Answers to Common Healthy Homes Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about healthy homes.

  • What effect does stress have on the body?
  • Can stress levels change with age or life stages?
  • What is indoor air quality
  • What effect does poor indoor air quality have on someone’s health?
  • How can someone prevent or reduce the risk for poor air quality inside their home?
  • What are the symptoms of a mold allergy or reaction to exposure?
  • What should someone do if they suspect they have symptoms from mold exposure?
  • What should be done around the house to reduce the presence of mold?
  • What are the symptoms of a poisoning?
  • What is the first thing someone should do if they suspect a poisoning?
  • What are the most common sources of poisoning in the home?
  • What effect does stress have on the body?

    Clinical Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Phlipot discusses the effect of stress on the body. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

     

    Stress has a variety of effects on the body – some good, but mostly bad, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site 

Icon (NIH).

    In emergency situations, stress helps our bodies rev up to increase activity and increase survival, according to the NIH. The instant stress makes your pulse quicken, makes you breathe faster, tenses your muscles, provides your brain more oxygen and increases your activity level.

    Chronic stress, however, decreases the function of your digestive, excretory and reproductive systems, according to the NIH.

    Stress, according to The American Institute of StressOff Site Icon (AIS), can also affect:

    • Breathing – Increased stress can make you breathe harder, which can cause some people to hyperventilate and can even start panic attacks.
    • Cardiovascular system – Repeated stress can cause inflammation of the coronary arteries, which can lead to a heart attack.
    • Muscles – Your muscles tense up, and the contraction for long periods can cause tension headaches, migraines and other conditions.

    Finding ways to reduce stress in your life is the most healthy option for your body overall.

    Talk with your doctor for more information about how stress affects your body.

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    Can stress levels change with age or life stages?

    As we age, our ability to manage stress in order to live a healthy lifestyle changes, according to a study by the American Psychological AssociationOff Site Icon (APA).

    The study found that all Americans, regardless of age, reported having more stress than what is considered a healthy level, according to the APA; younger Americans said they experienced more stress than older generations and that they do not manage it well.

    The sources for stress also varied by generation, according to the APA. Millennials (age 18 to 33) and Gen Xers (age 34 to 47) said job stability, money and work were what caused the majority of stress in their lives. Baby Boomers (age 48 to 66) and Matures (age 67 and older) were stressed most by health issues affecting themselves and their families.

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    What is indoor air quality?

    Indoor air quality is how the air in a person’s home, workplace or other indoor location can affect their health and comfort, according to the Occupational Safety and Health AdministrationOff Site Icon (OSHA).

    Indoor air quality can be affected by a variety of factors, according to OSHA, including:

    • chemical exposure
    • humidity
    • mold caused by water damage
    • poor ventilation
    • temperature

    Talk with your doctor to learn more about indoor air quality.

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    What effect does poor indoor air quality have on someone’s health?

    • allergic symptoms
    • coughing
    • dizziness
    • dry eyes
    • fatigue
    • headaches
    • increased risk of lung disease
    • nasal congestion
    • nausea

    While some symptoms of poor indoor air quality are fairly immediate, other symptoms develop and cause problems over time, according to the ALA. Talk with your doctor for more information about how poor air quality can affect a person’s health.

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    How can someone prevent or reduce the risk for poor air quality inside their home?

    There are a couple steps you can take to help defend against poor air quality in your home, according to the American Lung AssociationOff Site Icon (ALA). The best first step is to work to keep pollutants from being added to the air from the start, according to the ALA. Making sure your home is correctly ventilated is the next step in helping to keep indoor air pollution to a minimum. The ALA lists the following as some of the biggest indoor air pollution offenders to work to reduce or eliminate from your home:

    • asbestos
    • biological pollutants – These include molds, bacteria, viruses, pollen, animal dander, and particles left behind from dust mites
    • combustion pollutants – These include furnaces, fireplaces, fuel burning stoves and water heaters that use gas, oil, coal, wood, and other types of fuel
    • formaldehyde – This is often found in adhesives and materials such as flooring that are used in building a home
    • radon
    • secondhand tobacco smoke

    Additionally, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts LowellOff Site Icon (TURI) also named these chemicals to its list of common indoor air quality pollutants:

    • beauty products – This includes hairspray, perfumes, colognes, and nail polishes
    • dry cleaning chemicals
    • household cleaners
    • lawn care and pest treatments – These can easily be dragged into the house on shoes or feet of pets

    TURI recommends taking steps to contain any pollutants in or around your home, then to clean or remove the polluting items altogether. For more information about preventing and reducing the risk of poor air quality in your home, talk with your doctor.

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    What are the symptoms of a mold allergy or reaction to exposure?

    Clinical Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Phlipot discusses the mold allergy symptoms. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

     

    Symptoms of a mold allergy are similar to those of other allergens, such as pollen or ragweed, according the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (ACAAI).

    Mold allergy symptoms include:

    • Coughing
    • Hives
    • Itchiness inside the ears
    • Itchy eyes
    • Itchy throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Sneezing
    • Swollen eyelids
    • Trouble breathing
    • Wheezing

    You can have symptoms of a mold allergy both outside and inside, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (AAAAI). Mold also can cause asthma symptoms to act up.

    For more information about symptoms of a mold allergy, talk with your doctor.

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    What should someone do if they suspect they have symptoms from mold exposure?

    If you’re concerned that you might have allergy symptoms from being exposed to mold, it’s important to visit a doctor, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (ACAAI). First visit your primary care provider, who may in certain instances, refer you to an allergist.

    An allergist can review your medical history, review your symptoms and do skin or blood testing to find out if your allergic reactions are truly to mold, according to the ACAAI.

    You can help your allergist by keeping track of your symptoms for at least two weeks before your appointment. The ACAAI recommends keeping track of the following to help your allergist determine if you have a mold allergy:

    • Date and time of the allergy symptoms
    • How long after starting to have symptoms you took medicine
    • Length of time symptoms lasted
    • Medicines (prescription or over-the-counter) you used to relieve symptoms
    • What you were doing when the symptoms started
    • What you were eating when the symptoms started
    • Where you were when the symptoms started

    Until you have visited your allergist and come up with a care plan, it’s important that you try to avoid mold and the places where you had symptoms, according to the ACAAI.

    Talk to your doctor for more information about what to do if you think you have allergy symptoms to mold.

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    What should be done around the house to reduce the presence of mold?

    Clinical Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Phlipot discusses how to reduce the presence of mold at home. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

     

    Reducing mold around your house includes cleaning and taking steps to keep the house dry, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (ACAAI).

    Frequently cleaning trash cans, cleaning the refrigerator door drip pan and scrub your sinks at least once a month. According to the ACAAI.

    The ACAAI and the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC), also recommends keeping your house dry by:

    • Add mold inhibitors to paint before painting the walls
    • Avoid carpet in bathrooms and basements
    • Clean bathrooms with mold-killing cleaners
    • Fixing any leaks immediately to avoid mold growth
    • Making sure the ground is sloped away from the home’s foundation to help prevent water from leaking into the house
    • Turn on an exhaust fan or keep a window open in the bathroom to get rid of moisture
    • Use a dehumidifier to keep the house dry. The humidity levels should be no higher than 50 percent at any time

    Taking these important steps is the best way to work toward keeping mold out of your home.

    Talk to your doctor for more tips on how to reduce the presence of mold in your house.

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    What are the symptoms of a poisoning?

    Clinical Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Phlipot discusses symptoms of a poisoning. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

     

    While the symptoms of a poisoning can vary depending on what poisonous substance and how much of it you were exposed to, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). Your age, weight and overall health also play a part in the symptoms you have from poison.

    Some possible symptoms you might have from poison, according to the AAFP, include:

    • Confusion
    • Diarrhea
    • Dilated eyes
    • Drooling
    • Dry mouth
    • Rash
    • Redness or sores around the mouth
    • Seizures
    • Shaking
    • Trouble breathing
    • Unconsciousness (fainting)
    • Vomiting

    Poisoning can have some of the short term effects listed here, but it also can be more serious, according to the AAFP. In some cases, brain damage and death can occur.

    Talk to your doctor for more information about poisoning symptoms.

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    What is the first thing someone should do if they suspect a poisoning?

    If you think someone is experiencing poisoning, the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP) recommends you follow these steps:

    1. Remain calm.
    2. Get the person away from the poison – If the poison is on the skin, wash the skin with running water and remove poison- covered clothes. If the poison is in the air, get the person to fresh air.
    3. Call 911 if you believe there is a poisoning emergency, such as if the person has collapsed or is not breathing.
    4. If the person is awake and responsive, call the American Association of Poison Control CentersOff Site Icon (AAPCC) at (800) 222-1222 immediately. Try to have this information available:
      1. Address where the poisoning happened
      2. Age and weight of poisoned person
      3. The poison container
      4. Time of exposure to the poison
    5. Follow the directions of the emergency assistance or poison control center.

    For more information about what to do if you think someone is experiencing poisoning, talk with your doctor.

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    What are the most common sources for poisoning in the home?

    There are many chemicals used day-to-day around the house that can lead to poisoning if they are not stored safely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

    The most common causes of poisoning in young children at home, according to the CDC, are:

    • Cleaning products
    • Cosmetics
    • Pain relievers
    • Personal care products
    • Antidepressants
    • Cleaning products
    • Pain relievers
    • Prescription drugs
    • Sedatives

    Other at-home causes of poisoning the CDC lists as causes of concern include pesticides, detergents, bleaches and carbon monoxide.

    The American Association of Poison Control CentersOff Site Icon (AAPCC) also warns of some newer causes for poison concerns in homes, including “bath salts” (powerful synthetic drugs), e-cigarette devices, energy drinks, laundry detergent/dishwasher detergent packets, and liquid nicotine.

    For more information about common poisons in the home, talk with your doctor.

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    Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about healthy homes:

    Additional Resources

    This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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