How to Decorate Healthy for the Holidays

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December 3, 2018

The holiday season is here and many of us have begun to celebrate by transforming our homes with decorations and other traditions. However, we may not realize that holiday decorations can come with unseen consequences.

Specifically, how decorations can affect the air in your home.

Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy and safe since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, our ability to concentrate, the quality of our sleep, and more. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can even cause a variety of health problems, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, hives, and nausea.

Regardless of which holiday you choose to celebrate, make sure your home is both festive and safe this year with some healthy holiday decorating tips:

1. Air Out Old Decorations...

Decorations that have been kept in storage all year have a high chance of collecting dust, which can easily spread into your air the moment the decorations are hung.

Dust triggers allergies for about 20 million Americans, and unlike pollen, dust can occur year-round. It’s no surprise, since one piece of dust contains a potpourri of unpleasant items, like dead skin, mold spores, pieces of dead insects, and pet dander.

Dust can cause itchiness, asthma, eczema, and hay fever. Exposure to dust mites has also been linked to conjunctivitis, hypersensitive pneumonia, and both allergic and migraine headaches.

Consider airing out your decorations outside before reintroducing them into your home to help prevent the spread of dust mites. You can also wipe them down with a damp cloth or microfiber cloth to trap dust mites on the spot.

2. Be Careful With New Decorations

On the other hand, brand-new decorations can pose an entirely different problem for the air in your home.

New products are notorious for containing harmful chemicals, known as VOCs, which evaporate at room temperature. VOCs can travel into your lungs and bloodstream and cause a variety of health effects, including eczema flare-ups, allergies, asthma, and headaches.

When you open new decorations in your home, any VOCs that are a byproduct of the packaging materials can be released into the air in your home and travel into your lungs. If possible, try to open your new decorations outside your home, and allow a few hours for any chemicals to "off-gas" before decking your halls.

3. Keep Holiday Fragrances Natural

One of the best ways to get in the holiday spirit is by filling your home with seasonal candles and fragrance diffusers, but this can come at a dangerous cost; both scented candles and air fresheners are incredibly effective at filling your air with harmful chemicals.

When burned, scented candles release a cocktail of dangerous chemicals in the air, including benzene. The same is true for air fresheners, which are filled with phthalates, a chemical that is known to cause a variety of health issues. VOCs can be compounding, and too much exposure to VOCs over time can lead to severe side effects, from itchy eyes, nose, throat, and skin, to even cancer.

A healthy way to keep your home smelling amazing is by diffusing essential oils–they’re all-natural, smell just as strong as candles, and come in a variety of scents. As always, make sure to check the ingredients list on the essential oil before bringing it home. If you’re missing the ambiance and glow of a candle, beeswax candles are a great substitute–they’re chemical-free and burn longer than scented candles.

4. Make Healthy DIY Decorations

If you're thinking about crafting your own holiday decorations this year, make sure you do so with your health in mind!

Some DIY projects call for paint–or worse, spray paint!–and this is especially risky for your air, and your health. Paint contains a variety of chemicals, and crafts with fresh paint are some of the quickest ways to bring chemicals into your home.

Luckily, chemical-free and toxin-free paint is available–and they’ll probably have the color you’re looking for.

Know Your Air

You shouldn't have to sacrifice your health for holiday cheer. If you want to really know what’s in the air you’re breathing, you can get started with an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair 2nd Edition. Awair 2nd Edition tracks invisible fine dust and chemicals in your air and gives you personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy.