Air and Your Health
Air is one of our most basic needs. Breathing fresh air keeps us healthy and helps children’s lungs and other organs develop properly. When the air we breathe is polluted, however, it can lead to asthma, allergies, and other pulmonary problems. According to a report by Reuters, children are at a greater risk from indoor allergens than adults because their airways are still developing and they often spend more time on the floor, closer to common sources of allergens.
So how do you know if your child’s cough or runny nose is just a cold or a sign of pulmonary illness? Look for warning signs that include ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, wheezing, episodes of rapid breathing and shortness of breath.
Aside from these chronic conditions, poor air quality also affects your energy level. When you have a harder time breathing, your lungs have to work extra hard and your brain may not be getting enough oxygen. But when you breathe cleaner air, all of your body’s systems function better so you have more energy and feel better overall.
How does indoor air get polluted, and what can you do about it?
We tend to think of outdoor air pollutants as being harmful, but indoor sources of air pollution are just as harmful and are usually harder to spot than smog and smoke from car fumes. These are just a few of the most common factors that affect indoor air quality.
- Your HVAC system - According to The Huffington Post, your heating and cooling system can leave traces of water that are ideal for mold and bacteria to breed. In general, running your AC is good for indoor air because it keeps it circulating, but you will run into problems if you have contaminated air ducts. Your heating system can also be a source of carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas.
Solution - Having your HVAC system serviced regularly and air ducts cleaned can take care of contaminated ducts. Keep your system doing its job by changing your air filter regularly, and be sure to get the appropriate-fitting air filter. You may also want to use an air purifier to clean the pollutants out of the air in your home. An air purifier can remove pollen, dust mites, mold, bacteria, and even smoke.
- Carpeting, furniture, and other fabrics - Any indoor fabrics are ideal for dust, pet dander and other invisible allergens to settle. Most people are typically aware of how carpeting and rugs attract allergens, but don’t forget overlooked fabrics such as curtains, bedding, furniture and pillows.
Solution - Develop a schedule for cleaning these surfaces regularly, including vacuuming frequently, dusting and washing bedding. In addition to your regular cleaning schedule, bring in a professional on occasion to get deep into carpeting and furniture to really remove those pollutants.
- Plumbing leaks and other sources of humidity - Excess humidity in your home causes growth of mold and mildew, which can make you sick. Common sources of water problems are leaky plumbing and moisture in bathrooms.
Solution - Fix leaks and remove any material that has been damaged by water. Reseal bathrooms with caulk, and caulk the exterior of your home as well, especially around windows and doors. You can also use a dehumidifier to control moisture and prevent future problems.
Polluted indoor air is a scary thing to consider, but the good news is you don’t have to live with it. Regular cleaning, along with troubleshooting leaks and maintaining your HVAC system, goes a long way toward eliminating allergens. Take these steps to clear your home’s air and keep your whole family breathing better.
Photo credit: Pexels