If you've been coughing, sniffling, or sneezing since the weather turned cold, you're not alone. Wintertime illness spikes have been observed for centuries, well before the arrival of modern amenities like central heating and influenza shots. But while you may take steps to protect yourself from the spread of cold and flu viruses, one illness culprit may be lingering, unseen, within your home. Dust, dirt, and pollen that collects in your HVAC ducts can be circulated throughout your home whenever your heater is turned on, making you more vulnerable to a variety of respiratory ailments. Read on to learn more about improving your home's air quality this winter. 

Have your HVAC ducts cleaned

One of the easiest ways to instantly clean up your home's air quality is to have your HVAC ducts professionally cleaned. During this process, the HVAC technician will use special equipment to access just about every nook and cranny of your air ducts, removing any dirt or other particles inside. This process is especially useful in homes with cats, dogs, or other pets, as pet hair and dander may make their way into your floor ducts over the years, causing respiratory issues for those who may have mild to moderate pet allergies. 

It's usually a good idea to have your HVAC ducts cleaned by a professional at least once every couple of years, or more frequently if you live in a high-dust area (such as next to a cornfield or manufacturing facility) or have several pets. Taking this step during late summer or fall could significantly reduce your chances of coming down with a winter illness. 

Invest in a HEPA air filter

In addition to having your HVAC ducts cleaned, you may want to invest in a HEPA filter (high efficiency particulate air filter) to further clean your air. This HEPA filter removes airborne particles that are often too small to be seen with the naked eye, and they can even remove viruses and certain types of bacteria from the air. HEPA filters are available in a variety of sizes, with some designed to clear all the air in a home while others are better suited to smaller spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms.

If anyone in your home has asthma, allergies, or other issues that can sometimes make breathing difficult, having a smaller HEPA filter placed in their bedroom (in addition to a larger filter in the main living areas) can provide some added help.

For more information and help with improving the air quality in your home, contact an HVAC service, such as Rizzo Heating & Air Conditioning.