Can you get sick from bad air quality? Absolutely as unhealthy air is filled with harmful particles that are dangerous when inhaled. Adding the fact that we Americans spend 90% of our time resting and chilling at home. Clean indoor air can significantly improve our health and prevent us from falling sick. However, some sicknesses like flu are caused by other health conditions, food, and even stress. This makes it difficult to identify and resolve bad IAQ without proper investigation. So how do you tell if the symptoms you are experiencing are due to poor air quality? The most common way is to leave a building or home for several hours to see if the symptoms would go away. Better yet, go for a short weekend getaway or a vacation to better gauge your health condition. With this in mind, here are the symptoms of bad air quality in the home that you should be aware of.
Pesticides, household cleaners, paints, stove gas, CO are home products that are known to cause a headache. This happens when one is exposed to an elevated level of chemical fumes and strong odors in a short period of time. In the worse case scenario, it can trigger migraines and temporarily disable a person from work. Chemical fumes can also irritate our lungs, eyes, and nose that will further intensify our headache.
2. Fatigue and Dizziness
An increased presence of airborne pollutants can lead to fatigue and dizziness. Inhaling to a high level of gaseous contaminants like CO, CO2, VOCs, Asbestos, Lead, and Radon can make the brain feel sluggish. You will feel light-headed, fatigued, dizzy, confused, and unable to concentrate or even perform simple activities such as talk and speak. Fortunately, this seldom happens unless there is a big spike of toxic fumes in the room due to a gas leak or something similar.
3. Cough, Sneeze, and Sinus Congestion
The most common symptoms of poor air quality that most would not associate with it. Every time we breathe in high harmful particles like dust, mold, pollen, and bacteria, our body will react to it by producing antibodies. As a result, we will experience irritation like coughing, sneezing, and congestion until the foreign substances are expelled. Mucus membranes will also be irritated that will impact our eyes (redness/ watery), mouth, tongue, throat, and nose (nosebleeds).
Commonly associated with mold and mildew contaminants. When the air quality is so bad that it reeks, the scene of mustiness will make you nausea and wants to vomit. Worse still, the throwing up feeling will remain as the stench will not go away easily without proper ventilation or an air purifier. Medication is another alternative to temporary relief of the nauseating feel.
5. Hypersensitivity and Allergies
A person that is hypersensitive to a particular allergen is also sensitive to any air quality changes. Hypersensitivity reactions occur when our body immune system responds abnormally to foreign substances. For example, a hypersensitive person would suffer from sinusitis only during pollen season due to the increased pollen in the air. The pattern would always be the same and you can easily gauge what you’re sensitive in based on the types of airborne irritants. To counter the seasonal allergies, take medication or get an air purifier to relieve your allergy symptoms.
6. Irritated Respiratory System
Our respiratory system particularly lungs will be badly affected by poor air quality. A normal adult would breathe in 17,000-30,000 times a day. The equivalent number of airborne contaminants that could be inhaled into our lungs. With the increased numbers of harmful particulate matters in our respiratory system, one will experience irritation e.g. cough, sore throat, chest tightness, and breathing difficulty. If the air quality remains at an unhealthy level, you will be at risk of respiratory infections, aggravating asthma, and compromised immune systems especially children. When possible, stay away from the polluted area and limit your physical activity is the best course of action.
7. Dry Skin Irritation
When the humidity level drops below 30%, so does the air quality level. Your skin will feel dry, flaky, and rashes will follow shortly after. The redness will spread as you attempt to scratch away the itchiness. If you are suffering from eczema and another skin condition, the low humidity will exacerbate the symptoms. A humidifier is a quick and easy way to improve indoor air quality by adding moisture into the air. Applying lotion will also moisturize the skin and act as a temporary relief on the itchiness.
8. Frequent Illness
One of the main concerns for folks with young children at home. If you or your family members are often sick with cold, flu, or cough symptoms, bad air quality might play a big role here. When the indoor air is stuffy or stale, germs, bacteria, and viruses will spread faster in a room due to uncirculated air. The longer the viruses stay linger in the air, the higher percentage of recurring illness will happen from contagious infection. This is why most people will fall sick during the winter than in the summer as the air is dry from poor ventilation.
9. Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs)
An interchangeable term for heart disease that can be deadly by itself. A person with cardiovascular diseases cannot stay in a polluted area for long as it can aggravate the heart condition. Due to the below-normal level of oxygen in the blood (blocked vessels), the heart will endure irregular rhythms and palpitations. This would result in a person suffering from shortness of breath, chest pain, tightness, and high blood pressure. Long-term exposure to poor air quality can lead to a fatal heart attack or stroke.
Frequently Asked Questions FAQ
What Causes Unhealthy Air Quality In Home?
According to EPA, indoor air quality is often 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. A complete contrary to most people's belief that home is the safest place to shield yourself from pollutants. Pollutions like carbon monoxide, radon, VOCs, biological contaminants will still spread and remain inside despite our best effort in cleaning the air. So to find out what is the main cause of poor air quality in our home, look out for the following signs.
- Poor ventilation due to the lack of windows or HVAC system.
- Contaminated air filled with dust and molds from dirty HVAC systems.
- Mold and mildew spawning ground that can be seen in the bathroom, wall, and ceiling.
- Excessive humidity with mold patches in household items such as books, shoes, toys, and clothes.
- Crack wall, ceiling, floor, and air duct with obvious off-gassing.
- Renovation with the cloud of dust that can be clearly seen in the air.
- Indoor activities like cooking that involve fossil fuel burning or gas heating.
Can Bad Air Quality Make You Sick? Is Unhealthy Air Quality Dangerous?
Living in a poor air quality condition can make you sick and causes irreversible health effects. It will also shorten lifespan and decrease your lung capacity permanently. Short-term symptoms include cough, sneeze, nasal congestion, ache, and sore throat. Dryness and itchiness will come next on skin, eyes, nose, and throat. You will also experience wheezing, chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, tiredness, and dizziness. Long-term exposure to high air pollution levels can lead to health problems e.g. aggravating asthma, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illness, bronchitis, emphysema, and cancer.
How To Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
There's no doubt poor air quality will have a negative impact on our health and well-being. But first thing first, we must find out the sources of air pollutions to know what we are dealing with. Whether it is outside pollution, gas leakage or family’s lifestyle like smoking indoor, knowing the cause can help you decide what is the next moves. To start improving air quality in our home, here are some quick tips you can follow.
- Do not smoke indoors or better yet, quit smoking.
- Get an air purifier with HEPA filter and carbon filter. Leave it on 24x7.
- Get a dehumidifier if humidity is high or a humidifier if humidity is low.
- Improve room ventilation by opening more windows and doors.
- Replace gas appliances like a stove with electrical appliances.
- Clean or replace the HVAC air filter every 2-3 months.
- Stay away from unhealthy air area. Stay indoors if the pollutions are coming from outside e.g. haze.
- Fix water leaks on pumps, ceiling or anywhere in between.
- Fix any cracks on the basement floor or wall to reduce radon from coming in.
- Install a radon detector to detect radon leaks.
- Minimize clutter and store them in a storage box, cabinet or just toss them away.
- Keep trash cover closed and further away from home so the smelly odors would not creep in.
- Never wear outdoor shoes in a home.
- Remove carpet, rug, and replace carpet floor with vinyl or tiles. Carpet is notorious for contributing to bad air quality.
- Never use air fresheners or ozone generators.
- Do not leave the car on in the garage as the toxic emission will flow inside the home.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors to protect your from home from any CO gas leak.
- Vacuum daily to keep dust at a minimum level.
- Wash and change bedding every 1-2 weeks. Preferably wash it with hot water to kill off the dust mites.
- Install exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchen to remove smelly odors.