According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, nearly 62% of American households have pets. More than 161 million of these pets are cats and dogs. That’s a lot of furry friends! Unfortunately, our beloved pets affect indoor air quality, thus increasing pollutants and exacerbating allergies and asthma. Let’s take a look at several ways homeowners with pets can improve indoor air quality.
How Do Pets Affect Indoor Air Quality?
Just like humans, animals shed their dead skin. This is also known as dander. Dander from mammals such as cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters negatively impacts indoor air quality. More specifically, it contains a protein that is an allergy and asthma trigger for many. Unlike most allergens, dander and other pet allergens remain in the air for a long, long time. Why is this the case? First and foremost, they are microscopic. It’s impossible to clean or remove something you can’t see. And, they are jagged in shape. This makes it easy for them to stick to carpet, furniture, clothing, shoes and various other items that are brought into the home.
Do Pets Make Allergies Worse?
Only some pets make allergies worse. Animals such as snakes and frogs shed their skin but do not produce airborne dander the way that cats and dogs do. Allergies are also triggered by animal saliva, urine and feces. Fortunately, these allergens are not airborne like dander. For allergy sufferers in a household with pets, they may experience a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes and shortness of breath among other symptoms.
Do Pets Make Asthma Worse?
Homeowners and occupants with asthma may experience different health effects than those with allergies. For example, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. And, they may experience more severe symptoms than usual when exposed to dander. Similar to those with allergies, asthmatics are not triggered by reptiles or amphibians because they do not shed the same way that mammals do.
How Can I Improve My Indoor Air Quality With Pets?
1. MERV 13 Air Filter
If you have allergies or asthma, we recommend a MERV 13 air filter. They capture dander, pollen, dust and various other allergens. Additionally, they trap mold spores, viruses, bacteria, smoke and other triggering air pollutants. This is extremely beneficial for allergy and asthma sufferers seeking relief from their symptoms.
We also recommend that you change your air filter regularly. A dirty air filter catches fewer pollutants, allowing allergens and contaminants to circulate throughout the home. This creates a never-ending cycle of allergy and asthma symptoms.
If you have pets, you should check your air filter every 30 to 60 days. If you have pets and allergies or asthma, check your air filter every 30 to 45 days. These guidelines will differ slightly depending on the type of filter you have, its MERV rating and how many pets you have.
2. Whole-Home Active Air Purifier
Everyone should have a whole-home active air purifier. Who doesn’t want to breathe the purest air possible? This device removes a wide variety of allergens and air pollutants, greatly improving indoor air quality. Obviously, this is extremely beneficial for homeowners with pets that are struggling to find an effective solution to the dander crisis. By removing dander from the air entirely, homeowners are left with clean, non-triggering indoor air.
3. Indoor Air Quality Monitor
If you’re interested in monitoring the level of allergens and air pollutants in your home, an indoor air quality monitor is an excellent investment. It’s not always easy to tell whether or not your indoor air quality is good or bad. As aforementioned, dander is microscopic and you are only alerted to its presence if you are allergic. IAQ monitors provide basic climate information and alert you to the presence of allergens and air pollutants. This allows homeowners to take control of their home’s air quality.
4. Ventilate Your Home
Ventilation is a popular indoor air quality solution because it requires little to no work. All you have to do is open your windows and doors, or turn on your mechanical ventilation system. Ventilation helps dilute indoor air by bringing in fresh outdoor air. When the number of allergens and air pollutants is reduced, they are less likely to cause allergy and/or asthma symptoms. Of course, mechanical ventilation which brings in fresh filtered outdoor air is the superior choice.
5. Control the Source
With regard to pets, controlling the source may be more difficult. Especially when compared to swapping a gas stove for an electric stove for example. Pets are a part of the family. And they should be treated as such! In order to reduce the amount of dander floating around your home, groom your furry friends regularly. If you must allow them in the bedroom or the living room, prevent them from lounging on the bed or the couch. Vacuum carpets, sweep floors and dust regularly. And, separate blankets and towels that belong to your pet(s). Overall, it’s important to keep your home as clean as possible to reduce dander.
Dander Be Gone!
Animals bring joy to our lives. They also bring dander—and a lot of it. The truth is, pets affect indoor air quality whether we like it or not. That being said, homeowners must adjust accordingly. Especially if they have allergies or asthma triggered by pet dander. If you’re struggling with this issue, give the aforementioned indoor air quality solutions a try. And don’t forget, routine HVAC maintenance also minimizes the effect pets have on indoor air quality. We’re always more than happy to connect you with a local professional.