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Breathe Easier: Improve Indoor Air Quality

By , 10:33 pm on

Cigarette smoke, pet dander, household cleaners, wood burning stoves and fireplaces all have something in common: they pollute the air inside our houses. When these polluters are combined with dry winter air, tightly closed windows, and constantly running furnaces, we have a cocktail of indoor pollution that can make even a person without breathing issues choke and gasp.  For seniors with breathing problems, indoor pollution is another reason to dread winter.

 Here’s what you can do to clean up the air inside:

Use HEPA furnace filters. HEPA filters help reduce dust and airborne allergens better than any other. Change furnace filters per the manufacturer’s recommendation or more frequently.  Help air circulate by making certain the air returns are not blocked. Kick the habit outside, at the very least.  Keep cigarette smoke outside your house and away from doors which open into the house.

Fido should know his territory and stick to it

Keep pets out of bedrooms and wipe their paws after a trip outside.  If they are the shedding kind, have them groomed regularly and use HEPA filters on a vacuum strong enough to pick up pet hair.

The hearth can be a hazard

Chimney sweeps are not just a cute Victorian novelty.  If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned when needed.  Better still, convert to gas logs, they burn clean and don’t require wood hauling or ash.

Keep the toxic chemicals out

Non-toxic cleaning products are a great way to reduce indoor air pollution. If the smell of cleaners hits you in the face when you open the door, you just got slapped with chemicals.  Vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, salt, hydrogen peroxide, and liquid detergent can replace many chemical cleaners.  Recipes abound at

Barefoot is beautiful

“Take those dirty shoes off before you come inside!”  If my mother said that once, she said it a hundred times.  She knew outdoor shoes were actually covered with dirt, allergens, pollution, and germs.

Sometimes breathing problems prevent normal activity.  Incapacitating shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and wheezing and coughing are signs of a serious condition which should be addressed by a doctor.  Seniors with asthma are especially affected by perfumes and paint fumes.  Avoid all aromatic deodorants, perfumes, hairsprays, and laundry softeners when you go visit your loved one.  They’ll breathe easier.

Breathing problems are not part normal aging.  Keep fit through diet and exercise, don’t smoke, get regular immunizations, and reduce indoor pollution as much as possible.

Additional sources: EPA,