Maxima Skelton advises on ways to combat pollution.

The term ‘air pollution’ is widely used in the news. Many people think that air pollution only occurs in inner cities and towns, but this is a common misconception. In fact, the World Health Organisation defines air pollution as “contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere”. So really, if you live beside a busy inner city road or in a country cottage,- and you may find high levels of air pollution.

There is a lot that one can do to improve the indoor air quality at home. But avoiding polluted air whilst travelling can often prove more difficult.

If you have respiratory allergies or chemical sensitivity, it’s likely that you place an even higher importance on breathing high quality air than most. So what can you do to ensure that the air you are breathing is safe and clean, both at home and away?

At home

One of the key ways to achieve good indoor air quality at home is to make your home easy to clean and to use good quality natural cleaning products. Dust mites, mould spores and pet allergens can attach themselves to carpeting or upholstery and gather in cluttered nooks and crannies. Take steps to ‘de-clutter’ and step up your cleaning regime to include those areas which are often forgotten about. Always remember to ventilate the home by opening the windows.

Using damp microfibre cloths as opposed to feather dusters, and a HEPA vacuum cleaner as opposed to a dust bag vacuum cleaner, can make a world of difference as they capture allergens and dust rather than re-distributing them into the air.

Particularly if you have pets, carpets can make thorough cleaning a challenge. Dust, pet dander and allergens are ‘sticky’ and can lurk amongst the tiny fibres for long periods of time. If practical, consider replacing your carpeting with wood flooring which is easier to keep clean. Similarly, consider swapping fabric curtains for blinds, which can be easily wiped clean (with natural cleaning products of course!).

Aside from allergens, another class of pollutants to think about are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These are organic chemicals that evaporate easily at room temperature, and can be given off from household products such as paints, pressed wood, aerosols, plastics and memory foam upholstery. Seeking natural unfinished furnishings, flooring and VOC-free paint (the Lakeland range is a firm favourite of ours) can make a big difference to the VOC levels in your home. Avoid synthetic home fragrances and aerosol furniture polishes as these can also be sources of pollutants. Also be aware that upholstered furniture and furnishings can offgas for many years, both from the materials used and the treatments applied.

A good air purifier can be worth its weight in gold if you have problems with indoor pollutants. Top of the range versions can often remove chemicals, VOCs and even diesel fumes that have seeped in from outdoors. If you live beside a busy road or in an area of high outdoor pollution, this can seep into the home. Although these don’t come cheap, they will last your family for years and give you cleaner air to breath and peace of mind.

Out and about

Travelling can be a challenge for those with environmental and respiratory allergies. Aside from following the precautions and treatment plan recommended by your doctor, there are a number of things you can do to avoid breathing in poor quality air.

One of the most important things to pack in your handbag (or suitcase, if you’re going afar) is a mask. There are so many highly efficient masks available nowadays that there’s really no need to suffer in polluted environments. A washable mask with a carbon filter is great to have on hand just in case you find yourself walking down a smoggy road, walking through the perfumery section of a department store or visiting someone with an unexpected pet!

On the plane

If you’re lucky enough to be going abroad, be aware that the indoor air quality of the cabin is likely to be poor. Aside from the usual viruses and bacteria that circulate through the stuffy air, contaminated air can occasionally ‘bleed’1 into the cabin from leaking engine oil seals, exposing passengers and crew to toxic fumes (such as organophosphates and volatile organic compounds).

Until airlines invest in better air filtration methods, there’s not much you can do to improve airline air quality. To reduce your exposure to toxins while flying, wear a highly efficient mask and consider using a portable wearable air purifier.

In the hotel or holiday accommodation

Hotel rooms and other holiday accommodation can be a hotbed of toxins and allergens. From strong synthetic cleaning products, synthetic bedding or bedding that has been washed in fragranced detergent through to dust mite allergens inside bedding, it’s wise to come prepared!

Request a pet-free non-smoking room by phoning up in advance, and if your allergies are severe, let the hotel know. On arrival, it may be advisable to remove bedspreads, cushions and blankets from the bed, as these aren’t washed as frequently as normal linens. Consider bringing a portable air purifier like the Roomaid (from £206.50) to clear away the bulk of the allergens and particles in the air. A unit is also available with a VOC filter, which is ideal for those with chemical sensitivity who react to residual chemicals ‘off-gassed’ from sources such as fixtures and fittings and strong cleaning products.

Using gentle allergy sprays can help to improve air quality by neutralising allergenic particles in unfamiliar environments.

AirCleanse (£12.95 + p&p) is insecticide-free and helps to denature airborne allergens, using natural active ingredients. This is available as part of a travel pack – ideal for packing in your suitcase.

Wherever you’re headed this spring, we wish you a healthy, happy and symptom-free break!

1 The Boeing 787 has a ‘bleed-free’ frame so this aircraft is not affected by this problem


  1. Thomas Vacuum cleaner from £229.00.
  2. Lakeland (formerly Ecos) paints from £35.88 per litre
  3. Winix air purifiers from £179.99
  4. Disposable Vapour mask pack of 2 £7.85
  5. Wearable Ionic Air Purifier £26.95
  6. Roomaid air purifier from £206.50
  7. Travel Allergy Pack £17.40

All products available from The Healthy House. Tel 01453 752216.

More tips from AAA

*when booking, ask the hotel if they can please use dust mite free barrier bedding *ask them to use scent-free, non-chemical cleaners in your room for the week before you arrive (and while you are there too, of course)

If your holiday hotel proves helpful, do let us know so we can share the good news with other members.