Salamat Dok Health Hazards: Home safe home?

by Yam dela Cruz, Multimedia producer, Salamat Dok

Posted at Dec 04 2010 10:50 PM | Updated as of Dec 10 2010 10:24 AM

There’s no place like home – a common catchphrase attached to a place where families live harmoniously together. But what if the place that you always felt was the safest place for you becomes the source and cause of illness to you and to the rest of the family? 

There are several hazards within our home. As Dr. Cesar Joseph Gloria, an Allergologist and active member of the Philippine Society of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology puts it, “There are four most common home health hazards – dust mites, cockroach, pets and molds. They affect our health because we deal with them every day. We may not notice but they bring us accumulated allergens.” 

Dust Mites

These are tiny insects barely seen by the eyes. They live in our beds, blankets, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, clothes, stuffed toys and fabric covered items.

Dust mites feed on dead human skins and fallen hair. Over time they grow bigger, stronger and multiply. They go your nose, eyes and worst – your lungs.  When one is exposed to dust mites, one may suffer from asthma, bronchitis, perennial rhinitis (hay fever), eczema, dermatitis and sinus infections. 

Itchy skin, sneeze, headache, sinusitis, teary and red eyes are the most common symptoms.
To avoid dust mites allergy, here are some tips: 
  •  After use, always cover your beds and pillows with dust proof, zippered covers
  •  Wash your beddings; blanket and bed cover with hot water every week
  •  Make sure to buy washable stuffed toys. Wash with hot water and dry rigidly
  •  Avoid putting the stuffed toys on the bed
  •  Beddings, pillows, blankets and the like must be aired and exposed to sunlight three times a week. This will kill dust mites including its eggs 


We all know that cockroach is a very dirty insect simply because it crawls everywhere.
Cockroach allergens come from several sources, namely -- saliva, fecal material, secretions, cast skins, and dead bodies,” says a study cited by the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2005) Itchy skin is the prominent symptom caused by cockroach allergens. Effects on health includes: allergic illnesses, dermatitis, rhinitis, bronchitis and asthma.
Here are some pointers on how to prevent your house from cockroach: 
  • Maintain cleanliness of the house
  • Wipe cooking stove and table after using.
  • Place food in a clean place and immediately remove scattered food remnants
  • Always cover food or put them in a tightly sealed containers
  • Wash dishes immediately after use
  • Always cover garbage containers
  • Organize paper materials like old newspapers, put and cover in one place
  • Fix defective faucets, water lines and holes in the house 

Pet Dander

Wikipedia defines dander as a “material shed from the body of various animals, similar to dandruff or pet pollen. It may contain scales of dried skin and hair, or feathers. It is a frequent cause of allergies in humans.”

Dr. Cesar Joseph Gloria says, “Many believe that allergies are from the pet fur and feathers but the truth is -- allergens come from their saliva and urine. It’s bad for the health. Pet dander can trigger symptoms especially if you allow them to sleep with you at night. When you wake up in the morning, sneezing and itching happens”

Here’s how to prevent you from pet dander: 
  • This is hard – keep your pets outside your house 
  • Maintain a "NO PET ZONE" inside your room
  • See to it that pets are always clean 
  • Prevent pets from sitting on fabric-covered furniture, stuffed toys and carpet 

Molds are microscopic organisms that grow in moist places. Household molds are commonly black; others are gray or charcoal-colored. They are frequently seen in toilets and sinks. They can also grow in wet wood, scrap paper, carpets and food. Exposure to common household and in some cases, house has become uninhabitable.

Common symptoms of mold exposure includes: shortness of breath, nasal and sinus congestion, nose, throat and eye irritations (redness or teary), headaches and tired feeling.
To prevent this, doctors advise the following: 
  • Make sure places in the house that are commonly wet are air dried for about 24-48 hours
  • Fix leaking water pipes and faucets
  • Clean the areas affected by molds with soap and water and dry well
  • Ceiling tiles and carpets worn out by termites needs to be fixed and changed 
Other Home health hazards
Insecticides, termiticides and disinfectants are considered pesticides. It could bring worst effects on a person’s health – eye, nose and throat irritations, to the extent of damaged central nervous system and getting into high risk of cancer.
A person may experience headache, nausea and weak muscles as symptoms of mild exposure from this biological contaminant. Prolong exposure causes liver and kidney damage affecting the endocrine and nervous systems.
In emergency situations, experts recommend the following: 
  • If your eyes are contaminated with a household chemical, wash it for 15-20 minutes using shower of running water from the faucet.
  • If your skin is affected, immediately remove your clothes. Wash the affected area for 15-20 minutes in running water.
  • If you accidentally ingested it, drink half a glass of water.
  • If you inhaled a poisonous gas, bring the patient in out in a clean and airy environment.  Otherwise, open the door and windows.
  • All the aforementioned situations are just first-aid measures. After doing these, you still need to rush the patient to the nearest hospital. 
Dr. Allan Dionisio, Clinical Toxicologist and Family Medicine Specialist at The Medical City and UP-PGH Poison Center advises, “All hazardous chemicals at home should be put in a safe place with lock. Don’t put them in common containers like empty mineral water bottle because children mistake it for water.”

Lead is a dense, malleable, toxic metal usually found in household items like batteries, paint, toys, fashion jewellery, ceramic tiles, recycled garden hoses, and many more.

Lead poisoning is a growing global concern and children are often the victims. Children who are exposed to lead have decreased attention span, hyperactive, shows reading and learning disabilities, behavioural problems and suffer from insomnia.
“These kids often complain stomach pains. Parents bring them to a hospital. The paediatrician order several tests but the pain is still there. At first, they think its allergy to milk. Unknown to them, it’s already lead poisoning,” says Dr. Dionisio.

This silvery white metal commonly seen in thermometers may nice to look at but don’t be alluded with it’s because it’s a toxic substance.

“When your thermometer gets broken, mercury spreads. If the weather is hot, it turns to gas and evaporates. Then you inhale it. It stays in the body for about 16 months affecting the lungs, kidneys and brain,” explains Dr. Dionisio.
Chilling, mood swings, irritability, too much shyness, insomnia, headaches, birth defects and developmental delays in children are some mild symptoms. High exposure causes respiratory failure and the worst – death.
Aerosol Spray
A common item at home, aerosol sprays has become a necessity in today’s living. Not only rich homes but even those who live in poverty-stricken areas use aerosol sprays. Unfortunately, it’s harmful when used in places with poor ventilation.
 Things to remember: 
  • Limit the spraying to the affected parts of your house
  • Do not spray where you prepare, cook and store food
  • Do not spray where children play, crawl and sleep
  • Follow instructions on the label carefully
  • Ensure good air ventilation before using aerosol sprays
  • Inform asthmatic people to go outside the house first
  • Place the spray in a safe place under lock and key 
November 6, 2010