Let’s clear the air a little bit, shall we? With every breath you take, you’re potentially breathing in dust mites (and their feces), pollen, pet dander, bacteria, viruses, dust, mold spores, formaldehyde, smoke, pollutants, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). And though we rarely realize we’re doing it, our bodies certainly notice the exposure – particularly when that exposure is prolonged over a period of time.
Runny noses, sneezing, hoarseness, persistent cough, difficulty sleeping, sleep apnea, and other respiratory difficulties not attributable to other illness can be caused by pollen, dander, mold and other allergens. VOCs, which are found in everything from household cleansers to paints, carpet backing, dyes, coolants, markers, and lubricants can cause skin rashes, fatigue, headaches, burning or itching eyes, tightness in the chest, and dizziness. Bacteria and mold build-ups can be the reason behind frequent colds or persistent infections that don’t resolve after a couple of days or weeks. And yet, we are all very quick to shrug it off as “a bug” while the real problem goes unresolved.
At home, a good solution is replacing the air filter in your heating/air-conditioning unit. If, like many men, this concept sounds foreign to you – the odds are your filter is long overdue for a change. Locate the air-handler section of your HVAC system or find the intakes for your system (larger-than-normal openings with vent-like covers on top). Either behind a metal mesh, or slid into place with small grooves, you’ll find a cardboard frame with some sort of filament or filter-paper in the center. It will also be covered with dust and/or dirt. Note the size on the filter or on the opening and then head to your supermarket or home store to replace it. Quality filters that “catch” mold spores and bacteria are more expensive, but are much more effective than the “blue fuzz” versions that do little except catch dust. If you’re really serious about air quality at home, you can also look into a HEPA filtration system for your entire home. Ideal for serious allergy sufferers, HEPA is among the gold standards in air-quality maintenance.
At the office, you’re probably not as able to dictate the quality of the filters being used… so you’ll want a free-standing air filter or air purifier to come to your aid. Ionization versions attract contaminants and lock them into the filter before recirculation cleaner air. Similar versions are available for your car, which is a place many overlook when it comes to air-quality. Try to drive with windows up and the a/c on re-circulate whenever you’re sitting in traffic or are in a congested or urban setting.