Is your home making you sick?

Courtesy: WRIC

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — We spend a lot of time inside our homes and what lies between your four walls could be what’s really ailing you.

Kristin Encinas started visiting an allergist after she couldn’t find any relief from her chronic runny nose. Her eyes were always red as well.

“I was going through probably close to a box of tissues in a week if not more than that,” she said. “My eyes were just so itchy and irritated I went through so many drops.”

As it turns out, the culprit was lurking in her home. She has an allergy to dust mites. They’re microscopic critters that live in common house dust and love to crawl into bed with you. They cause a whole host of problems, according to Dr. Robert Call with Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists.

“Almost anything from runny nose to stuffiness to wheezing to eczema, itching, rashes,” Dr. Call explained.

Dr. Arvind Madaan with CARE in Charlottesville says dust mites, mold and dander can all be hidden in your home and what’s really behind that sneeze, chronic cough even asthma.

“Some of these folks don’t even realize how much that is affecting fatigue or lack of sleep,” Dr. Madaan said.

Guy Caroselli with Bradley Mechanical sees it all the time in his line of work.

“They’re kids losing days from school, they’re losing days from work,” Caroselli said.

He explained that leaky windows, doors or pipes, insulation issues, and dirty air ducts can cause a build-up of dust, debris, moisture and mold in your living space.

“People spend a third of their life inside their house,” Caroselli said.

“You are breathing this air all the time,” Dr. Madaan added.

Doctors also say that your shower or kitchen fan could also be stirring up allergens within your home.

“They are blowing air out of the house and it’s got to go some place,” Dr. Call said. “If you home is really tight for windows and doors, it is going suck it out of the crawl space suck it out of the attic places that are kind of known for mold exposure.”

So, how can you tell if what’s ailing you really lies between your four walls? Doctors say a red flag is worsening symptoms at night.

“Or they wake up and their symptoms are worse in the morning because they have been in that house all night long,” Dr. Call said.

There are some simple fixes you can do inside your home to start feeling better, and most are in your local hardware store. For starters, change your air filter; they should be changed every three months. There are one’s that actually block allergens.

You might also want to purchase a hygrometer, which measures moisture in the air or pick up a mold test kit. You take a sample in your home, mail it into the lab and they let you know if mold is a problem.

A professional home energy audit complete with a door blaster and duct blaster test for about $80- $100 can also pinpoint any leaks in home where moisture, mildew and mold maybe growing.

But before you play the guessing game buying gadgets to remediate Dr. Madaan recommends an allergy test to determine what exactly is triggering your troubles.

“That is best done under the guidance of an allergist because most houses will have allergens they’re everywhere,” Madaan said. “The question is what you are identifying a meaningful problem.”

As for Encinas, her doctor’s prescription included dust mite encasements for her mattress and pillows. He also advised washing sheets in hot water and bleach and vacuuming weekly. She tells us she’s cut back on the tissues big time.

Those dust mite encasements can be pricey, about $200 to $300 dollars a set.