Healthy Homes – Keep It Safe – Ask The Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

Healthy HomesThis year, we’ve run articles on the Healthy Homes Program, where we focused on the principles of Healthy Homes: Keep It Dry, Keep It Clean, Keep It Pest Free, Keep It Ventilated.  The next principle to discuss is Keep It Safe.

Safety around the home is something that we think is common in every home, yet injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults.  Injuries are not accidents.  They are preventable.  Of these injuries, falls are the leading cause (33%), followed by poisoning (27%), and fires and burns (18%).  Safety is the reason that most municipal governments have required codes for homes, such as a smoke detector in every bedroom, handrails required for stairs and deck steps, anti-tilt devices for ovens.  Even ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI’s) are designed and required in order  to prevent injuries.  These codes go a long way in helping to keep a home safe. 

There are however, many areas where it is up to us.  For example, if you have young children and you open your windows, do you have a window safety guard?  Do you lock up your medicines or household chemicals?  82% of homes have medicine in unlocked drawers and 69% of homes with young children have chemicals in unlocked areas.  Any product that has a label that says warning, danger, or caution should be in a secure location or locked away.  Too often, peoples store products like drain opener under the kitchen sink, where it is easily accessible.

When we hear about injuries or deaths around the home, it may seem incredible that preventative actions weren’t taken, but sometimes we just don’t realize there is a potential problem.  For example, a household with no children really doesn’t need safety locks on drawers or doors, or covers for electrical outlets.  However, if there are grandchildren that visit the home, this could be a problem.  If you should ever see a potential problem in a friends home, be a friend, and let them know about it. 

Through our recent training to become a certified Healthy Homes inspector, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that cause problems.  We’re offering this inspection at a reduced rate of $90 for the next month for anyone affiliated with, or who mentions the AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140).  What’s more, for every 5 inspections performed, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.

Healthy Homes – Keep It Ventilated – Ask the Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

Healthy HomesA few weeks ago, we ran  articles concerning the Healthy Homes program, where we focused on the principles of Healthy Homes, Keep it Dry, Keep it Clean, and Keep it Pest Free.  The next principle, which we’ll discuss here, is Keep It Ventilated. 

Most likely, you never think of your home as being a ventilated system.  However, homes are indeed designed for proper ventilation.  Vents are designed into homes to bring fresh air in, and let the old air out.  This is usually done through gable vents or soffit vents letting the new air in, and the roof vents (in one form or another) letting the old air out.  Because the roof vents are typically higher up than the gable vents, as hot air rises, it will escape through the roof.  This keeps your home ventilated.  However, more is going on than just letting the heat out of the attic.  By having a well ventilated home, you are allowing the removal of moisture, odors, and pollutants from your home.  Keep in mind that pollutants are up to five times higher inside the home than outside. 

Consider your furnace, hot water heater, and stove, and clothes dryer.   If they are gas, they must be vented to the outside.  This will help reduce carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.  Even though these items are vented, it is still a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector/alarm.  Each year, there are over 500 deaths from carbon monoxide in the home, and more than 15,000 non-fire related healthcare visits. 

In addition to the appliances mentioned, bathrooms should also be vented.  Local code requires a bathroom exhaust fan which is vented to the attic or outside in every bathroom, unless there is an operable window.  This is not only for odors, but moisture issues as well.  Is your exhaust fan working properly?  An easy test is to take a few sheets of toilet paper and hold it up to the exhaust fan when it is turned on.  If the paper stays at the fan opening, then you know air is being sucked out as it should.  These fan coverings should occasionally be vacuumed. 

Professionals recommend occasionally opening windows in your home, even and especially in the Winter, to get rid of the stale air in the home.  You want air circulation to give you that exchange of air.  New energy efficient furnaces  take the air from outside, heat it, and then force it into the home.  Furnace filters are made to trap particles.  As the health factors are becoming easily recognized, we now have minimum efficiency ratings (MERV) on our furnace filters.  The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends at least a MERV 8 filter.

Proper ventilation plays an important role in maintaining health, removing humidity and diluting or removing contaminants. 

Through our recent training to become a certified Healthy Homes inspector, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that can cause problems.  We’re offering this inspection at a  reduced rate of $90 through the end of May for anyone affiliated with, or who mentions the AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140).  What’s more, for every 5 inspections purchased, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.

AAFA-STL is a nonprofit organization that has been serving the asthmatic and allergic needs of the St. Louis community for over 31 years.  AAFA-STL’s medical assistance program, Project Concern, provided uninsured and underinsured children with life-saving asthma and allergy medications, equipment,

Healthy Homes – Keep It Pest Free – Ask the Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

Healthy HomesNationally, 1 in 15 people have asthma. In Missouri, almost 9% of children have asthma , and in St. Louis, the figure is 1 out of 5!  Asthma is the #1 reason children visit the emergency room and the #1 reason children are hospitalized.

Recent articles concerning The Healthy Homes program discussed the first and second basic principles, Keep It Dry and Keep It Clean.   Continuing in our series is the third principle, Keep It Pest Free.

While it makes sense to keep out unwanted pests, we may not realize what the presence of pests can mean.  Between 1980 and 1994, the prevalence of asthma increased 75% overall.  Some of the pests associated with asthma or asthma symptoms include dust mites, cockroaches, and mice dander.  According to a 2007 American Housing Survey, overall 5.5% of homes had signs of mice in the past in the past three months.  The presence of pests is two-fold.  First, no one wants cockroaches or mice in their home.  So, in an attempt to get rid of the bugs or mice, we use pesticides.  This may or may not take care of the pest, but its use may be causing another problem.    The health effects associated with pesticides include: eye, nose, throat irritation; skin rashes, stomach cramps, nausea; central nervous system damage; kidney damage; and increased risk of cancers.  Overall, almost half of all households with children under five stored pesticides within reach of children. In 2007, Poison Control Centers reported 16,000 pesticide exposures requiring treatment.

So, what are we to do?  First, keep them out!  Block any pest entries, passages, and hiding places.  Second, reduce the availability of their food.  Don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight and keep food stored in plastic containers or bags.  If you already have mice, be sure to empty your kitchen trash nightly.  Clean up the crumbs, and never leave grease out overnight.  Use traps and appropriate pesticides.

Be careful when using pesticides, as many are toxic, even those designed for home use.  Never use a spray pesticide or fogger.  Instead, use baits and powders, such as gel baits, traps, and borate powder.  Be sure to keep even these items away from children and pets.  Good spots are next to walls, baseboards, under sinks, in cabinets, and near plumbing fixtures.

Through our recent training to become a certified Healthy Homes inspector, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that can cause problems.  We’re offering this inspection at a  reduced rate of $90 through the end of January for anyone affiliated with, or who mentions the AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140).  What’s more, for every 5 inspections purchased, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.

AAFA-STL is a nonprofit organization that has been serving the asthmatic and allergic needs of the St. Louis community for over 31 years.  AAFA-STL’s medical assistance program, Project Concern, provided uninsured and underinsured children with life-saving asthma and allergy medications, equipment, and more.

Healthy Homes – Keep It Clean – Ask the Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

Healthy HomesAs winter settles in, we spend much more time indoors.  The cold and flu season begins.  When you combine the two, we can be in for a dreary time, especially for those with asthma or allergies.  Being confined indoors means that if there are any triggers of allergies or asthma inside the home, we are being confronted with them even more than normal.   Think about the fact that young children spend 70% of the time in their home.

A few weeks ago, we ran the article concerning the Healthy Homes program, where we focused on the first principle of Healthy Homes, Keep it Dry.  The second principle, which we’ll discuss here, is Keep It Clean.  While we all want to think that we keep our homes clean, it makes even more sense that if we are spending the winter indoors, we want the home to be as clean as possible.  By Keeping It Clean, we reduce our exposure to chemical contaminants, allergens, pest droppings, pesticides and consumer chemicals.

Dust can come from home-grown items such as dust mites or lead dust, or can be resident-made, such as garbage and clutter.  Either way, cleaning is essential.  It is suggested that dry dusting or dry sweeping is not the best way to clean.  Experts recommend vacuuming with a low-emission vacuum with a beater bar, or wet cleaning, using elbow grease, and being certain to frequently change the water.  Using a vacuum that has good filtration and a HEPA air filter is best.  Of course, keeping the dust out can begin at the door by installing a dust walk-off system and taking your shoes off when entering.  Having cleanable flooring is much better than carpeting.  Dust is harder to remove from carpet, and the older the carpeting is, the more difficult it is to clean.  If you are going to clean your carpet, steam cleaning is better than chemical cleaners or shampooing.

When cleaning, consider more natural cleaners.  For example, if you use an air freshener, understand that most commercial air fresheners do not freshen the air.  Instead, they mask one odor with another, coat your nasal passages with an undetectable oil film, or even diminish your sense of smell with a nerve-deadening agent.  Instead, try one of the following: open your windows for a short period during the day (even in winter); cinnamon and cloves boiled in water creates a fragrant smell; potpourri,  or pure essentials oils added to water and left sitting out. 

For an all-purpose cleaner, consider using baking soda (4 tablespoons dissolved in 1 quart of warm water).  It makes a good general cleaner.  Vinegar and salt mixed together is a good surface cleaner.

Through our recent training to become a certified Healthy Homes inspector, in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis Chapter, we have developed a 65-point, whole house inspection for families who deal with allergy and asthma issues to help identify and remedy environmental issues that can cause problems.  We’re offering this inspection at a  reduced rate of $90 through the end of January for anyone affiliated with, or who mentions the AAFA-STL when scheduling their appointment (normal value is $140).  What’s more, for every 5 inspections purchased, Get It Done is offering one hour of service to AAFA-STL clients.

AAFA-STL is a nonprofit organization that has been serving the asthmatic and allergic needs of the St. Louis community for over 31 years.  AAFA-STL’s medical assistance program, Project Concern, provided uninsured and underinsured children with life-saving asthma and allergy medications, equipment, education, and support.  Their educational programs and recourses reach families, schools, and nurses all over the Greater St. Louis area. (www.aafastl.org).

Keeping the house clean will go a long way in helping you survive the winter.  Be careful however, this could be addicting!