How to create a healthier home

Do you suffer from unexplained headaches, itchy eyes, a streaming nose, or a lack of energy? Do you find you are unable to shake off this feeling of lethargy? If more sleep, a better diet, a healthier lifestyle, and guidance from your GP does not make things better, perhaps the answer lies closer to home. In fact, it may lie within your four walls.

While our bodies and minds may be healthy, our houses may not. A UK study revealed that the inside of our homes are 10 times more polluted than our front gardens. Energy lows, particularly if they are associated with nausea, headaches, or dizziness have been linked to an overload of air pollution.

We use chemicals for cleaning, often forget to open our windows, have damp patches on our walls, clogged chimneys, dust mites lurking in our bedrooms, and may be regularly exposed to noise pollution. If you are a smoker or live with one who tends to smoke indoors, you are being exposed to indoor pollution as well as a risk of cancer.

Having a healthier home is beneficial on a number of levels and is easy to achieve. Here are some tips to help point you in the right direction:

1. Noise is a pollutant so consider insulating your walls. You can also muffle sound with bookshelves or built in units.

2. Choose blinds, such as roller blinds, instead of heavy curtains because they collect less dust. If you prefer the visual effect of curtains, choose light, floaty fabrics such as voile for an airy feel. They are easy to wash and dry and will add a touch of luxury to your room.

3. Make sure your drinking water is pure. While tap water is safe to drink, it may contain chemicals to which some people are sensitive. Use a water filter to purify it.

4. Clean air is essential for good health. Try to open your windows as often as possible, especially when you are cleaning.

5. Ensure your home is clean. Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products.

6. Find out if radon gas is a problem in your area. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which results from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. The gas is colourless, odourless, and tasteless and can only be measured using special equipment. In the open air, radon is harmless. But in an enclosed space such as a house, it may build up to an unacceptably high level, according to the Citizens Information Service. Radon from the ground enters buildings mainly through cracks in floors or gaps around pipes or cables.

"Radon decays to form tiny radioactive particles, some of which stay suspended in the air. When you inhale these particles, they give a radiation dose that may damage your lungs. Radon has been shown to be a cause of cancer, specifically lung cancer. Remaining exposed to high levels of radon in an enclosed area can increase your risk of lung cancer, particularly if you smoke."

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all households have their homes tested for radon and has a list of registered testing services. Testing involves placing two small detection devices in your house for three months. This allows for variations in radon levels due to changes in weather and ventilation. Then, you post the detectors back to the testing laboratory.

If the radon level in your home is greater than the national reference level, the EPA recommends that you consider taking action to reduce it. The two main methods of this are to (a ) prevent radon entering your home from the ground underneath or (b ) remove the radon after it has entered your home. To contact the Environmental Protection Agency telephone (053 ) 9160600 or email [email protected]

7. Keep your home clutter-free. If a lack of motivation, time, or the presence of more pressing issues prevented you from tackling the rewarding task of decluttering, maybe now is the time to start. We all know what it feels like to be snowed under by material we do not need or indeed like. It overloads our minds and causes us to waste valuable time.

All of this is stressful on a number of levels. Your living space feels overcrowded and uncomfortable, you lose time looking for things, and it is very hard to clean your home. It can be costly too, you often end up buying items because you cannot locate the ones you already have because they are buried beneath a mountain of junk.

Experts say our physical and mental energy are adversely affected by the clutter in our houses. Not only is it clogging up our living spaces, it is a constant reminder of indecision, procrastination, and overload. The sense of chaos that has invaded our homes through the ownership of too many possessions is certainly not going to bring calm to our minds or spirits. This accumulation of items clouds our vision and thinking, saps our energy, and prevents us from enjoying and appreciating the meaningful objects in our homes, the things we really love which gladden our hearts and, as the organising guru Marie Kondo says, spark joy.

8. Vacuum your mattress every time you change your sheets. Vacuum, also, around and under your bed. Try to choose bedding made from natural fibres and change your bedclothes frequently. Wash blankets or duvets regularly, also.

9. Dampness encourages house dust mites so make sure your beds are aired daily. Dust mites are one of the biggest allergy culprits and people's allergic responses can range from mild to severe. They can cause sneezing, coughing, runny nose, congestion, and itchy watery eyes. Encasing mattresses and pillows in hypoallergenic covers serves as a physical barrier if you are allergic to dust mites. We spend about one-third of our lives asleep so it is important to reduce dust mite levels in the bedroom.

10. Do not have bedroom temperatures too low or high. Both can create dampness or condensation.

11. Hang dry-cleaned clothes in a well ventilated area without their covers before putting them away.

12. Make sure your stairs are well lit to avoid falls. Remember the lighting in your home makes a big difference to how it looks and feels. Avoid harsh overhead lights and choose atmospheric ones instead.

13. Find suitable storage solutions. If you have completed the decluttering process, you may need somewhere to neatly store the items that you have decided to keep. If your cupboards are full, invest in pretty boxes and baskets that will look well on open shelving and can be used to keep all sorts of things. Do not allow magazines and newspapers (we will make an exception for the Galway Advertiser! ) to accumulate and avoid having too many ornaments on display as they are dust collectors.

14. Get kitchen and heating appliances checked regularly. Gas, oil, coal, and wood are fuel sources that are used in household appliances, including boilers, gas fires, central heating systems, water heaters, cookers, and open fires. If the fuel in these appliances does not burn fully, carbon monoxide (CO ) gas is produced, according to the HSE.

"Household appliances, such as cooking and heating devices, that are incorrectly installed and badly maintained are the main causes of accidental exposure to carbon monoxide. Provided that these appliances are correctly fitted, used safely, and well maintained, they should produce very little CO gas. Damaged appliances, or those that are not serviced regularly, often produce higher levels than normal and become dangerous.

Blocked flues and chimneys are another potential cause of carbon monoxide poisoning because they can stop CO gas escaping, allowing it to build up to dangerous levels in a room. Burning fuel in an enclosed or unventilated space, where there are no air vents, windows, or doors left open or ajar, increases the risk of CO poisoning, for example, a car engine that is left running inside a garage, or a faulty heating boiler in a poorly ventilated kitchen.

15. Keep your home pest-free. Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your house including entry points for utilities and pipes. It is also a good idea to keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed and away from the house because these can provide shelter for pests. Equally, remove sources of food and water. Ensure that basements and attics are well ventilated and dry. Remember to keep refuse in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.


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