Even on a good day, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. Add Covid-19 quarantines and social restrictions on top of that and there are a whole lot of people who hardly step foot outside their homes.
On top of the mental toll, being indoors can be tough on your health, and not always for the most obvious reasons. Sure, you might be recycling germs – if you’ve ever watched one after the other of your family fall like dominos to the latest cold, you know what we’re talking about. But there are other less-obvious but still undeniable ways that poor indoor air quality manifests in health problems.
These are a few of the ways that the air inside your home could be negatively impacting your well being. But don’t worry, we’re going to offer you solutions, too!
If dehydration is something you associate with long, sweaty workouts without water, you might be surprised to learn that you can become dehydrated just by sitting in your home.
During summer, your air conditioner can suck the moisture out of the air and lead to excess dryness, but winter is particularly problematic. Cold air holds less moisture to begin with, and your HVAC system is probably doing a job on whatever is left. In fact, humidity levels in homes can actually reach Saharan levels during winter.
When humidity gets out of balance, air quality suffers, and so do you. The ideal range is between 30 and 50%, so if your relative humidity falls below that, it could mean that the air in your home is leeching moisture right out of your body.
The solution? Install a humidifier! It’s a simple, low-cost way to pump some moisture back into the desert-like air of your home. A good one will automatically maintain appropriate humidity levels so you don’t have to mess around trying to avoid air that’s either too damp or too dry.
2. Dry Everything
This one should be obvious because dry, itchy winter skin is so common. But what you may not realize is that it’s a direct effect of poor indoor air quality. As we mentioned above, proper humidity is just one component of good air quality, so when it’s too low, the result is all that itching and scratching.
That can be more than just annoying. If you already suffer from Eczema or dermatitis, your symptoms can worsen noticeably. And if you end up with open wounds from scratching, you make yourself more susceptible to germs.
Worse, it’s not just your skin that dries out. Eyes dry out, too, causing strain and vision ailments. Your nose and throat dry out, leading to myriad unpleasant and unhealthy conditions, from frequent nose bleeds to sore throats.
And as the air dries out around you, germs and viruses celebrate by spreading more quickly. In fact, some studies have found that with each percent decrease in relative humidity, there was a correlating 7-8% increase in Covid-19 cases.
The bottom line: too-dry air can really mess with your health.
The solution? Yes, the humidifier again. You can go with a single-room unit from a big box store, but those are only going to help in localized spots, and they’re typically not designed for large or open spaces. A whole house unit on the other hand, can keep you comfortable – and healthier – whatever room you’re in.
3. Allergies, Congestion And Respiratory Problems
Only one more mention of humidity, we promise. But as you can see, it’s an important component of air quality!
When you’re in a very low-humidity environment, fluids that hydrate your nasal passages, throat and bronchial tubes dry up. As a result, they become more vulnerable to irritation, and that includes worsening symptoms of asthma, allergies, sinusitis and other ailments.
Many people blame cold weather for illness, when in fact the true culprit is most likely the dry indoor air. Your body’s natural defense against germs is weakened as mucus and fluids dry up, which makes it easier for you to catch anything from a cold to the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
The solution? You guess it. Maintain those humidity levels and you’ll give yourself a fighting chance against ailments of all sorts.
You think it was that tough day at work, or the kids playing video games too loudly. But that pounding headache could be a result of poor indoor air quality. The culprit here is typically chemicals called VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds. These are chemicals that evaporate under normal indoor conditions. Think: all those disinfectants you’ve been using lately. Or the dryer sheets you use to freshen up the socks.
Everything from the paint on your walls to the toys under the Christmas tree and the materials used to manufacture your mattress can emit VOCs. And scientists have correlated everything from asthma to cancer to – you guessed it – headaches with exposure to VOCs.
Some culprits are slightly less nefarious but still painful. For people who are susceptible to headaches and migraines, an accumulation of odors can trigger an episode. Cooking, burning candles, school projects that require glue and magic markers – all of these things can worsen air quality and lead to unpleasant effects.
Here’s some more food for thought: as chemicals, odors, and other particles enter the air, guess what they’re displacing? Oxygen. And if there’s one thing you need to live and thrive, it’s oxygen. Poorly oxygenated air is one of the most notorious causes of cluster headaches. If your house is well-insulated but not well-ventilated, that’s a headache waiting to happen.
The solution? A combination of purification and ventilation is important. An air purifier installed into your ducts can process pollutants before they get circulated back into your breathable air. Good HVAC filters are also important. They’re your first line of defense against airborne particles. The good ones can capture particles down to virus-sized.
If you live in a new construction or aren’t sure whether your home is properly ventilated, have your HVAC technician check to be sure your system is functioning properly. And don’t underestimate the simple power of opening a window. You may not see or smell the source of air pollution, but it may still be lingering. A few minutes of fresh air can make a big difference.
5. Fatigue And Poor Sleep
You’re exhausted, but you toss and turn all night. You can attribute it to a hundred things, but have you ever considered that the problem is the air in your home?
Poor air quality – which can mean high VOCs, low oxygen, bothersome odors, allergens and other pollutants – may be to blame for that constant feeling of tiredness. Worse, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and exacerbate the problem.
Worse still, fatigue and lack of sleep can lead to a host of other ailments, including a lack of concentration, problems focusing, loss of creativity, degraded work performance, depression, and even a loss in physical fitness.
Yes, air quality does have an effect on your fitness level. Athletes consistently perform worse when air quality is poor, and the hour you spend on the yoga mat is not exempt from those effects. General weakness, muscle fatigue and exhaustion brought on by inhaling harmful pollutants and depriving your body of necessary oxygen will add up to major woes.
So the next time you blame that extra cookie for your weight gain, consider that if you had better air quality, you might be able to work it off more effectively.
The solution? There’s a fairly simple way to tell if air quality is contributing to your problem – get outdoors. If you constantly feel sluggish walking up a flight of stairs in your home, but manage a three mile hike effortlessly, it might not just be mental. It might be a problem of air quality. If that’s the case, run, don’t walk – as fast as your tired body will go – to call your HVAC contractor.
Your system should get a good checkup to be sure it’s running effectively, filters are clean, and among other things, that it’s not emitting deadly pollutants like carbon monoxide. Discuss installing an air purifier to help.
And implement lifestyle changes where you can. That may mean opening windows to air rooms out periodically, only smoking outside, using fewer or “greener” chemicals, and avoiding known irritants.
The air quality in your home can be friend or foe when it comes to your health. If you think you’re suffering the ill effects of indoor air pollution, or if you want to avoid problems from happening, get in touch with us. We’re available for system maintenance, repairs, new installations and of course to answer your questions and make recommendations that will work for you. We care about your comfort.