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Cold and Flu Symptoms Vs. Poor Indoor Air Quality

Posted in Air Quality, on January 06, 2018

Cold and flu season is already well underway in Toronto and the GTA, but do you know whether you have flu season symptoms or poor indoor air quality symptoms? It’s easy to mistake the two because they share a number of commonalities, but if you just can’t shake that flu, it might be time to consider your indoor air quality as one of the contributing factors. Today’s homes are built to be energy efficient, but that efficiency may be trapping allergies or other pathogens inside where they could be wreaking havoc on your health. When you add to your environment scented products, aerosols, or other contaminants, you might be breathing in a chemical soup that is could be manifesting itself as flu-like symptoms.

Common symptoms of both the flu and poor indoor air quality include:

  • Sneezing: This is maybe the most obvious symptom most people associate with both flu season symptoms or poor indoor air quality symptoms. Volatile Organic Compounds or other airborne allergens are breathed in through the nose and can trigger sneezing as your body tries to expel them.
  • Itchy, watery eyes: Your eyes are sensitive organs that are particularly susceptible to poor indoor air quality, which may cause them to feel dry, itchy, or watery. If eyedrops aren’t helping, it could be indoor air pollutants that are causing them to react.
  • Coughing: Like your nose, your body coughs to expel unwanted particles from its lungs. Those particles can rub against bronchial tubes and cause inflammation that is similar to (or worsens) flu symptoms.
  • Headaches, nausea and fatigue: It isn’t pleasant to have any of the symptoms of the cold or flu, but persistent headaches, ongoing fatigue, or feeling nauseated can actually be caused by poor indoor air quality.

The easiest way to differentiate between poor indoor air quality and the flu is by noticing whether or not your symptoms lessen or disappear when you leave your home or office. If they do, it’s likely that there’s something in your indoor environment that’s causing you to feel poorly. If you symptoms persist, or get better within a week or two, it’s more likely to be the common cold or flu.

However, improving your indoor air quality can really help you feel better faster when you do get the flu. Running a humidifier can help introduce a bit of moisture into the air to combat winter dryness and ease respiratory symptoms, and cleaning or replacing air filters on your furnace can help you catch those allergens that may further weaken your system. Removing scented candles, cleaning products or air fresheners can help reduce the number of VOCs in your indoor air quality that could be causing headaches or nausea, or affecting your eyes, nose, or throat. Improving your indoor air quality this winter can help ease your cold or flu symptoms as well as help prevent misidentification.

Flu season symptoms or poor indoor air quality symptoms may be similar, but you have a greater level of control with your indoor air quality, and improving it doesn’t have to be difficult. Give us a call at SafeAir to learn more about indoor air quality and your health.

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