Our homes are our sanctuaries – our safe havens away from the germs and masked masses. As the weather outside becomes frightful, our tendency is to hibernate indoors by cranking up the heat and keeping the cold air out. But what we may not realize is that we’re also trapping all sorts of things inside, like dust mites, dander and mold – and that can mean an increased risk of allergies and sickness.
Elle Décor says that when our windows are closed for months at a time, and with the heat recycling the same air over and over, allergens never leave the home. In fact, they thrive. And according to WebMD, one of the reasons we’re more susceptible to cold and flu in the first place is that the cold, dry air outside pulls moisture from your nose and mouth, which is needed to fight off bacteria and viruses.
1. Let the air in by cracking the windows
At least two times a day (try once in the morning and once at night), open windows for 5-10 minutes.
2. Improve ventilation.
There are a few things you can do to help keep clean air moving in your home:
• Leave interior doors open
• Use bathroom and kitchen fans
• Keep baseboards or heating vents clear of furniture
• Replace or clean the filter of the heating system per the manufacturer’s instructions
3. Use a humidifier.
This one is a bit tricky since dust mites mold and other organisms grow better in high humidity. So, keep your humidifier at about 50% to add moisture back into your home.
4. Keep your home clean.
These are things we should do all year round, but especially in the winter:
• Vacuuming is key if you have wall-to-wall carpeting in your home or apartment (dust mites love it in there). Clean floors with a damp mop or cloth.
• Washing your sheets in hot water once a week also helps remove contaminants. Use a mattress and pillow protector and vacuum mattresses.
• Bathe your pet to cut down on dander.
Wait until spring. No matter how badly you want to paint your bedroom or take on that renovation, waiting until the windows can be wide open will keep risky compounds like formaldehyde and acetone from hanging out in your home.
Know the causes of poor indoor air quality and do what you can to eliminate them.