10 Ways to Keep Air Clean at Home
Fresh, healthy air
Pollution is hazardous for your heart and can wreak havoc if you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
"COPD stands for two processes that almost always occur together: chronic bronchitis, which is inflammation of the airways, and emphysema, which is destruction of the fine substance of the lung," says Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
But the air inside your home matters too. Take these simple steps to keep irritants out of your airways, which can help stop trouble before it gets started.
Avoid wood-burning fireplaces
“Wood-burning fireplaces put out soot and carbon,” says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“There’s nothing in there that’s a good thing for a patient. There’s no inhalant that’s worse than smoke.”
Steer clear of smokers
“Smoking and secondhand smoke are absolutely to be avoided,” Dr. Horovitz says.
It’s no secret that kicking the habit is really, really hard. But if you have COPD and smoke, the stakes are higher than ever before. Quit and you’ll prevent further damage; don’t and the disease will progress faster.
Keep the dust mites away
He recommends using mattress covers and pillowcases that are bed-bug proof, which usually means they’re mite-proof as well. And pick pillows that are made of foam rubber, not goose-down or feathers.
Washing your linens in hot water (above 130°F) at least once a week will also keep the dust mites at bay, Dr. Edelman says.
Cut the chemicals
Even walking into a recently cleaned house can be a problem and wearing a mask won’t necessarily help. That means using vinegar or regular old soap and water, basically “things that don’t have a fragrance,” says Dr. Horovitz.
You should avoid hair spray, perfumes, glues, paints, and air fresheners too. “If you want to freshen your air, clean and don’t mask over another odor,” he says.
Control pet dander
Still, many people with COPD also have allergies, which can exacerbate breathing problems. Dogs, cats, and even birds can be a problem (fish aren’t).
If you already have a pet, or you find an animal is necessary for your mental health, make sure you wash your hands after petting, and keep your pet out of the bedroom.
Filter your air
Changing filters often will also help keep the air clean.
For the dog days of summer, central air-conditioning is best, but even then, filters make it better, Dr. Horovitz says.
Close your window
On high air-pollution days keep the windows closed. You can check air quality throughout the U.S. at AirNow.
If you’re cleaning, though, you may want to open a window to clear the air of cleaning chemicals, according to the American Lung Association.
Fight mold and mildew
And because dust mites like humidity too, you should keep the moisture levels in your home unattractively low, at around 40%, Dr. Edelman says.
To do so, consider using a dehumidifier and don’t run a humidifier or vaporizer.
Check your stove
You can still stay warm and cozy all winter, just do it with old-fashioned radiators or central heating.
Even gas stoves can be a problem for those with lung trouble. However, if you have an automatic igniter, it cuts down on the amount of gas that can escape, he says.
Exercise but don’t overexert
“You do want to exercise but you don’t want to subject yourself to carrying a heavy laundry basket up several flights of stairs, Dr. Horovitz says. “That’s going to be a problem.”