When spring comes, it's a pleasure to open the windows and feel the fresh air. It gets summer too early, and we lock ourselves in again.
This ritual raises the question: what is healthier – outside air or indoor air?
They are of course related. The air in our homes comes from the outside and can transport pollen or pollutants that are produced by internal combustion engines. Indoors, the mixture may be supplemented by tobacco smoke, cooking, mold spores, dust and animal hair.
A sealed home can cause this particle mixture to concentrate from the inside to the inside and not concentrate outward.
For good health outcomes "The key is to catch small particles," says Stuart Batterman, environmental scientist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.
Particles that are 2.5 millimeters or smaller ̵
High levels of particulate matter can be associated with serious consequences such as asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease. Respiratory tract irritation, breathing difficulties and coughing may occur in those affected.
Most susceptible are asthma sufferers, especially children, because their airways are smaller, and older people with respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema or heart disease.
First, you should try to eliminate the source of irritants, says Brian Christman, a pulmonologist and spokesman for the American Lung Association.
While air filters may be helpful, Christman, head of medicine at Nansville's Tennessee Valley Health Care System, says, "It's about number four or five on the list of things you can do about air quality. "
" If you're allergic to cats and I have five cats at home, an air filter will not help, "he says.
Freeing pets, you can keep them out of your bedroom. If molds are a problem, you should dehydrate wet areas, eg. For example, when you are taking a shower, remove leaks or leakage, or use an exhaust fan.
Use the exhaust fan above the stove when cooking with high temperature heat, such as grilling or frying. Reducing the humidity in your home makes it less mold and dust mite friendly. Special pillow and mattress covers can reduce the dust mite burden.
Christman also recommends avoiding strong detergents such as ammonia and bleach. "These things are heavy for your respiratory system, especially if you have sensitive airways," he says. Stick to more natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda.
After controlling source control, a good air filter can help filter out the rest.
Air purifiers can remove particulate matter from your indoor air. There are two basic settings: a portable device or the adaptation of a home or building HVAC system. The individual devices, also called air cleaners, circulate the air in a room and catch particles. If you have a recirculation system for heating and cooling, this system works the same in all rooms and you can improve the system's filter to improve particle removal.
In a 2012 study, portable air purifiers in low-income households were tested by children with asthma. When used in the nursery, air purifiers reduced particulate matter by an average of 50 percent. Families did not use the devices consistently.
Batterman, who co-authored the study, says the portable air purifiers make noise, and the users who use them need to change the filters. "They do a decent job for a small area," he says, such as a bedroom.
Those who have forced air should use this system to purify the air throughout the house, says Batterman. You already have a filter. To make the air cleaner you need to improve it to better absorb small particles. They have to be changed regularly – every three months is a common recommendation.
The cheapest filters are worthless for collecting particles, says Batterman. He recommends a folded filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 13 or higher (this also applies to the EPA). The MERV-13 filters cost about $ 15 to $ 20.
The filter works when the system fan is running and the windows are closed. That means during the heating or air conditioning season; or you can turn on the fan mode. Newer thermostats have a mode that turns the fan on and off so you can use filtering without running the system all the time.
"If you have a child with asthma or allergies, it's very effective," says Batterman. And if you avoid an emergency visit or a missed day at work, the more expensive filter has paid off.
A few things to watch out for: Do not use air filters that have an electric field. Air ionizers or electronic filters called, they produce harmful ozone. (A little off the topic, but another invisible health risk is Radon. It's best to test your home; the Greater Washington area is in a high-risk Radon zone.)
Certain air quality issues could be additional reasons for filtering your system the air at home, such as forest fires. The AirAway.gov EPA website reports daily air quality issues.
However, if you do not have a health condition that requires special attention to indoor air quality, you really do not need an air filter.  Batterman says he is not an advocate of super clean rooms. Christman says regular dirt and dust are not bad for you. There is evidence that growing up in very clean environments is related to the increase in autoimmune and allergic diseases, although the exact culprits have not been identified.