Healthy Home Healthy Family

Mould on your shower curtain? Wearing a hat to bed in winter? Kids always coughing? It could be that your home isn’t as healthy as it should be. Here are some must-knows about keeping your home and your family in tip-top shape this winter.

Over the years, it’s become clear that the home environment plays a huge part in a family’s overall health. Keeping your family healthy over winter, in particular, can be a struggle for many families, especially those with asthma or respiratory-related illnesses. So, what are some of the things you can do at home to keep your family healthy this winter?

Living in a dry and warm environment is essential for good health. The World Health Organisation recommends a temperature of at least 18°C throughout your house, and room temperatures under 16°C are actually considered harmful. Thermostatically controlled heaters are good for maintaining a constant temperature, and as such, heat pumps in particular have seen a dramatic rise in popularity these past few years.

Insulation though is considered to be one of the most important things you can do to keep your home warm and dry. Unfortunately, many older houses in New Zealand were built without insulation. Insulating your ceiling and under the floor is a low-cost option to keep the heat in, and has an added bonus of reducing your heating costs, as the warmth actually stays in your house. Be aware though that if your insulation was installed a long time ago, it may no longer be doing its job properly, so it pays to check how old it is. There is government funding available to help with the costs of insulating and heating your house. See sidebar for details. You should also buy well-fitted curtains to keep the heat in. Pulling your curtains before dusk will make a big difference in winter to your home’s internal temperature. You should also consider using draught stops under doors and draught proofing strips around windows and doors.

Keeping your house warm and dry also has the added advantage of avoiding mould and fungal spores growing on your walls or shower curtains, for example. If you do have any patches of mould within your house, ensure you remove it quickly using very diluted household bleach. Use extractor fans in your kitchen and bathroom, and dry your clothes outside. Putting your bath towels outside in the sun to air dry after your shower/bath is another good way to keep dampness at bay.

Keeping the air in your home clean and pollution-free is very important to maintaining a healthy living environment. The over-use of chemicals and strong-smelling aerosol sprays, fly sprays and other cleaning agents have been implicated in polluting our homes. Use such products as sparingly as possible and remember to ventilate rooms thoroughly after use. There are many more chemical-free products on the market these days, particularly for cleaning products, so keep an eye out on the supermarket shelf for some that might be more suited to keeping your home healthier. Plus, they’re better for the environment too.

Don’t just ventilate your home after using sprays and chemicals – you should be regularly opening doors and windows to freshen up your home and to get rid of accumulated fumes. For those of you who have internal garages, it’s vitally important to ensure that any connecting doors between your garage and your home are fully shut at all times, particularly when vehicles are entering or exiting. Poisonous carbon monoxide gases from the garage can easily find their way up your stairs or into your living spaces, so you should also consider putting an extra seal on the surrounds of such connecting doors.

Minimising allergens in your home is another good starting point to keep your family healthy this winter. Watch carefully for allergy triggers in your children. These could be anything from foods to cigarette smoke, pets to dust mite faeces. If you can avoid these things, or at least minimise them in your home, your children will be less likely to suffer and you might just save yourself a trip to the doctors. For example, pets are often a trigger for asthma, so either keep your pets outside, or at least out of the bedrooms.

If someone in your family does suffer from asthma or has an allergy to dust mite faeces, there are some simple yet quite effective things you can do to lessen their impact. One of the most significant is the use of special bedding covers which provide a barrier to dust mites and their faeces. And if you don’t have those for whatever reason, then ensure you vacuum your mattress weekly. The type of filter in your vacuum cleaner is also important. Vacuum cleaners with a micro-filter, an “S-class” filter, or an HEPA (“High Efficiency Particulate Air”) filter system are the best. Direct sunlight kills dust mites, so hang your washing out in the sun to dry and air your blankets, duvets and any rugs weekly. For children, wash soft toys regularly and dry in the sun or put them in the deep freeze for 24-48 hours every few weeks, this will kill the dust mites. And another important thing that not all parents would be aware of, don’t put your allergy- or asthma-prone child on the bottom bunk, as they will be left very exposed to dust mites from the mattress above.

Keep your home healthy this winter and you’ll not only be keeping it warm, dry and pollution-free, but you’ll be saving money and energy. A healthy home equals a healthy family, so help make your home a better place to live in.

did you know?

You can get financial help to insulate your home

  • Energywise provides a range of subsidies, information and advice for homeowners wanting to keep warmer, drier, healthier and
    cheaper to run.
  • If your house was built before 2000 you can get up to $1,300 (or 33%) towards the cost of ceiling and under floor insulation. Don’t wait for winter before you take action!
  • 91% of those that have insulated their home as part of the governments insulation programme have noticed an improvement in the warmth of their home – and 18% have noticed an improvement in their health!

For more information visit www.energywise.govt.nz

from the experts

A recently-publicised NZ study links asthma in a significant percentage of young children to lower reading achievements. The findings of the Children’s Learning Study done at Canterbury University reinforce how important controlling children’s asthma is. Ensuring children use their preventer inhalers regularly and are not relying on relievers is vital! Parents can get a Child Asthma Plan from www.asthmafoundation.org.nz or contact their nearest Asthma Society. The plan is completed by a parent and child working together with a health professional. Parents of children with asthma have the right to have their concerns taken seriously and acted on.

10 top tips for a healthy home

  • Insulate your ceiling and under the floor to keep heat in and heating costs down
  • Reduce dust mites
  • Keep your house smoke-free
  • Remove any mould
  • Use electric or flued gas heaters only
  • Air your house on fine days
  • Dry your clothes outside
  • Keep room temperatures to a minimum of 18°C
  • Fix leaky taps, guttering and wet areas around your home
  • Limit the use of strong-smelling cleaners,
    air fresheners and flysprays
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