indoor air pollution

Keeping Your Family (and Santa) Safe: How the Holidays Can Increase Indoor Air Pollution

Holidays can increase indoor air pollution

Credit: undefined via iStock by Getty Images

Most people anticipate the holidays because they’re periods of fun and celebration. While you should look forward to your plans this year, you should also know how the holidays can increase indoor air pollution. So, we wanted to discuss how your family’s health and well-being could be affected this winter and what you can do to keep them safe.

Winter Weather Keeps People Indoors

Cold weather is the most influential factor in everyone’s lives during the winter. It leads to more significant indoor air pollution because everyone has to stay indoors to remain comfortable.

Having more people spending longer periods inside accumulates airborne viruses, which immediately impact your family’s health by causing seasonal flu symptoms such as:

  • Coughing
  • Runny or stuffy noses
  • Fevers
  • Headaches

You could always ventilate your home by cracking a window open, but it may not be feasible if you live where the temperatures plunge below freezing. If you can’t open a window now and again, running an air purifier and taking daily vitamins can help keep everyone healthy during the holidays.

Freezing Temperatures Increase Fireplace Use

There’s nothing quite as relaxing as a warm, crackling fire. Enjoy using your fireplace this year, but be wary of the smoke exiting through the chimney. If any seeps into your home, it may cause your family to breathe odorless volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and experience lung irritation or headaches.

Schedule a quick chimney inspection if you plan to use your fireplace soon. An expert will open the flue to allow ventilation and remove any clogged debris which could cause a dangerous backdraft.

Gatherings Encourage Candle Use

When everyone gathers around your kitchen table for the holidays, you’ll likely have a gorgeous centerpiece with a few scented candles. Candles release microscopic particles as they burn, which linger in the air.

Running an air purifier near your party will reduce the likelihood of candles irritating your guests’ lungs or nasal passages. You should consider using biodegradable, organic and/or non-toxic candles as these are a lot better for your health and your home environment.

Starting an indoor garden of plants with varieties known to naturally remove air pollution through photosynthesis is also quite beneficial. It may not seem like a significant improvement for your household air quality, but these are powerful steps anyone can take this holiday season.

Pet Dander Accrues More Quickly  

Your pets are part of the family, so they’re usually indoors during the winter as much as you are. Although the extra cuddle time is cute, your pets will shed dander throughout your home.

Pet dander is a common allergy irritant and counts as a form of indoor air pollution. Consider how much your pets shed to figure out how to combat their dander. Brushing them often, vacuuming frequently and changing your HVAC filters every few months will remove as much dander and loose hair as possible so everyone can breathe easier.

Cleaning Products Don’t Ventilate

You’ll likely want to clean your home before guests arrive during the holidays. It creates a more welcoming environment if people arrive to find polished guest rooms and bathrooms. Cleaning products are essential in cleaning your home and banishing any lingering bacteria or viruses on shared surfaces. However, they can also cause sneaky indoor air pollution.

While wiping down bathroom countertops and shower surfaces, pay attention to when your lungs or throat start to burn. Those symptoms mean your cleaning products have accumulated chemicals in the air and need ventilation. You might not be able to open your windows, but you can always turn on the bathroom ceiling fan, which is designed to ventilate moisture.

You can also keep your family even safer by opting for all-natural cleaning products. There are many versions people easily make at home and use to clean just as thoroughly without chemical compounds. Your indoor air will be much more breathable without sacrificing your home’s cleanliness.

Air Fresheners Add Airborne Pollutants

People often use air fresheners to give their homes a pleasant aroma before guests arrive for holiday parties or family gatherings. If you want to do the same this year, consider using an air freshener without chemicals.

Air fresheners with chemical ingredients in sprays, wax melts or plug-ins release those chemicals continuously until the product runs out. They may irritate someone’s lung lining and make it hard to breathe.

Organic or all-natural air fresheners are widely available to prevent this problem. You might also be interested in making homemade sprays with ingredients like essential oils to avoid any indoor air pollution lingering in your house.

Space Heaters Can Cause Carbon Monoxide

You may use space heaters to provide enough warmth in your home for people to be comfortable in every room. They’re more cost-effective than replacing your heating system or moving to a newer house, but they can also create a dangerous form of indoor air pollution – carbon monoxide.

Check your space heaters to see how they work. If they use liquid fuel like kerosene to operate, they have a chance of creating carbon monoxide when there’s no ventilation. Electric heaters don’t pose the same risk because they don’t burn fuel.

If you need to use a space heater, keep your family safe by cracking a window open and watching for carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

These symptoms happen because inhaling carbon monoxide prevents the body from processing oxygen. You can also prevent illness or hospitalization by plugging carbon monoxide detectors into outlets next to your space heaters.

Christmas Trees Trigger Asthma

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a tree full of gorgeous lights and ornaments. Even if your family prefers to get one from a Christmas tree farm, in can be better to get an artificial tree at times.

Authentic trees can carry mold spores into your home. The water bowl at the base of the tree can also become a mold hub, which triggers asthma attacks or allergy symptoms. The scent of your Christmas tree can also irritate the nasal passageways and lungs of family members with asthma.

Find an artificial tree of the same variety your family prefers and you’ll eliminate multiple sources of indoor air pollution this holiday season. You’ll also be able to use such a tree for years and years to come.

Protect Your Family During the Holidays

The holidays are a special time of year, but they can also increase indoor air pollution in numerous ways. Watch for these potential problems to keep your family (and Santa) safe this winter. Everyone will get more joy from your holiday festivities and stay healthy until it’s warm enough to go outside again.

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