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5 Simple Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

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Improve Indoor Air Quality | Home Ventilation Systems | Apartment Therapy | Reduce Air Pollution | Home Remodeling Ideas

I could’ve never imagined that I would ever spend time thinking about air. Breathing has just been one of those things I always took for granted. Unfortunately, after becoming far too familiar with the reality of nebulizers, pneumonia, and allergy medication over the past few years, air quality is an issue that has become very important to my family.

Air quality isn't something you normally think about but it's so important for the health of your family

It is almost ironic that so much emphasis in modern society is placed on the importance of living healthier, “greener” lives, but at the same time we forget about air in our homes and how it impacts the health of our families. Most people spend well over half their time indoors, where a variety of allergens and pollutants such as pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander can impact the quality  of the air we breathe. These pollutants and allergens can contribute to everything from sore eyes and a runny nose to headaches and fatigue, and they can also worsen allergies & asthma. Between extra insulation that traps pollutants and chemicals that are released by building materials, even new construction can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Yikes!

In my own family, I have seen firsthand how quickly poor indoor air quality can exacerbate existing health conditions. My youngest daughter has what the doctor calls “pre-asthma,” as well as a variety of allergies. On three separate occasions we have watched a common cold quickly spiral into pneumonia. Some of my scariest moments as a parent have been watching my daughter struggle just to take a breath. As a mom, I’ve never felt so helpless and I would do pretty much anything to avoid ever having to be in that situation again. At the same time, I don’t want to go overboard and turn our home into an isolation ward either.

Poor air quality in your home can lead to health problems you'd rather avoid

Luckily I am learning that there are some incredibly simple things I can do to greatly improve our indoor air quality. While I know with my daughter’s pre-disposition to asthma and allergies I might not be able to prevent every flare-up, I am happy to do what I can to help her breathe a little easier.

Eliminate the Source of the Allergens

Cleaning regularly will help greatly reduce the amount of dust, pollen, mold, and pet dander in the air. Vacuuming carpets regularly–even daily, if possible–is especially important, being sure to change the bag or empty the dirt cup frequently. Dusting surfaces regularly is also very important. This includes often forgotten spots such as high ledges & shelves, ceiling fans, moldings & trim. (Get my printable deep cleaning checklist here.) Problems with dust mites can be tempered through the use of plastic dust-mite proof mattress & pillow covers, as well as by washing sheets and blankets in very hot water. Finally, never allow smoking indoors!

Use a High Efficiency Air Filter

Using a high-efficiency air filter is one of the least expensive – and most effective – things you can do to remove harmful allergens and pollutants from the air in your home, improving indoor air quality and the health of your family. High efficiency filters such as the new Lysol Air Filter cost less than $20 apiece, but trap pollutants and allergens, neutralize odors naturally and inhibit the growth of bacteria on the filter using a mineral-based antimicrobial agent.

Changing your air filter regularly is also very important. Most air filters should be replaced every 30-60 days, but if your family has severe allergy problems or if you have an excess amount of dust and pet dander in the air, replacing filters even more frequently can help a lot. Luckily air filters are pretty inexpensive, and the added bonus is that your HVAC system will run much more efficiently, which can actually save you money in the long run.

Get More Fresh Air

Not all home heating & cooling systems are made to bring fresh air in from the outdoors. Opening windows and doors whenever you can to let fresh air circulate can make a big difference in indoor air quality. This is especially important if you are doing any sort of indoor activity that could create additional air pollutants, such as painting, sanding, or cooking.

Avoid Artificial Fragrances

The fewer perfumes in the air, the better. Whenever possible, choose unscented cleaning and laundry products, including laundry detergent, fabric softener, and other cleaners to use throughout the home. Choose aerosol-free cleaning products and avoid most artificial fragrances or air fresheners.

Bring The Outdoors In

Certain houseplants, such as aloe vera, ficus, Chinese evergreen, spider plant, peace lilies, and even the Gerber daisy help filter out allergens and air pollutants, and actually thrive on the same chemicals that are toxic to humans. Even better, many of these plants are not only lovely to look at, but also relatively easy to care for. Consider placing plants in areas where air pollutants and chemical exposure can be the strongest, such as the laundry room, kitchen, and bathroom.

This post has been underwritten by Lysol Air Filters. Lysol Air FiltersAll opinions are mine. Lysol recently launched the first air filter that is certified asthma & allergy friendly™ by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Lysol Air Filters trap pollutants and allergens, neutralize odors naturally and inhibit the growth of bacteria on the filter using a mineral-based antimicrobial agent.

Lysol Air Filters are proven to trap pollen, dust mites, pet dander and other allergens and pollutants that you don’t want to breathe. Lysol Air Filters reduce pollen by 95 percent, dust mites by 92 percent, and pet dander by 85 percent. The result is fresher, cleaner, healthier indoor air – and a healthier family. To learn more about Lysol Air Filters, visit lysolfilters.com. Use promo code RUTH to save 25% + get free shipping when you purchase the Lysol Air Filter through BuyFilters.com (Ends 8/31/13)

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Does your family struggle with asthma or allergy issues? How have you improved your own indoor air quality?

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32 Comments

  1. Holly
    July 26 at 10:08AM

    Thank you for this post! My daughter has terrible allergies and asthma as well. Some of the things you mentioned are so easy but I had never thought of them before. I agree that watching your child struggle to breathe is one of the scariest things ever. Thanks again, Holly

    • Ruth Soukup
      July 26 at 09:57PM

      You’re welcome Holly! I hope these ideas help give your daughter (and you) some relief!

  2. July 26 at 04:00PM

    My son and I have really bad allergies and asthma. We go for allergy shots and that helps keep the asthma manageable, most of the time.

    Get rid of carpets. They hold huge amounts of dust, even if you vacuum often. There are so many other things…stuffed animals, drapes, mold in the dirt of plants, etc. It really depends on your child’s asthma trigger. For us, it’s allergies, so the less in the house, the better.

    Great post! Good things to think about.
    ~FringeGirl

    • Ruth Soukup
      July 26 at 09:58PM

      Great tip! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Angie
    July 26 at 07:16PM

    Lots of allergies here too! We’ve done shots and medication but I like all the ideas you listed here.

    • Ruth Soukup
      July 26 at 09:59PM

      I hope they help Angie!

  4. Anonymous
    July 27 at 02:31PM

    I wanted to add that for people who have asthma, eating an apple a day (especially when sick) can help prevent flare-ups. The flavonoids from the apples are beneficial for opening up airways for people with asthma and lung conditions. There are plenty of studies and research about it. But the key is to eat enough apples on a weekly basis to make a difference. At least that’s what the studies show. I apologize for not having and article handy, I am heading out and didn’t want to forget to post my comment in the hopes that it might help someone. Especially a child!

    • Anonymous
      July 27 at 02:32PM

      Oops! Sorry, I’m Kristine

    • Ruth Soukup
      August 1 at 07:37AM

      Great tip! Thank you so much Kristine!

  5. Steph
    July 28 at 10:00PM

    Ruth, I am interested in buying the filter because hubby has COPD and needs all the help he can get with clean air. His concern is that using the filter will create a higher energy bill. Do you know any details about that? I am eager to take advantage of the offer so any help you could send my way would be greatly appreciated! God bless you.

    • Ruth Soukup
      July 30 at 08:05AM

      Hi Steph,
      I took your question directly to Lysol. They informed me that Dr. Jeffrey Siegel, University of Texas in Austin, has studied this question extensively in residential applications and found that high efficiency air filters have little impact on energy consumption in residential systems. His conclusion stated the following:

      “The results described herein suggest that higher-efficiency filters do not appear to have much of an impact on energy consumption in smaller forced air cooling systems and that the magnitudes of effects seen with filters are small in comparison to the effects of more important parameters like thermostat settings, climatic conditions, refrigerant charge, and duct leakage.”

      In other words, I think you’re good! 🙂 Hope that helps!

  6. Anonymous
    July 30 at 11:44AM

    I’ve been using a Hyla vacuum, which uses water to filter, for over fifteen years. It has made a profound difference in my allergy asthma! I just recently had to buy second one after wearing out the first. The initial cost is high (I found my current one on Craigs List for less than half price and distributors should be bargained much lower than their asking price for a new one) but factored over the length of use it is actually cheaper for me.

    • Ruth Soukup
      August 1 at 07:37AM

      I have never heard of a Hyla vacuum but I will definitely look into it! Thanks for the great tip!

  7. August 1 at 10:37AM

    I know exactly what your going through my youngest went thru it and he’s growing out of it so there is hope she will grow out of it. He also took the shots for a couple of years and that helped a lot has she had the shots for her alllergies to cut back on the attacks. thanks for the tips hope what I said helps.

  8. Colleen
    August 3 at 10:45AM

    These are some great tips! My husband is allergic to basically everything (mold, dust, pollen, etc). I always want to open up our windows and doors to air the house out, but that seems to just let the pollen in and make his allergies much worse! Do you do something special to prevent this? Or is your daughter just way more allergic to stuff inside than stuff outside?

  9. Bonnie
    August 27 at 10:49PM

    Thank you for all of these tips on improving air quality. It’s not something we think about too often. My nephew has had similar problems. One thing you may want to check is your daughter’s vitamin D levels. Once this was improved my nephew had no instances of pneumonia and fewer asthma issues. It’s just something to look into. My sister-in-law found out about it by accident.

  10. Àkilah
    September 7 at 07:20PM

    I, too, wondered about the opening windows tip. Last time I did that, I couldn’t get out of bed for 3 beds I was so miserable from allergies. I wound up needing a steroid shot from the dr. Allergy shots have improved my life tremendously, and we did replace our wall to wall carpeting.

    • Ruth Soukup
      September 9 at 09:38AM

      It definitely depends on the time of year! If allergies are bad outside then opening the windows might make things worse. However, as a general rule getting fresh air is usually a good thing!

  11. January 29 at 09:38AM

    Great post. But also having one’s air ducts and HVAC system professionally cleaned is the starting point- then all the above that you mentioned. We have found insulation, discarded food wrappers, construction debris, animal feces – etc. in air ducts. That stuff HAS to be removed FIRST- then use the filters, etc. that you described. Great information. Thanks.

  12. July 31 at 06:58PM

    There’s certainly a lot to learn about this issue.
    I like all of the points you have made.

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  15. October 13 at 09:13AM

    My Son Faced simillar problems. Changing my Cleaning routine has really helped a lot. Ensure You keep 4-5 plants indoor for fresh oxygen.

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