Stuck at home for the foreseeable future? We’ve compiled a few air quality tips to help you stay healthy and productive.
1. Keep CO2 Levels In Check
When CO2 is inhaled in high concentrations, it impedes our brain’s ability to metabolize oxygen. This decreases neural activity and ultimately makes it more difficult to think clearly. Moderate spikes in CO2 that occur when we spend more time behind closed doors can leave us feeling lethargic and struggling to stay focused. In fact, one study found that employees in high-CO2 environments worked 60 slower and scored 12 percent lower on cognitive tests than their peers in low-CO2 environments.
As you spend more time at home, make a point of opening windows to let fresh air in and allow CO2 to escape. In addition, use a standing fan or your central HVAC system to help circulate the air within your home and prevent CO2 from becoming too concentrated in one room.
2. WFH Impacts PM2.5 and VOCs
There’s some truth behind the phrase “cabin fever.” In addition to making you stir-crazy, spending too much time inside a building with poor air quality can actually produce feelings of ill health, or “sick building syndrome.” These nonspecific symptoms are often associated with high levels of airborne particulate matter (PM2.5) and toxic chemicals (VOCs).
Many common household activities contribute to indoor air pollution. For instance, cooking on a gas stove releases microscopic combustion particles (PM2.5) into your air, which can cause your indoor air quality to be worse than that of highly-trafficked cities. In addition, the extra cleaning with high-chemical cleaning products to mitigate COVID-19 can spike VOC levels in your home. Along with increasing your risk of long-term health complications, inhaling high amounts of PM2.5 and VOCs can cause chronic respiratory irritation and leave you more vulnerable to an infection.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid these activities. When it comes to your indoor air quality, simply being more mindful about your product choices and habits can make a big difference.
Simple ways to reduce the amount of pollution you generate:
- Run your stove top vent and crack windows when cooking or cleaning.
- Sauté foods at lower temperatures and choose a cooking oil with a higher smoke point.
- Use low-chemical, “green” cleaning products for routine cleaning and wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth to collect fine dust.
- Avoid burning incense, essential oils, or candles and using air freshening sprays.
- Ventilate before, during, and after you've completed the job.
3. Maintain Healthy Temperature and Humidity Levels
The reason why winter is always “cold and flu season” has to do with outdoor temperature and humidity levels. In most areas across the country, temperature and humidity levels dip during the winter and increase in the summer. Studies have shown that low-humidity environments help viruses like the flu linger in the air for a longer period of time, thereby increasing the risk of exposure and aiding outbreaks. Scientists have also discovered that rhinoviruses, the leading cause of the common cold, replicate better at lower temperatures.
Although health experts are still unsure if COVID-19 will prove to be seasonal, maintaining healthy temperature and humidity levels in your home is always a good bet. Ideal temperatures range between 65°F and 80°F, with a relative humidity somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Keeping an eye on your thermostat and investing in a humidifier in dry months can help you ward off common infections and keep your immune system functioning at its best.
Want to learn more about how your indoor air quality can impact your health risks? Check out this article.