When we pose to think of the quality of air that we breathe, most of us tend to think that only the air outside can be polluted. We think of the gas emissions from cars and factories as well as the carbon monoxide released by plants.
Surprisingly, indoor air quality can be many times lower than that in the outdoors. Besides poor ventilation, other factors such as allergens brought about by dust and mold spores affect the quality of indoor air. In addition, some building materials, furniture, and paints release harmful organic compounds that decrease the air quality further.
Most of us spend most of our time indoors either at work or at home. Breathing such polluted air can have adverse effects on our bodies and brains.
If you have never thought about it, here is why indoor air quality matters to our bodies and brain.
Enhances general wellness
Our bodies rely on the supply of oxygen for organs to function optimally. When we breathe, the oxygen we inhale spreads out to the entire body including the brain. Consequently, the body’s function is enhanced and we can boast of general wellness. In addition, brain function is improved, affecting our cognitive abilities positively. You can only imagine the negative effects if we were to breathe poor air quality. Imagine if you’re learning to take the RN Exams and you can’t concentrate at all, it’s better to pay attention to the indoor air quality so the studying happens more smoothly.
Have you ever climbed a flight of stairs and felt like you just climbed a mountain? If you answered yes, you are probably exposed to poor indoor air quality. When there is a presence of pollutants in the air, the air becomes heavy, so to speak. This means that our breathing becomes difficult, which makes the body strain. As a result, a simple physical task becomes difficult to complete. In addition, such difficulty in breathing causes respiratory irritation that negatively affects our sleep.
Poor indoor air quality has been associated with conditions such as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and allergic rhinitis. These two are brought about by breathing air-containing allergens. They present symptoms such as an itchy throat, sneezing, congestion, irritated eyes, cough, headache, and achy muscles.
How to improve indoor air quality
Thankfully, we don’t have to suffer the above as the quality of the air indoors can be improved. Here are a few ways to achieve this.
- Have a well-maintained HVAC system. Besides heating and cooling homes, HVAC supplies filter harmful particles such as dust mites and pollen and improve humidity levels. Installing one can ensure that we have safe air indoors. However, it is important to keep the system maintained, and especially change the filters regularly.
- Clean regularly. Dust and other allergens are trapped on items such as rags, drapes, beddings, furniture, pillows, carpets, and other items. Regular cleaning of these items is important in getting rid of these pollutants. It is good to ensure that we regularly vacuum the carpet with a vacuum cleaner that is fitted with a HEPA filter. This ensures that all pollutants are filtered away. In addition, visible mold that collects in damp areas of our homes such as showers should be scrubbed off.
- Open windows. Keeping windows open does a good job of aiding air circulation inside our homes. For starters, it is important to ensure that we have enough windows in our homes. Next, is to keep them open. If the weather is not too cold, the windows can be opened from time to time.
- Keep indoor plants. Plants exhale oxygen that we inhale and inhale the carbon dioxide that we exhale. This process improves the quality of air that we breathe. Having a few indoor plants can go a long way in ensuring that we have clean air to breathe. However, these plants attract dust and mold. In that case, they should be dusted and checked for mold regularly.
- Air purifier. Air purifiers work well in capturing irritants present in the air indoors. These can be used in commonly used areas of the home to remove allergens from the air. If it becomes difficult to control allergens or can’t put a finger to the source of irritants, they provide a good remedy.
Our homes should be a happy place that we run to for comfort and rest and never a place that makes us sick. If you had no idea that the indoor air that you breathe could be the source of your unending illnesses, it is about time that you started taking a keen interest in your home in this aspect.
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.