What Are the Symptoms of Bad Air Quality in a Home?

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Redhead woman at kitchen feeling unwell and coughing

Your home is supposed to be somewhere safe where you can relax and breathe easy. But sadly, this is not always the case. Many people experience bad air quality symptoms and do not even realize their home is to blame. In fact, it is estimated that indoor air is 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside!

Clearly air pollution isn’t just something that you need to worry about in the big city or certain areas – it could be right in your own home. So, what are the bad air quality symptoms you need to look for and how can you test the air quality of your home?

Let’s discuss this.

Physical Symptoms

Poor air quality can lead to a laundry list of health issues if you are exposed to it over a long period of time. These health symptoms can be hard to catch since they are often easy to explain away. But, if you or a family member are experiencing one or more of these health issues, bad air quality could be to blame.

Prolonged Allergies

Most allergies last for a season – typically peaking in the spring or fall when pollutant levels for pollen and grass are highest. However, people can experience symptoms from the air quality of a home, which can prolong or worsen seasonal allergies.

This is because poor interior air quality can lead to further inflammation of allergen-induced airway passages. So, if your nose is already running and your throat is scratchy from outdoor allergies, breathing in contaminated air while you are at home will only irritate things even more. This causes a continuous cycle of allergy misery!

Breathing Issues

Another incredibly common bad air quality symptom is breathing problems, such as asthma, coughing, and sneezing, or continuous congestion. Indoor air allergens can trigger breathing issues and airborne particles can build up in air passages, leading to breathing issues.

According to the American Lung Association, poor indoor air quality can worsen asthma and lung cancer symptoms and can lead to the development of lung infections. Over time, this can even lead to respiratory illnesses or chronic lung diseases.

Sick Building Syndrome

sick woman at home wiping her runny nose

You may have never heard of it before, but prolonged exposure to bad air quality can create a condition known as Sick Building Syndrome or SBS. It is often difficult to diagnose or test for since there are numerous recurring symptoms that tend to occur when the person is in a building with low air quality.

Some of the most common symptoms for SBS include:

  • Throat irritation
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Dry, itchy skin rashes
  • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness or irritability
  • Nausea
  • Body aches

SBS can affect people differently. Your family may be experiencing different symptoms from one another. Thankfully, this syndrome will go away if the source of the poor air quality (such as mold, second-hand smoke, dust, or asbestos) is removed.

Other Diseases

In rare cases, poor air quality can lead to autoimmune diseases and permanent chemical sensitivity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is a result of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can have long-term health effects if a person is exposed for a long period of time.

Often, these chemicals are present in paint, varnishes, and solvents, which are used in homes and buildings. These chemicals seep into the air and can cause allergies, irritation, and even damage to the central nervous system.

Environmental Symptoms

In addition to internal health problems, there are other bad air quality symptoms that you may notice in your home. These are indications that there is an issue in the air quality of your home or those dangerous particles and other contaminants are present. Many of these issues can have dangerous consequences.


Humid air may not necessarily be dangerous to your health, but it can damage your home. Over time, it can increase the moisture levels in the home, warping or swelling wooden floorboards or laminate and vinyl.


shocked man seeing mold in his kitchen

Too much moisture in the air can cause mold to form, often in drywall backing, underneath wallpaper, or below carpeting. Mold issues can be extremely dangerous, as it can not only lead to major health problems, but they can destroy a home. If the mold has overgrown, it may require renovation, or in extreme cases, you may even need to rebuild the home altogether.

This is why it is extremely important to order a mold test before you buy or rent a home.


There are additional contaminants in the home that could be a signal of poor air quality. When the air inside a home is full of pollutants, it is a sign that there is a filtration issue or even a leak within the home, which could be potentially dangerous.


All homes have dust. Dust is simply an accumulation of skin cells, pollen, hair, bacteria, and even bits of dead bugs that gather and settle on flat surfaces. However, if you notice that dust seems to pile up quickly or you have excess amounts, it could be a sign that your home contains excess contaminants and requires better filtration.


Bacteria and viruses can accumulate in a home and impact air quality. Airborne bacteria often thrive in moist environments, and they can lead to health problems like tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Gases (CO2)

A buildup of dangerous or harmful gases is another bad air quality symptom – which can be incredibly dangerous and even deadly. If a home is not properly ventilated, naturally occurring gases or gases released from appliances can accumulate. CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the most common and dangerous gas. It can lead to unconsciousness, brain oxygen deprivation, and even death.

Other air pollutant gases include:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Nitrogen Dioxide
  • Radon
  • Asbestos

What Causes Bad Air Quality?

The only way to treat poor air quality is to pinpoint the cause and eliminate the issue. So, what causes the poor air quality in homes in the first place?

Building Materials

New house construction

The materials used to build the home can be the cause of many air quality issues. For instance, older homes may contain asbestos, as this was used for insulation. Other materials like fiberglass or gases from varnishes, glue, or even paint can seep into the air.

Microbial Contaminants

Microbial contaminants – which occur in just about every home – can cause an air quality issue if they accumulate. For instance, if a pipe is leaking and bacteria or mold growth, it can eventually lead to air quality issues. Too many dust mites or other bugs can also lead to poor air quality in a home.

Air Flow Issues

Finally, one of the leading causes of poor interior air quality is simply poor ventilation. If air is stagnant, bacteria can grow, dust can gather, and other pollutants can accrue. On the other hand, any leaks to exterior airflow in areas where pollution is high can lead to poor air quality inside.

What Do You Do When the Air Quality Is Unhealthy?

Testing the air quality of your home is a wise choice for all homeowners. Getting an inspection and air quality test is the only way to determine whether or not any dangerous pollutants are present.

Air-Labs conducts thorough air testing for residences. We check for all types of potential contaminants from mold and mildew to dust mites to dangerous gases. Our team of air quality testing experts will offer you test recommendations based on any bad air quality symptoms you are experiencing – and offer solutions to tackle the problems head-on.


The air quality can have a lasting impact on your family’s health, and even the structural integrity of your home. But many people don’t catch on to the signs that the air quality in their house is compromised because the symptoms can be subtle. Sadly, many people never order air quality testing for their home – as they assume that they are breathing in clean air.

Getting air quality testing is necessary to ensure that you and your family are breathing in safe, clean air. Air-Labs is proud to offer affordable comprehensive air quality testing to homeowners in and around the Montreal, Quebec area.

Please reach out to our team today to receive a free consultation.