How to Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home
All air quality significantly impacts your respiratory health, not just outdoor air pollution. Indoor air is often filled with irritants including smoke, allergens, and chemicals. These substances can irritate the lungs and airways, causing inflammation and reducing lung function, which refers to how well your lungs work.
Given that the average American spends approximately 90% of their time inside, it’s important to keep the air inside your home as clean as possible, especially if you are susceptible to seasonal allergies or have respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD.
Use the simple precautions below as a starting point for better breathing at home.
1. Make your home a smoke-free zone.
Exposure to secondhand smoke, or exhaled cigarette smoke, adversely impacts respiratory health. It is a contributing factor to the development of COPD and may also cause a flare-up of COPD symptoms, also referred to as an acute exacerbation. For some individuals with asthma, secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack, which is defined by sudden shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
Thirdhand smoke, or the residual smoke that remains on clothing or surrounding indoor surfaces after a person smokes, is an additional health risk that affects air quality.
Avoiding all indoor smoking is one of the most important actions you can take to improve indoor air quality at home. Of course, outdoor smoking also contributes to lung diseases. In addition to limiting your exposure to secondhand and thirdhand smoke at home, ask your doctor for support with smoking cessation if needed.
2. Avoid cleaning products with certain chemicals and strong scents.
Certain household products are worse for your respiratory health than others. Some disinfectants, personal hygiene products, and cleaning supplies contain chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can tighten the airways and make it more difficult to breathe. Examples of common VOCs include formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene.
Ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and chlorine bleach are other chemicals that should be avoided, along with scented products.
As an alternative, opt for natural, non-toxic products. You may even be able to create cleaning solutions from ingredients that are already in the house. Try using baking soda or a mixture of soap and water to scrub and wipe down surfaces. A combination of vinegar and water can be used to clean glass.
If you are using a product that contains a VOC or other harmful chemicals inside of your home, ventilate the area as much as possible by using exhaust fans and opening windows and doors. You may also want to invest in an air purifier, which extracts irritants from the air.
3. Reduce allergens in your home.
Household allergens including dust mites and animal dander can trigger asthma symptoms and COPD exacerbations. Unfortunately, dust mites love to make themselves comfortable in your pillows and blankets as much as you do, so regularly wash pillows and bedding. Consider using dust mite pillow and mattress covers.
It’s best to vacuum at least once a week, ideally with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum that catches smaller particles like allergens. An air purifier can also be used to remove allergens from indoor air.
During prime allergy season, avoid bringing pollen inside by changing and washing your clothes and removing your shoes after time outdoors. Dry clothes in a dryer instead of on a clothesline, where they’re likely to gather more pollen.
4. Prevent mold growth.
Dust mites aren’t the only indoor allergen to avoid. Mold exposure can also intensify symptoms of allergies, asthma, and COPD.
Moisture is typically the underlying cause of mold growth inside the home. As part of your allergy-proofing efforts, use a dehumidifier to keep indoor air dry during more humid seasons. (This can also help keep the dust mites away!) Keep bathrooms well ventilated and remove any visible mold as quickly as possible.
In addition, try to increase ventilation in the bathroom and kitchen, as well as other areas where steam accumulates. Use a fan or crack open a window when showering or cooking.
5. Clean air filters and increase ventilation.
There are steps you can take to keep clean air flowing throughout your home as much as possible.
First, change any filters in your home’s heating and cooling systems on a regular basis. If your house or apartment has a forced-air heating system — which uses air ducts and vents to circulate temperature-controlled air throughout your house or apartment — it’s especially important to change the filters regularly.
In addition, make sure that any air ducts inside of your home are clean, since they are a frequent source of dust accumulation.
If pollen is low, opening windows to let outdoor air flow throughout the building may also help improve indoor air quality. Most weather apps include a local daily pollen count.
Breathe easier with a better pharmacy
Alto Pharmacy is here every step of the way to help you manage respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD, and allergies. Our team of pharmacists is available to answer questions about your medications, and we offer free, same-day delivery and medication management tools like reminders and auto refills in our app.
Reach out by phone at 1-800-874-5881 or in-app messaging to learn how we can support your treatment plan.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.