Ah, the crisp winter breezes of cottage country. Until you bust open the cabin doors and breathe in the pollutants.
“Cottages are often left uninhabited for long periods, with no ventilation,” says Tristan McIntosh of the Lung Association. “And in the winter, people spend more time indoors. This means more exposure to potential indoor air quality issues.”
Dust, pet dander, and cleaning products can all mess with air quality, but the big three in cottages are wood smoke, mould, and the aftermath of animal infestation. If you’re experiencing allergy-like symptoms or flare-ups with conditions such as asthma or COPD, it might be time to overhaul your air.
1. Smoke healthy
Avoid burning an excess of anything that’s been treated with chemicals, is colourful, or is covered in print: cardboard, newspapers, magazines. (Don’t burn this magazine. That would make us cry.) Use clean, dry wood instead.
2. Stop the mould
“Any moisture sitting around can grow mould,” says McIntosh. That includes condensation that builds up during winter visits.
If your cottage smells musty, it’s a sign of dampness even if you can’t see any water. Check under carpets, around windows, in the corners of closets, or anywhere there’s clutter. Moisture hides. Increase ventilation and decrease humidity—run exhaust fans or a dehumidifier, insert a fresh air duct—to help banish it.
3. Clean up after critters
Carefully: wear gloves and a HEPA-filter mask. Animals that quietly invade and then pile their pathogen-filled feces in one area—bats, with their mounds of guano, and raccoons, with their communal “latrines”—are especially problematic. At least with regards to air quality. “If a bear comes barrelling in…well, that’s a different threat to your health and safety,” says McIntosh.