11 Things in the Living Room That Are Making You Sick

Living Room

 Superb Image / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Our living room is a place to gather the family, recoup after a difficult day, and simply relax. While you may not think of it as a room in your home filled with health hazards, unfortunately, there are bacteria, air pollutants, and allergens that lurk in that comfy space. These harmful elements can result in stomach upset, colds and flu, and respiratory distress. Getting rid of irritants is particularly important for babies and small children and anyone with a compromised immune system.

Take a look at 11 things in your living room that are making you sick and what you can do to control the impact they have on your family's health.

  • 01 of 11

    Remote Controls

    Remote Controls

     Christina Reichi Photography / Moment/ Getty Images

    Remote controls for the TV, music, game systems, and ceiling fans are touched dozen of times every day. Did everyone in your house wash their hands completely each time before touching them? Of course not. 

    Remote controls and other electronic accessories like keyboards and earphones attract soil and bacteria like E.Coli and Salmonella. And if someone in the family is ill, there are even more bacteria just waiting to infect the next user.

    Use a disinfectant wipe that is approved for use on electronics each day to wipe down remotes and accessories. If someone is ill, take time to wipe down after every use before passing along for the next person to use.

  • 02 of 11

    Wall-to-Wall Carpet


     Banks Photos / E+ / Getty Images

    Even if you are meticulous and vacuum every day, wall-to-wall carpet is a dirt, bacteria, human and animal dander, and other allergens magnet. Each time we walk or kids play on the carpet, those irritants are released into the air we breathe. This can lead to breathing problems and skin conditions.

    Replacing older carpet with new carpet is not always the best solution to health problems. New carpets emit a significant amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)  and the preservative formaldehyde that can be toxic. These compounds are associated with respiratory problems and frequent nosebleeds.

    If you have wall-to-wall carpet, clean regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter, have the carpet cleaned by a professional on a seasonal basis, and consider removing it and using smaller rugs that can be easily washed.

  • 03 of 11

    Air Fresheners

    Air Fresheners

     carlo salvares / E+ /  Getty Images

    Whether you use a plug-in air freshener, commercial potpourri, or spray air fresheners to cover up stale odors, they are contributing to indoor air pollution. Home fragrance products, candles, and some oils for diffusers often contain chemicals like petroleum distillates, limonene, formaldehyde, esters, and alcohols that can cause respiratory distress, headaches, and eye irritation.

    Instead of a commercial product that simply covers up bad odors instead of eliminating them, open the doors and windows and welcome in some fresh air. Or, place bowls of baking soda, activated charcoal, or distilled white vinegar around the room to absorb odors. If you like the addition of scent, make your own potpourri from dried flowers and add essential oils.

  • 04 of 11



    Tammy Hanratty / Corbis / Getty Images 

    Candles can add fragrance and a decorative touch to the living room and a certain ambiance when lit. Unfortunately, since most candles are made from paraffin wax which is produced with petroleum, they can also release chemicals like ketones and benzene which are irritants to the respiratory system. 

    An additional danger is the type of wick that is used. Candles made in the United States are required to have lead-free wicks but other countries do not have that requirement.

    You don't need to get rid of candles completely but opt for those made of soy or beeswax. Look for wicks that do not contain wire or metal and avoid heavily scented candles that may cause irritation to those with asthma and allergies.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Heating and Air Conditioning Vents

    Air Vents

    Banks Photo /  E+ / Getty Images 

    Heating and air conditioning systems are a must in most homes. While they keep us comfortable year-round, HVAC systems can also cause health risks. The biggest culprit is improper use and care of filters that can capture or spread bacteria, mold, and allergens in our homes.

    Filters should be changed regularly and a filter that captures fine particles is best. Vents should be dusted weekly and if someone in the home has a compromised immune system, consider having ductwork cleaned yearly.

  • 06 of 11

    Vacuum Cleaner


     Sofie Delauw / Cultura / Getty Images

    A vacuum is one of the essential cleaning tools to keep living areas dust, dirt, and allergen-free. But, as much good as some do in removing potential health hazards, others can unknowingly produce even more.

    Every time you vacuum, some allergens and bacteria are released into the air. Older vacuums, and those without cleanable or replaceable filters, are the worst culprits. Studies have shown that bacteria can stay alive for up to two months in an full vacuum cleaner bag or cup.

    Brand and price are not always the best indicator of the safest vacuum to use. Look for one that is equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA). Then, clean or change the filter regularly and empty the bag or cup after every use to remove contaminants from your home.

  • 07 of 11



     Tobias Titz / Getty Images

    Is your living room feeling a little heavy? Nearly 40 pounds of dust is collected in the average home every year. Dust contains toxic chemicals that can cause breathing problems for those with COPD, asthma, or allergies. But is also contains microscopic arthropods, dust mites, that multiply quickly.

    The mites are too small to see with your eyes, but they thrive in the temperatures and humidity of a home and they can trigger allergies. They feed on tiny flakes of human skin that are shed and make up the bulk of the dust in our home, especially in carpets and upholstered furniture. 

    To keep dust at a minimum, use a disposable duster with microfibers that captures dust and can them be tossed. Feather dusters and dry clothes simply spread the dust around.

  • 08 of 11



    Carlos G. Lopex / Moment / Getty Images 

    While we love and value our pets, they have the potential to make us sick. Just like humans, cats and dogs shed microscopic bits of dead skin that can cause allergic reactions in some people.

    Any type of bite or scratch from an animal can introduce bacteria into a human's skin and should be closely monitored. Pets can also bring in pests like ticks and bacteria from outside play and toilet areas. 

    Just like humans, cats and dogs shed microscopic bits of dead skin that can cause allergic reactions in some people.

    The best practice is to keep pets off upholstery and carpeted areas and in their own beds. If that's impossible, clean and vacuum regularly to prevent health issues.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11


    Picture of a pile of firewood

    Tuan Tran / Moment / Getty Images

    A basket filled with firewood is both convenient and decorative. However, stored firewood can introduce pests to a home that can cause allergies and respiratory distress.

    Leave wood outside until it is needed. Promptly clean away fireplace ashes and soot which can also trigger asthma.

  • 10 of 11

    Insects and Pesticides

    Fly Swatter

     Perry Mastrovito / Stockbyte / Getty Images

    Insects and pests can carry disease and we don't want them in our homes. Flies and cockroaches can carry bacteria like E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus and organisms that can trigger intestinal and respiratory problems.

    Mice and other rodents also carry hazards like Salmonella and ticks that can cause severe illnesses. 

    While getting rid of these pests is a top priority, the chemicals that are used to get rid of them can also cause health problems. If you are using pesticides and other chemicals, take extra precautions to avoid triggering additional problems. Opt instead for non-chemical control methods.

  • 11 of 11

    Your Shoes

    Shoes on porch

     Rafael Ben-Ari / Photodisc / Getty Images

    Think about where your shoes have been throughout the day. Do you want that on your carpet or upholstery? Nearly 96 percent of shoes contain traces of coliform, a bacteria that resembles the makeup of fecal matter.

    The easiest way to prevent contamination that can sicken your family, have everyone remove their shoes at the front or back door. Wash welcome mats and entry rugs frequently.