How Indoor Air Pollution Contributed to a Horrific Flu Season in St Louis
All you have to do is take one look on social media to know this year’s flu season was exceptionally awful. Many residents in the St Louis area were hit unusually hard with influenza. Families with young children were especially vulnerable. Which makes perfect sense. If your child is attending daycare or school, they are basically being exposed to everyone else’s germs. Then bringing them home to share with the rest of the family. There is only one thing worse than taking care of a sick little one. That is having to take care of a sick child while you yourself is sick. However, one major contributor to this year’s flu season is being overlooked. Today we are discussing indoor air pollution, and how it could have more impact on your families health than you may think.
What is Indoor Air Pollution?
Indoor air pollution is a broad term for airborne particles found in your home that can have a negative effect on your health. Because indoor air pollution cannot be seen, it is often overlooked by homeowners. Common forms of indoor air pollution include:
- Pet Hair & Dandruff
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Lead (Pb)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Radon (Rn)
- Tobacco Products
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
Where Does Indoor Air Pollution Come From?
Indoor air pollution can come from thousands of different sources found inside your home. These can include items such as household cleaning products to your favorite household pet. It is important to note that in most cases, any single source of indoor air pollution individually can be minimal. But when you compound all of them together, they can present potential health hazards. Common sources of air pollutants include:
- Household Cleaning Products: Yes, all those household cleaners you keep under the sink can release a variety of different chemicals inside the home which when compounded can present health risks. It is somewhat ironic that the same products we use to keep our home clean, can make our air dirty.
- Domestic Pets: While the family dog or cat can provide comfort and emotional support for family members, it can also present respiratory problems for anyone with mild pet allergies.
- Attached Garages: Even if you are good about keeping the door to your garage closed, attached garages can be a primary source of carbon monoxide. Especially during months with extreme temperatures. This is largely due to homeowners heating up their cars before driving.
- The Household Smoker: Even if the smoker(s) in the house are good about stepping outside, they are still bringing some of the toxins inside the home.
- Gas Stoves, Wood Chimneys, and Space Heaters: All of these are common sources for low levels of carbon dioxide.
- Pressed Wood Products: These can include particle board, plywood paneling or medium density-fiberboard. All of these contain moderate levels of Formaldehyde.
- Household Pesticides: The same chemical products that are intended to exterminate insects are also not healthy for humans. Go figure.
How Indoor Air Pollution Combined With a Cold Winter in St Louis Was the Perfect Storm for the Flu Like Symptoms
During a 26 day stretch from December 23, 2017 to January 17, 2018, there were only 2 days where the high temperature exceeded 40 degrees. This stretch of low temperatures led to the following factors:
- Families were spending much more time indoors
- Furnace and heating systems were constantly running
- Air was being recycled throughout the home for a long period of time
These factors combined with a decrease in immune levels due to the cold weather presented ideal conditions for the flu virus. If a family member left the home, was exposed to a virus and reentered the home, there is a great chance the virus entered the air of your home. It would then be continually cycled throughout your heating system, being exposed to everyone in your family. When you have almost an entire month stretch of these conditions, it becomes almost inevitable for the flu to impact an entire family.
How Does Indoor Air Pollutants Impact Flu Victims?
Eliminating or greatly reducing indoor air pollutants can help prevent influenza and improve recovery. When indoor environments experience high levels of contaminants, they can impact your immune system. Many health effects often associated with influenza and the common cold are often symptoms of poor indoor air quality. Examples of such symptoms include:
- Respiratory Infections
- Runny Nose
- Watery Eyes
Lingering Symptoms That Refuse to Go Away
A major indicator of poor indoor air quality are lingering symptoms from the flu. For example, if you or a family member contracted the flu this winter, went on antibiotics and broke your fever, but are still experiencing a hacking cough or runny nose, it can likely be due to indoor air pollution. This is even more common with young children. If you have a little one in your home that is having a hard time recovering from the flu, we recommend testing your air quality immediately. There is a good chance they will get better the minute the weather gets warmer, and they get back outside. But in the meantime, it can be a huge indicator that you currently have poor indoor air quality.
Decreasing Indoor Air Pollution Inside Your Home
Now that we have identified the need to decrease indoor air contaminants, how do you do it?
Many local HVAC companies in the St Louis area now offer a variety of indoor air quality products specifically designed to combat indoor pollutants. At Vitt, we train our technicians in identifying potential sources of air pollutants, and using cutting edge technology to measure any hazardous levels and recommend solutions to address them.
Products We Recommend To Increase Your Air Quality
Air Scrubber Plus
The Air Scrubber Plus is a phenomenal HVAC system add-on that can drastically improve the quality of the air inside your home. It attracts contaminants as air cycles through your system, and directly eliminates them on contact.
Many St Louis based HVAC contractors install a wide range of air cleaners designed to specifically reduce indoor air contaminants. We recommend researching whole house air purifiers. The maintenance is minimal compared to the benefits they can provide a home.
Having a residential whole home humidifier system will help maintain proper humidity levels. Many symptoms associated with a common cold such as dry throat and nose, can greatly be reduced in the winter months by regulating the humidity in your home’s air.
Vitt Heating & Cooling Specializes in Improving The Quality of Your Indoor Air
If this year’s flu bug was the “Straw that broke the camel’s back” when it comes to your home’s indoor air quality, we would love to help. Our team is licensed and trained in techniques to improve your air quality at an affordable price. We pride ourselves on customer care and do not implement any tricky sales tactics. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help improve the quality of the air you breathe inside your home, call us today at (314) 351-5580.