What You Can Do To Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Prevention and Treatment Now that the colder weather is settling in, there’s a good chance that Canadians will be spending more time indoors.
In fact, we spend up to 95 percent of our time inside, which can be concerning for those with sensitivities like allergies and asthma. That’s because indoor air quality can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
However, there are many ways to improve air quality in your indoor environments.
The factors that lead to air quality
Rob Oliphant, President of the Asthma Society of Canada, says there’s two kinds of environmental factors people with allergies and asthma need to be concerned about: naturally occurring irritants and pollution.
The former includes things like pollen, dust, and road dust — all particles that can make it into indoor environments, and stay there.
“What is outdoors, comes inside,” says Oliphant and “what comes inside, stays inside if not managed, and actually accumulates in a greater density than outside sometimes.”
"Although cleaning is the best way to prevent sensitivities and asthma from flaring up, sometimes the products being used can be potential triggers. It’s a matter of trial and error figuring out what those can be."
The second type of factor is omissions and pollution.
“There are various forms of chemicals — sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide — that are in the air outside, which are causing problems,” Oliphant says.
He says the best defense is an air room filter and a purifier system. In order to avoid mold spores, which are a serious trigger for those with allergies, keep humidity at an appropriate level, since high humidity leads to mold.
Oliphant also suggests regularly cleaning out furnace filters so that “the bad stuff coming in isn’t coming into the room.”
If you suffer from allergies, Oliphant says it’s best to avoid having a pet. He says cat dander is the number one allergen that people suffer from indoors, followed by dust mites, mold spores, and outdoor pollens.
Once all that is covered, he stresses that keeping a clean house makes a remarkable difference.
Knowing your triggers
Sandra Pakosh agrees. She’s a member of the National Asthma Patient Alliance and has been maintaining her allergies and asthma since she was diagnosed at the age of ten. Since then, she’s learned of different ways to manage her life so that she’s less prone to attacks, but can still live normally.
Pets are one of Pakosh’s triggers, though she won’t let them stop her from visiting loved ones.
“A lot of friends and family have cats — I manage and cope though,” she says. “I just don’t touch them.”
Pakosh also keeps hardwood floors, to avoid dust build-up in carpets.
“I keep everything dust-free with minimal carpeting and the odd throw rug that I can wash regularly,” she says, adding that she avoids plug-in scents and instead uses natural fragrances like eucalyptus and lavender.
She also gets her yearly flu shot, since she’s come to learn that she’s more susceptible to illness as a result of her allergies.
While keeping a clean environment is essential to indoor air quality, it’s also a safe bet to protect your sleeping area from triggers.
“Get a certified duvet, mattress cover, and pillows,” says Oliphant, adding that it’s important to change pillows regularly. After eight years, a pillow will weigh twice as much as a result of dust mite feces — a major cause of allergies.
Although cleaning is the best way to prevent sensitivities and asthma from flaring up, Paskosh points out that sometimes the products being used can be potential triggers. It’s a matter of trial and error figuring out what those can be. Anything from artificial fragrances to feather pillows to stress can cause reactions in those with sensitivities.
“Become familiar with what your triggers are,” she says. “Know how to manage them, what to avoid, and how to cope.”