How to Reduce Allergens in Schools: Guide

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How to Reduce Allergens in Schools

Schools are notorious for harboring allergens. Here are four steps to reduce allergen levels in schools, and why cutting-edge IoT sensors are necessary to maintain healthy indoor air quality.

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An estimated 41% of schools in the U.S. have junky or outdated heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. This is a serious issue with more at stake than uncomfortable temperatures.

Poor ventilation is a massive concern because it encourages mold growth, indoor allergens, high pollen counts, and other sources of bad air quality. If school administrators don't address their indoor air quality, students suffer. 

Below is a guide for improving air quality in schools. It explains how to reduce allergens, and why indoor air quality sensors are essential to maintaining healthy indoor environments that help students thrive.

The Most Common Allergens Found in Schools

In the U.S., kids miss an average of 13 million school days annually due to asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This stat prompts the question — why so many?

Allergic reactions arise from a vast range of airborne pollutants. However, schools typically harbor a few common allergens, which can cause severe reactions if left unchecked. 

The most common allergens in school environments include:

  • Dust mites
  • Mold spores
  • Pollen
  • Insect or rodent droppings and saliva

The presence of these pollutants results in common allergies, but it can also result in severe asthma attacks. How can you tell if these allergens are present? Of course, it's ideal to eliminate them before they become an issue, but symptoms of the presence of allergy-causing pollutants include:

  • Runny nose (or stuffy nose)
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Difficulty breathing (or wheezing)
  • Scratchy throat

These are the basic physical symptoms, but untreated mold growth or a high pollen count can result in cognitive impairment for students as well. In the end, the sources of bad allergies create an environment that's antithetical to learning and hinders long-term academic achievement.

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Strategies to Reduce Allergen Sources

While no building is immune to outdoor allergens, there are ways to combat severe allergen levels.

Reducing indoor allergens requires a multipronged approach. It starts with knowing what the common air pollutants are and ends with understanding how to keep them away over the long term. Even for schools that administer allergy shots, these are merely prescriptive treatments that usually work only for seasonal allergies.

Prioritizing clean air requires more than addressing peak allergy seasons. Instead, an anti-allergy campaign must be a year-round approach that monitors air levels daily. Then, students, parents, and faculty members can rest assured, knowing that the school is a safe environment with healthy indoor air quality that falls in line with the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines

Conduct Allergen Assessments and Audits

Conducting an allergen assessment is an excellent first step to spotting areas that require attention. 

An allergen assessment is usually part of a larger indoor air quality assessment, which takes an inventory of your air's pollutant levels and ranks them by severity. These assessments analyze more than allergens like pollen in the air. They also identify issues like radon, volatile organic compounds, and humidity. 

Allergen assessments help building managers understand where severe reactions may be coming from. For example, if an air quality assessment measures high levels of pet and rodent waste, that could indicate a rodent infestation causing chronic allergies among the student body. 

Recognize High-Risk Areas in School Buildings

Reducing allergy levels in schools requires understanding where allergens are most likely to originate. 

For example, areas with high moisture content, such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and pool decks, should always be a priority when you're looking for mold growth. On the other hand, cafeterias and storage areas are conducive to rat, mice, and cockroach infestations. 

Watch each high-risk area with extra attention, checking them more regularly than others for allergen sources. This step is critical for taking a proactive stance in the battle against poor air quality. 

Perform Regular Cleaning and Maintenance 

The EPA estimates that 25% of U.S. schools have poor ventilation, often due to dirty filters. A critical step is ensuring all HVAC systems have a clean, undamaged air filter, ideally with a MERV rating of 13 or higher. It's also critical to supply every vacuum cleaner and air purifier with a HEPA filter, which removes 99.7% of all particles that are 0.3 microns or smaller. 

Strict cleaning protocols are another key element of keeping allergens away over the long term. For example, routinely washing all fabrics prevents the accumulation of dust mite waste. Additionally, thoroughly cleaning the kitchen and cafeteria is essential to keeping out pests like rodents and roaches. 

Concerning maintenance, ensure all of the windows are sealed and all of the building's exterior holes are plugged up, which reduces entry points for pollen, animals, and insects.

Leverage Technology for Allergen Reduction

Many tools are available for school administrators to identify and eliminate allergens. 

The best way to address indoor allergen levels is by implementing a robust system of IoT sensors that are capable of tracking common allergens. IoT sensors can be placed throughout buildings, especially in high-risk areas, which feed all of the data into a central hub where building managers can access reports, view alerts, and build cohesive strategies around maintaining, cleaning, and eradicating allergen sources. 

However, sensors are only the first step. School boards must continuously clean the indoor air by purchasing quality air purification systems. They must also update their old HVAC systems and install proper ventilation and filtration systems to prevent high allergen levels.

Safeguard Your School With Attune

Students require safe and clean air to remain healthy and succeed academically, which demands a best-in-class system to detect various types of allergens. 

Attune's cutting-edge IoT sensor system is one of the best available products for identifying traces of mold, pet dander, rodent and insect waste, and pollen. Our sensors are up and running within one day, and the monitoring process is simple and effective. 

After you implement our next-level ionization IAQ sensors, your building's data is funneled to a highly intuitive dashboard. Here, managers can build custom reports and analytics with real-time data concerning the building's pollution levels. From there, our platform crunches the data to deliver clear insights that help inform mission-critical decisions to banish allergens for good.

Sounds too good to be true? See it in action yourself and schedule a demo today!

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