Have you noticed you get more headaches at the end of the day? That you have unexplained allergy-like symptoms? Or maybe you even feel like you have a mild fever at work, but feel better once you’re outside or at home?
All those are symptoms of poor air quality. You could be exposed to anything from elevated dust, to deadly, toxic mold.
Want to learn what symptoms to look for in your health and in your environment? Check out the guide below.
What Does Bad Air Quality Mean for Your Health?
When you’re breathing in bad air, pretty much everything in your body suffers. Oxygen is essential for almost every bodily process, and when the air quality is compromised, that oxygen gets tainted by other things.
Like VOCs or volatile organic compounds. That’s what most indoor air pollutants are called, whether they’re mold spores or dust from a nearby construction site.
The amount of damage these compounds can do depends on a few factors. How dense is the air with these chemicals? Aka, how many of them are in the air?
Then you have to consider the time that someone’s spent breathing these chemicals in. It’s different if you walk through a room with bad air and take a few breaths, vs if you work 8 hours a day in that room.
The density of the air pollutants and the time you spend breathing them determine what effect they have on your body.
Short Term Health Effects
When you’re in a room breathing low-quality air, you’ll feel uncomfortable.
For some people that show up as headaches or eye irritation. You could develop allergy-like symptoms, that isn’t due to allergies at all. Trouble breathing and nausea are two more serious side effects, usually accompanied by confusion or dizziness.
Nosebleeds can happen when the air quality is extremely low, so if your nose starts bleeding out of nowhere, please seek clean air.
Sometimes you don’t notice any short term effects of low-quality air. Many people misdiagnose their symptoms as seasonal allergies, or just write them off.
Prolonged low-quality air exposure can lead to long term damage.
Long Term Damage
In the case of long-term exposure to air pollutants, people have developed everything from the black lung (an extreme) to asthma.
Damage to the bodies organs can occur, as can central nervous system damage and cancer.
Want to know if you’re breathing dirty air? Here are a few ways how to tell.
How to Tell if You Have Poor Air Quality
Whether you’re concerned about your office or your home, here’s what you can look for.
1. Worsening of Allergy-Like Symptoms
If you find yourself sneezing and feeling congested when you’re at work/in your home, but feel things getting better when you leave – that could be a sign of poor air quality.
See if your symptoms are made better by opening windows or getting an air purifier.
2. Think About Seasonal Changes
Sometimes the organic compounds in the air aren’t deadly, but they’re still annoying. This happens usually in spring and early summer when plant pollen is flying around.
You can google your town and “pollen forecast” to find out if that’s the issue. It’ll give you a rating, low, medium, or high, which may explain your symptoms.
3. Consider Physical Changes
It’s normal for home repairs or remodels to kick up some dust. But the dust should be well contained in the construction area of your home.
If you have an old home or live in a place where mold is common, it’s possible that the renovations or repairs irritated asbestos or toxic mold in your home.
On the one hand, this is a good thing. You want to find out about the toxin so you can have it removed. But on the other hand, removal is expensive and you may have already developed health issues from living with the toxin (unknowingly) for so long.
You can also suffer from renovations or constructions that your neighbors are doing, especially if you live in an attached home.
If you suspect that’s the issue (ie, the timing works out) ask them what quality tests or inspections they’re doing along with their work.
4. Pay Attention to Air Flow
This mostly goes for work buildings, unless you’ve all of a sudden noticed a change in your home.
If there are spots in your office (or home) where the air is very cold or very hot, that shows there’s some sort of blockage or issue with the ducts. The entire home or office should be at the same temperature, give or take a few degrees.
If you notice extremes, call an HVAC professional to come to check things for you.
If they find that things are flowing strangely because of a blockage or they find things like mold or other toxins, you’ll need to call a mold removal professional.
They can not only diagnose your problem, but help you understand how widespread it is, or if it’s a contained issue. They’ll set up a removal plan for you and encourage you to see a doctor, depending on the severity of the issue.
Can I DIY?
Absolutely not. Trying to remove dangerous toxins like mold or asbestos is not a good idea. When you remove the particles from the surface, microparticles get into the air.
If you don’t have the proper protection, you can inhale those particles and make your symptoms worse.
Calling a professional is not only recommended, but it’s mandatory to protect your and your families health.
If you suspect you have poor air quality, call an expert first. It’s better to be safe than sorry!