Many people take for granted that the air quality in their home is healthy, and that it’s not something they have to worry about. Considering you spend such a large amount of time inside your home, the air quality you’re breathing is extremely significant. There are signs and symptoms that can alert you when your air quality is under par, but you should also have your IAQ tested regularly.
Poor indoor air quality can wreak havoc on your health and is especially harmful to people who already suffer from allergies or respiratory disorders. These six signs are symptoms of poor IAQ. Luckily, there are options to help prevent poor IAQ in your home, or to combat it if it already exists.
Cold or Flu SymptomsIt’s easy to mistake some of the symptoms of poor IAQ as a cold or the flu because sore throats, runny noses, coughing, sneezing, and nausea are common symptoms. Because of the sneezing and coughing, these symptoms are also sometimes mistaken for allergies, as well. If you feel like you have a cold or flu that doesn’t seem to go away or gets worse only when you are in your home, then your air quality might be the culprit. If your symptoms are because of your air quality, you should feel relief when you leave your home or step out for some fresh air. You can visit your doctor if you’re concerned about troublesome symptoms.
Your eyes are especially sensitive to pollutants in the air and are usually the first to react to poor IAQ. Contact wearers or people who suffer from dry eyes typically notice an issue with the air quality before others because their eyes will get especially dry, itchy, or even watery. When eye drops aren’t doing the trick or your eyes are watery without explanation, an increase of air pollutants might be to blame. In some severe cases, you may also feel a burning sensation in your eyes if the IAQ is especially poor.
It might be surprising, but poor IAQ can cause fatigue for some people. Breathing in a range of pollutants on a regular basis might make you feel tired or fatigued. If you have a lot of chemicals in the air you may also feel light-headed as soon as you walk through the door. If you’re feeling tired often, be alert that your IAQ may have something to do with it.
Dust and other pollutants in your air are known to trigger asthma attacks. There is a higher chance for an asthma sufferer to have an attack because of the pollutants in the air. This is especially true if you have pet dander in your home or there is a cigarette smoker who smokes inside. If you have concerns, make sure you dust often with a wet rag and sweep your carpet regularly. Pet dander and other pollutants get trapped inside carpets and can cause major issues for your health.
Coughing and Sneezing
Similarly to triggering asthma attacks, poor IAQ can also instigate coughing and sneezing. Pet dander, mold, bacteria, dust, and dirt all are harmful to the lungs, and your body’s natural reaction is to sneeze or cough to get the toxins out of your lungs and airways. Although coughing and sneezing are also caused by the common cold and by seasonal allergies, if you notice you tend to sneeze and cough more when you are in your home, and it lessens when you leave, your IAQ is likely to blame.
Poor IAQ can even make you feel sick to your stomach. Breathing in pollutants can make you feel nauseous as part of the reaction to the chemicals or other pollutants you’re breathing in and out. Nausea can also be a sign of something much worse lurking in your home. If you notice that you are feeling sick to your stomach, be aware that it can also be a sign of high levels of carbon monoxide in your home, which is something that needs immediate attention. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home to fend off any potential issues early.
How to Improve IAQ
Luckily, there are plenty of options to improve your IAQ to help keep your family healthy all year. You might be surprised, but your HVAC system plays an prominent role in your indoor air quality. A problem with your HVAC system can greatly reduce your IAQ because it starts to blow dust, dirt, and mold throughout your home. Having a regular maintenance plan for your HVAC system ensures that your HVAC appliances and infrastructure are working as they should and not promoting poor IAQ in your home.
Between regular maintenance on your system, you should check your filters regularly. Dirty filters are not only harmful to your HVAC system, but they are also bad news for your air quality. When your filters get clogged or dirty, your system is pushing air through the dirt and dust and blowing pollutants into your home.
Furthermore, keep your home clean to prevent poor IAQ. Sweep and dust regularly, especially if you have pets in your home. Avoid smoking in your home since second-hand smoke is a big contributor to poor IAQ. You may also want to consider replacing any synthetic air fresheners and candles in your home. If you have an issue with odors, try using baking soda or even fresh fruits to keep your home smelling fresh without negatively affecting your air quality.
Finally, make sure your home is properly ventilated. When the weather is mild, open the windows instead of running your air conditioner. Keep your windows open in the winter, as well, assuming it’s not too chilly out. Turn on the ventilation system in your kitchen when you are cooking, and keep it on in the bathroom when you run the water to prevent mold in your bathroom. Ventilating your home prevents mildew, smoke, and pollutants from infiltrating your house.
If you’re feeling sick, tired, or have flu-like symptoms throughout the winter, it may just be a virus, but if it lasts for an extended period, it’s a sign that you might have an issue with the air quality in your home. Knowing the pollutants that can negatively affect your air quality can help keep them out of your home. Even making small changes can greatly improve your air quality. Get your pets groomed on a set schedule, buy a humidifier for your home if the air is dry, and consider bringing in more plants to help clean the air.
Even if you’ve never had a problem with your air quality that you’ve noticed in the past, it doesn’t mean your home is immune to having air quality issues. Just because you don’t smoke, or you don’t have pets also doesn’t mean that your home isn’t at risk for an air quality issue. Consider all the factors and make sure your HVAC system gets regular maintenance to make sure that you are breathing quality air while you and your family are in your home.
While you may have heard of IAQ, it might not have sunk in why it’s so important. Now that you know, you might be more alert to symptoms such as unexplained fatigue or watery eyes. Sometimes the signs of poor IAQ are obvious, and then other times the signs may not present themselves in ways that are easily recognizable. Fortunately, knowledge is power, and you can get ahead of poor IAQ, especially during the seasons where your family tends to stay indoors more often.