An air purifier sucks in dirty air at the bottom and releases clean air from the top.

Dry Eyes in a Basement

My boyfriend and I live in a one-bedroom, open floor, basement apartment. And we share this comfy space with our three cats.

Indeed, it might lack sunlight, with only small windows (and none in the kitchen), and it’s on the small side, but it’s comfy and we love our cozy nest! A good thing, too, as we've both been working 100% from home since the beginning of the pandemic!

Dealing with inflammation and dryness

My work desk is in the living room, besides the entrance, while his is in the bedroom corner (open floor, remember!)

One of the cats uses my desk to get to a window... no matter how much we try to get him not to! So my desk becomes full of dirt and cat hair quite quickly. I need to sweep it almost daily. Thanks Buster... (we love you anyways!)

All that “pollution” creates inflammation in my eyes and makes them even drier, at the one place I need to be able to see clearly and where I take my online meetings!

CO2 levels and ventilation

It’s much better now, though. Ironically, I can thank COVID for that! Since we learned the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads through the air, I wanted to know more. I learned about better ventilation, air purifiers, and how to use carbon dioxide (CO2) as a proxy for risk: there is CO2 in each breath we exhale, so the less CO2 in the air, the less risk of catching an airborne virus.

We are shielding, so with a very few exceptions, nobody comes in our apartment, and we are very rarely exposed, as of my writing this. This means we usually don’t check the CO2 levels in relation to COVID risk (I do take my CO2 monitor with me if I have a medical appointment!)

But we also learned how high CO2 levels (starting at 1,000 ppm, or parts per million) can be bad for you, with drowsiness, poor concentration, headaches, even difficulty breathing at higher levels!1

If the levels are high, it may tell you the space is not well-ventilated. And with allergies making dry eyes worse, you definitely want to have good ventilation!

Looking at our CO2 levels in the apartment

So, we started looking at our CO2 levels in the apartment the same way we look at the humidity level. And we noticed it was way too high! Mostly because we have such small windows and are unable to have a cross-breeze. But I learned recently how placing a fan close to a window and push the air OUTSIDE helps. We bought a small desk fan and keep it running almost non-stop in a window we keep open.

In the winter, we open all windows a few times a day. Even though it’s not exactly creating a cross-breeze, it helps with aeration. The small fan will help that much more!

With closed windows, I've seen the CO2 level can get as high as 3,000 ppm! With windows open and the small fan running, it goes down to 600 ppm, which is only slightly higher than outside (which is at about 400 ppm)! The CDC suggests aiming for below 800 ppm.1,2

Things we do to help

Another thing we did because of COVID is to get an air purifier and make a Corsi-Rosenthal box (a DIY purifier). Yes, two air purifiers, as when we need to have someone inside, it helps keep the risk at a minimum. One of the purifiers runs on low at all times and at a higher setting when there are more allergens outside (or when dusting/vacuuming)!

Of course we also try to vacuum and dust often, keep as few fabric items as possible (leather couch and bed base, wooden kitchen chairs without cushions, not too many plushies – which breaks my heart haha), and wash the curtains regularly. Using a damp cloth for dusting also helps.

Cleaner air has a big impact on my eyes

I’m lucky that my boyfriend will usually do those tasks while I’m not in the apartment. Otherwise I put antihistamine drops in my eyes beforehand and wear a mask.

Who would’ve thought a pandemic could help my health? But I can definitely say, having cleaner air has a big impact on dry eyes!

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