Two years after the pandemic, six in 10 people whose jobs can be done remotely work from home all or most of the time. And those who now have access to their physical workplaces choose to continue working from home because they prefer it. But while staying at home has proven effective to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, it will not completely eliminate the threat of illness-causing allergens and airborne pathogens.
Airborne Dangers You’re Exposed to While Working from Home
Even if you clean your home regularly (which certainly helps), there are still airborne particles lurking everywhere that can affect your health. Here are a few common culprits.
Dust is one of the most common and unavoidable pests in the home. Even the tidiest and most diligent of cleaners will see the dust settle on the floors and furniture. This is because dust isn’t something that’s only blown in from outdoors; rather, it’s naturally occurring indoors too.
Dust is comprised of dead skin cells (which everyone sheds without knowing), so the more time you spend working from home, the more you are contributing to the creation of dust inside the home. On average, people shed about 1.5 grams of skin cells daily.
It’s also made up of body fragments and droppings of dust mites, which are so common that approximately four in five homes in the U.S. have detectable levels of dust mites in at least one bed. Dust mites primarily feed on dead skin cells, so they love beds, clothes, carpets, furniture, toys, and other fabric-covered items in the home.
However, despite being one of the most common triggers of asthma and allergies, most people do undervalue the importance of dusting. According to a Harris Poll survey, Americans of all ages do not prioritize cleaning – specifically, 66% of Gen Z, 63% of Gen X, and 73% of Boomers.
Mold is a naturally occurring part of the environment, typically existing outdoors to help decompose dead organic matter like leaves and trees. But if you’re not careful, mold can build up in the home and cause adverse effects on your health.
Mold spores are invisible to the eye and float through the air, so they can travel from outdoors into the home. These spores can grow and multiply when they land on wet or moist surfaces, so they are commonly found in high-moisture areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, and basement.
Mold is typically not an immediate danger to your health because it naturally exists in nature. But when it starts growing inside the home and you’re frequently exposed to it because that’s where you work, that’s when mold poses a threat to your health. Mold can trigger asthma attacks and cause hay fever-like symptoms like a runny nose, red eyes, skin rashes, and sneezing.
3. Pet Fur/Dander
Some sad news for pet parents: Your furry friend may be the reason you experience allergy symptoms. Furless animals like fish, reptiles, and amphibians don’t shed, so they’re unlikely to cause allergies. But all mammals — like cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, shed fur and dander – so they’re likelier to trigger allergy symptoms.
Pet dander is microscopic and jagged, so it can easily float in the air and linger for a long time, then stick to fabrics, furniture, and even skin. It can even be carried out of and into the home, so you may unknowingly bring some home if you’ve interacted with animals outside.
Pet allergies are characterized by a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, irritated eyes, and shortness of breath. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, almost 62% of U.S. households have pets, more than 161 million of which are cats and dogs. Those who frequently work from home and are with their pets almost 24/7 are more exposed to pet dander, and therefore more vulnerable to these ailments.
3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
This is one of the most overlooked airborne dangers, made even more harmful by the fact that people often don’t know they’re manmade and widely present in the home. Volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) refer to a wide range of potentially harmful chemicals that are released into the air. They can cause negative health effects when inhaled in excessive amounts.
Common sources of VOCs include:
- Home and personal care products – air fresheners, cosmetics, aerosol products, cleaning products, fuel oil, gasoline.
- Building materials and furniture – paints, varnishes, adhesives, new carpeting, vinyl flooring, upholstery, foam, composite wood products.
- Activities – dry cleaning, cooking, wood burning, smoking.
VOCs are generated by everyday activities and products that are common, even essential, in the home. So, those who work remotely from home are most at risk of the health effects caused by VOCs. Specific symptoms of health concerns may differ depending on the VOC that a person is most exposed to or affected by, but common symptoms of high VOC exposure include:
- Short-term exposure: irritated eyes and nasal passageways, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting.
- Long-term or chronic exposure – cancer, damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system.
How Can an Air Purifier Help You When You’re Working From Home?
There are several ways you can improve the quality of indoor air in your home. Some people opt to simply open a window to promote air circulation and let fresh air in. However, this may not be a good idea if you live in a high-traffic and highly industrialized area, like a big city or near major roads. It’s also not the answer if you live in an area with wildfires. You may just end up letting more allergens and pollutants inside your home.
Air purifiers are tried and tested, and safe for all seasons and conditions. They’re a simple but powerful solution to improving the quality of air inside your home. Sans air purifier is designed with a three-stage air filtration system including a pre-filter, HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter. But here are a few features that you’ll especially love if you’re working from home:
- It’s lightweight and portable, so you can easily move it to whichever room you decide to work in for the day.
- It’s meditation quiet, so it won’t disrupt your meetings.
- It has smart sensors that monitor the air quality and kicks into high gear when needed.