The power of prevention

October 18, 2016

The power of prevention

Most people already try to eat well to avoid gaining weight. They keep active to avoid getting rusty and they swallow vitamins to stave off colds… the power of prevention is ingrained in the majority of people, and they wholeheartedly follow the latest fads to keep up with society.

But how much more could people do to prevent getting sick? A lot more, it turns out. The more people know, the better they can protect themselves. A recent report by the Canadian Lung Association about COPD and preventative measures found that prevention would reduce the amount of emergency room visits and the associated healthcare costs for a total of $79 million in ER costs and $644 million in hospital costs Canada-wide in the first five years of enrollment in the prevention program.

When it comes to chronic and recurring conditions like hay fever, common allergies, asthma, respiratory diseases and lung conditions (and any other health condition, for that matter), prevention is arguably always better than treating symptoms - and it can start with a few simple changes in the home or workplace:

Avoid common triggers

Human life is characterized by a series of changes - often related to life stages (transitioning from teenager to young adult, from adult to senior etc), lifestyle, disease, school, work or family. The human body needs to adapt all the time and it can develop certain health conditions along the way. Steering clear of common triggers is a good idea - these include harsh chemicals, pollen, mold, and pet dander. For example, experts recommend using an allergy-proof cover on the mattress and pillow to prevent exposure to dust mites and allergens. The bedroom (and big furniture items) should be a pet-free zone. It also helps to regularly clean the house or workplace to control dust.

Switch to healthier products

There are many possible sources of harmful substances in the home. Some of those include common household cleaning products. Bleach, ammonia as well as the countless other chemicals in harsh cleaning products can add to the fume count in the home and build up over time. But there is no need to buy expensive “green” solutions, especially if money is a concern. Experts recommend warm water, gentle dish soap, pure vinegar and baking soda, which are just as effective and more natural. Simply adding a bit of vinegar to warm water makes a great cleaning solution. And those worried about the vinegar smell can relax: The smell evaporates after a few minutes. Marble or granite countertops and stone floor tiles require special care, however - they don’t like acids, so it’s best to stick to warm water with a few drops of dish soap. Baking soda and a few drops of water make a fantastic scrubbing paste for bathtubs.

Control humidity and fix leaks

Found a bit of water in the basement or a leaking faucet in the bathroom? It’s best to address these issues right away and to prevent water from accumulating. Mold spores are everywhere and they start to grow in damp and humid spots after 24 to 48 hours. Simply cleaning the mold won’t be enough to prevent it from growing again, unless the initial water-infiltration problem is fixed. Exposure to mold has been linked to a wide range of respiratory diseases, so get the tool box or the plumber’s number right away.

Breathe cleaner air

This is a logical continuation from the previous points, of course. There are numerous ways to improve the air quality in the home or workplace: It is easy to avoid stale air or contaminant buildup by opening windows regularly and making sure the HVAC system provides proper air exchanges. An activated carbon and HEPA air purifier can remove airborne chemicals, particles, dust, pollen, fumes and mold spores. Running an air purifier in the bedroom could make a world of difference for sleep and air quality, especially during allergy season. And speaking of air filters: It is imperative to change the filters in the HVAC system regularly and invest in good-quality filters. Air quality experts warn to stay away from air freshener sprays, plug-ins and candles and recommend using natural, homemade products instead.

Also, avoid areas where people smoke. Secondhand smoke is almost as bad for one’s health as smoking itself.

Create a healthier home

Now here is a reason to finally tackle that home improvement project - not only will an updated look increase the value of the home, but it is also important to prevent serious health effects. Important updates include replacing wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with easy-to-clean flooring like hardwood (or refinishing the hardwood that was hiding underneath). Well-placed area rugs will provide that lush feeling underneath the feet - and they are easier to clean and replace. It is also important to remove any lead paint, old wallpaper, asbestos-containing materials and other such IAQ challenges in the home. Beware, however: The removal and renovation process could be dangerous in itself as it can expose you to harmful fibers and particles, so it is best to take necessary precautions or leave it to the experts. See below for more information.

A healthy home also means no clutter and no overgrown collection of stuffed animals. Hoarding is not an option.

Plan renovations properly

Renovations often involve fumes, dust and potentially dangerous substances such as asbestos fibers, especially during the demolition and construction phase, but also during the finishing phase. Proper cleanup and protective measures can minimize risks. A dust curtain, for example, will go a long way in preventing exposure in other parts of the house. There are also many healthier home improvement options on the market nowadays: Low or zero-VOC paints, all-natural flooring, rugs or fabrics, and so on. Be creative and try a slipcover over a sofa first before buying a whole new set. New sofas are often treated with flame retardants, which have been linked to a wide range of health effects.

Make the self a priority

Prevention is also closely tied to the mindset and how people feel. So it is no wonder experts want people to take care of themselves. This includes minimizing stress as much as possible. Yoga and meditation might help with that. Finding a hobby and getting enough sleep, a minimum of 7 or 8 hours a night, are also high on the list.

If people develop sensitivities to certain things, it is important to let others know. Talking to friends, family members, co-workers and people around them may be all that is needed to provide some relief. It’s best to ask them politely to refrain from smoking or wearing too much perfume. Sometimes, a little information goes a long way in making the ambient air healthier and helping to prevent health problems in the future.

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