You take extra care whenever you and your family are outdoors.

You always check if the car seat is still good to go. You also research the destination to keep unpleasant surprises at bay. And the list of safety measures only grows longer.

But what about when you’re back in the comfort of your house? No worries as the home is the safest place to be, yeah?

Not so fast!

Did you know that indoor air can be more polluted and harmful than outdoor air?

If you’re wondering how can you improve indoor air quality, this guide will walk you through all the essential steps.

Effects Of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Poor indoor air quality can have both short and long-term impact on you and your family’s health. 

The former may be as simple as eye and throat irritation. The latter can be as dangerous as respiratory diseases and even cancer.

Another cause for concern is the impact of poor air quality on the health of family members with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma. Exposure to allergens and pollutants in the air can only make these conditions worse.

The most common health symptoms of poor indoor air quality can often be mistaken as that of other illnesses like allergies, stress, colds, and influenza. The list includes:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Upper respiratory congestion

So how would you know if these symptoms are due to the air you breathe?

If you or a family member is relieved from any of the symptoms after leaving a specific room or after getting outside the house, indoor air contaminants are the most likely culprits.

Respiratory Health Effects

  • Rhinitis, nasal congestion (inflammation of the nose, runny nose)
  • Epistaxis (nosebleeds)
  • Dyspnea (difficulty in breathing or painful breathing)
  • Pharyngitis (or sore throat), cough
  • Wheezing, worsening asthma
  • Severe lung disease

Other Severe Effects

  • Conjunctival (eye) irritation
  • Rashes
  • Fever, chills
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat, sometimes leading to shortness of breath)
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Lethargy, fatigue, malaise
  • Nausea, vomiting, anorexia
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Hearing loss

Contributing Factors To Poor Indoor Air Quality At Home

Indoor air contaminants and sources also vary. They can even come from things you do that seem harmless. In general, what affects the quality of air inside your home are allergens, chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and outdoor air pollution.

Allergens

Indoor allergens include dust mite droppings, animal dander, cockroach droppings, and molds. The body’s reactions to allergens are a clear sign that it’s defending itself. For example, if there are dust mites present in your house, your immune system identifies it as an invader or allergen.

The immune system then produces allergic antibodies called immunoglobulin. These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.

Sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose, or itchiness in your nose, the roof of your mouth, throat, eyes or ears — these are all symptoms caused by this reaction.

Even your beloved pets can cause allergic reactions.

But contrary to what many believe, the hair or fur don’t trigger the allergic reactions. But the allergens found in their saliva, dander (dead skin flakes), or urine of an animal with fur do.

Scents, Chemicals and Other Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Asthma symptoms can be triggered by any scent regardless of how good or bad they smell. 

These can include scented candles, potpourri, perfumes, wax warmers and cleaning supplies. At the same time, everyday things found at home can also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Household items found inside the house are a potential source of VOCs such as:

  • New furniture
  • New mattresses
  • New carpet
  • New building materials
  • Paint and varnish
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Air fresheners
  • Pesticides

Even fuel-burning sources like wood stoves, kerosene heaters, smoke that comes from cooking, fireplaces, cigarette smoking, etc. can all contribute to indoor air pollution. There’s also radon, a naturally-occurring gas from the ground which is dangerous at high levels.

Outdoor Air Pollution

No home is 100% airtight no matter how hard you try. Besides, it’s common knowledge that you have to open your windows from time to time, to let fresh air and the sunlight in. 

But when you do so, you also welcome outdoor air, along with the substances and particles they carry, into your home.

If the air around where you live is polluted, there’s a big chance that it will enter your nest. 

Even small and unseen leaks around your house can provide an entryway for outdoor air, pollen, and smoke — contaminating the indoor air.

How Can You Improve Indoor Air Quality – Room Guides

Improving indoor air quality is not so hard a task. However, it’s important to know that not every room in the house is the same. This means that the method you use in the bathroom will most likely be different for when you deal with the kitchen or bedroom.

Lucky you, here’s a room-by-room guide on how you can improve the quality of the air you and your family breathe at home.

Bedroom

  • If it’s not too cold outside, open the windows to cool things down and lower CO2 levels.
  • Declutter and try to keep the number of things in the bedroom to a minimum. For instance, the more furniture and stuff you have, the more dust collects which can cause allergies.
  • Clean regularly. Use a damp cloth to rid furniture of dust and dirt completely.
  • Wash beddings, sheets, and blankets frequently as they can collect dust and mold too. Consider switching to fabric like linen because they’re naturally antibacterial and quick to dry.
  • Vacuum floors and mattresses regularly (weekly is ideal).
  • Keep pets out of the room.
  • Remove scented candles.
  • Your hair is also a dust magnet and can even carry particles like pollen from outdoors. Make sure you shampoo your hair before going to bed to get rid of them.

Kitchen

  • Get rid of old produce before mold grows on them. Much better if you start composting, so these things don’t end up in the garbage.
  • Use your exhaust hood each time you use the stove. It’s also a good idea to open the windows or cook on the back burners instead.
  • Try not to overcook, burn, or caramelize food to avoid releasing harmful VOCs into the air.
  • Fix leaks from your sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator water line to prevent mold build up.
  • Use certified asthma and allergy-friendly air cleaner.
  • Keep your trash cans covered.
  • Prevent dust and dirt from accumulating especially on top of cabinets and vent hood by regularly cleaning these areas.

Bathroom

  • Use the bathroom fan during and after your shower. Open the windows instead if you don’t have one. This will prevent moisture build-up which can lead to mold problems.
  • Avoid cleaning the bathroom with chemicals that can give off VOCs. Better yet, use natural cleaning products such as baking soda and vinegar.
  • Stay away from vinyl shower curtains as they can also release VOCs and other harmful chemicals.
  • Keep things dry in the bathroom including towels. These things don’t dry out completely which is a perfect place for mold to grow.
  • Synthetic loofahs are also a no-no because they can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Use a washcloth instead and make it a habit to throw it in the washer when you do your laundry.
  • Fix leaks, clean the shower, sink, toilet, and everything else in the bathroom. Failing to do this is like inviting mold and bacteria into your home.

Living Room

  • Replace carpets with solid surface flooring that contain very little to no VOCs.
  • Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke inside the house.
  • Choose leather or vinyl furniture.
  • Remove scented candles and potpourri.
  • Keep a healthy level of humidity. A humidity level of 30% to 50% is advisable to keep mold, dust mites, and other allergens away. This is where a dehumidifier and air conditioner will come in handy.
  • Clean the whole area regularly and get rid of dust especially the areas that are prone to dust build up. These areas are usually the corners and the top of cabinets and tall furniture.
  • Have your home tested for radon. It’s a radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. Any home, old or new, can potentially suffer from this problem.

Indoor Plants For Better Air Quality

Sometimes, you just can’t avoid exposure to toxic chemicals and compounds indoors. After all, they can be found anywhere from your furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials, cleaning products, etc.

But don’t worry because all hope is not lost just yet.

In fact, there’s another way to improve indoor air quality that’s very effective and affordable at the same time — plants. Here are a few recommendations for you.

Aloe Vera

  • An easy-to-care-for plant although it doesn’t thrive well in standing water so be sure to drain it properly.
  • The leaves of this plant hold a fluid that has anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties.
  • Pollutant removed: formaldehyde

Bamboo Palm

  • Grows well in full sun or bright light.
  • It can grow from four up to twelve feet high.
  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Snake Tongue/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue

  • It requires occasional watering and prefers drier conditions and some sunlight.
  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene

Boston Fern

  • This plant prefers high humidity and indirect sunlight.
  • Pollutants removed: formaldehyde, xylene

Peace Lily

  • Thrives best in shaded areas and will reward you with fragrant flowers during summer.
  • Pollutants removed: ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Ficus/Weeping Fig

  • It loves bright but indirect sunlight and can grow from two to ten feet tall.
  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Dracaena

  • You can choose from 40 different varieties of this plant.
  • Be extremely careful if you have pets in the house because this plant is toxic to cats and dogs when eaten.
  • Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene

Spider Plant

  • Needs to be in a bright area but away from direct sunlight.
  • One of the easiest houseplants to grow.
  • Pollutants removed: formaldehyde, xylene

Garden Mum

  • Pretty inexpensive and is widely available in garden stores.
  • It can also be planted outdoors.
  • Pollutants removed: ammonia, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene