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The winter season is a special time of the year, especially for Canadians. We can lace up our skates for outdoor rinks, celebrate holiday festivities with our loved ones, participate in a Secret Santa, and begin looking forward to the New Year. I enjoy listening to my favorite Michael Bublé​ Christmas soundtrack, sipping peppermint hot chocolates, and cozying up to read a good book. 

But the season is not without its challenges. There is a frigid drop in temperatures and our indoor air quality in our homes. According to the American Lung Association, many airborne toxins contribute to air quality. They can range from household cleaning products, such as air fresheners or perfumes, to volatile organic compounds known as VOCs and often found in home improvement products.

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And with the heaters running 24/7 in winter to keep us toasty, there’s an increased chance of toxins becoming airborne. Since our windows remain closed, there is more insufficient ventilation compared to our warmer seasons.

I notice this as someone who has lifelong eczema, allergies, and asthma, which acts up during this time. I find that there may be flare-ups on my skin and find it more difficult to breathe normally. However, many others live with more chronic illnesses that may worsen because of the lower air quality. To better address and fix the problem that indoor air quality drops in Winter, we need to be aware of the risks and the way to improve it.

Air Pollution Risks

For instance, the Canadian Government notes that air pollution is related to a higher risk for asbestosis and legionnaires’ disease due to pollutants and bacteria found indoors. There are also significant links to lung and heart conditions, including severe lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and heart failure. These can develop over time and the possible chance of fatality.

Younger children and older adults are more susceptible to the effects of air pollution. Still, one’s overall health and type and exposure level to contaminants are also important influences.

Not only does air quality impact humans, but other animals, and especially house pets. I do not own any cats or dogs, mainly because I am allergic to them. But I can imagine that they too are spending more time indoors during the winter months. Since our furry friends are inhaling the same air that we are, they are also likely to be impacted by low air quality. And since their bodies are much smaller than humans, they may be inhaling more concentrated amounts of toxins.

How to Improve Air Quality During Wintertime?

So what can we do to breathe more comfortably when the indoor air quality drops in Winter? ​There are several short term practical tips to longer-term investments that can make a drastic difference in indoor air quality for humans and non-humans alike. These changes can be done at any point, and ideally before the winter season, but it is never too late to get started on improving your indoor air quality at home today.

#1. Bring the outdoors indoors​

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No, I don’t mean to open up all of your windows during the winter to get the ventilation going. But what you can do is adding more indoor plants in your house, especially in rooms that feel stuffy or uncomfortable to be in the cold season. They’ll purify your air for a low-cost investment. If you’re forgetful of watering your plants, you can buy ones that easily retain water. It would help if you also looked for plants that don’t require too much sunlight as winter is not known as a good time for lots of it.

#2. Do some winter cleaning​

Although “Spring cleaning” may be a catchier tagline, winter cleaning may save your lungs. This includes vacuuming and cleaning dusty areas more frequently and paying close attention to areas like carpets. The cleaning also includes your pets too! They may not be trekking as much dirt in because they’re not outdoors as much, but they still shed fur and dead skin cells year-round. These particles impact your air quality.

#3. Freshen up with essential oils​

You can use a fancy diffuser or D-I-Y (do-it-yourself) by adding them in spray bottles some water. They are a win-win as they purify the air without leaving traces of harmful chemicals behind. My absolute favorites are tangerine and peppermint. Also, they’re great for destressing!

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#4. Invest in a humidifier or air purifier​

They come in a range of sizes, or you can equip entire spaces too! Try to keep them more in your bedroom in the nighttime. They’re known to improve the quality of sleep and overall breathing in the colder months. You can consult a professional to select the best one for you and your household.

Read more: What is HEPA Air Filter?

#5. Call an expert to get your air quality tested​

They will inform you about the specific issues you are dealing with in your house and how to best deal with them in the long term. With a professional air quality testing service, you will figure out precisely what is polluting your air.

According to Mold Busters Ottawa, managing the drop in air quality in the winter season does not have to be as tricky or severe as some of the consequences of not taking action, resulting in increased stress with health impacts. Taking action now may also save you money in the future. Dealing with your home environment’s health (indoor air quality drops in winter, for example) if the quality gets progressively worse may increase financial costs too for treatment or cleanups.

By taking little steps towards improving your indoor air quality, you can see changes immediately tomorrow. Not only will yours, but your family’s and pets’ lungs also thank you for it; you can spend time doing what’s most important during the Canadian wintertime – celebrating the holiday spirit with loved ones.

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