away, this may be enough to send a chill down our spines. There are many ways we can get allergic reactions. They may come from food, insect stings, medications, pollen, mold, animal dander, or even the carpet. Having carpet in the home can make it look stylish and feel comfortable. It is a safe option for flooring because it reduces slips and often aids in softening falls – especially for the elderly and the infants. Carpet can also improve acoustics because it absorbs the noise, rather than bouncing it around the room and creating an echo. Also, installing carpet in the home can save on heating bills, because it conserves energy by keeping the room warmer. But, great ambience can come at a price – “Carpet Allergies.”
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans live with respiratory conditions and that number is only growing. Even though we may have the cleanest house, house allergens can still enter our homes through the air, through out feet and they get kicked into the air every time they are stepped on. These infinitesimal irritants living in the carpet can come from sources like mold spores, dust, and pet dander.
Mold spores are naturally in the air and the carpet is the perfect place for them to thrive in. These mold spores need only a humid environment and a good food source to thrive. This food source for mold spores is dust. When mold spores get attached to the carpet, they feed on dust and soon there will be mold growth. Carpeting in damp and moist environments like basements or carpets with high pile have the highest risk for mold growth.
Pet dander is another culprit for aggravating carpet allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pets provoke allergies in 15 to 30 percent of people who already have allergies. Pet dander consists of small particles of old skin cells pets shed from their skin. Pet dander can also consist of saliva, urine, and fleas. These particles can circulate in the home and attach themselves in small crevices, furniture, windows, and carpet. Pet dander serves as a food source for dust mites. In a home without regular vacuuming, pet dander gets kicked up into the air every time a pet or a person walks over it and gets further pushed down into the carpet. This makes it even harder to get rid of the pet dander and dust particles.
The most persistent allergies are most likely due to dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic in size and may be the most common cause for people with year-round allergies. Dust mites feed on pet dander and old skin cells shed by humans. They thrive in damp environments, and can produce up to 200 times their body weight in waste every day. [Source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America] The body parts and waste of dust mites are the allergens cause allergic reactions in most people.
It seems that the best way to ensure that dust mites and mold don’t thrive in our homes is to remove the existing carpet and replace it with tiles or hardwood flooring. This may be expensive and if this is not possible, then regular carpet cleaning should be done to ensure the removal of dust mites and other allergens that live in our homes.
About the author -- Bhavik Patel is a graduate student in the College of Biomedical Sciences at Larkin University. Prior to enrolling in Larkin University and joining the RIPLRT, Bhavik completed a Bachelor’s degree in History and Premedicine, he worked at United Healthcare/Optum Rx in the Specialty Pharmacy Department. He has also worked at the Remedy Pharm compounding pharmacy, specializing in hormone replacement therapy. This is Bhavik's first blog with the RIPLRT