Can Air Filters Make Allergies Worse?

Air filters may not be the best solution for people with allergies because they don't filter all allergens from the air. Learn how to choose the right air filter for allergies.

Can Air Filters Make Allergies Worse?

Air filters are not always the best solution for people with allergies, even if they are clean and new. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and medical experts, air filters can actually worsen allergy or asthma symptoms. Studies have shown that air purifiers can help people with common allergies by trapping pollen and other irritants inside their filters, but there is still little consensus on the subject. Using a HEPA filter in your home can remove most airborne particles that could worsen allergies.

However, airborne particles are not the only ones in your home. It is important to keep areas such as carpets, bedding, curtains, and countertops clean. Additionally, it is important to eliminate the source of allergens and irritants when possible. For example, the only effective way to keep tobacco smoke out of your home is to stop smoking.

Your air conditioner will have to work harder to keep all the particles out of the air and may not be as efficient. Dirty air filters can cause unwanted symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, sneezing, eye redness, and respiratory tract infections. Using an air purifier can eliminate many allergic triggers. While there is no official recommendation for the use of air purifiers for allergies, many medical experts and research studies point to their effectiveness.

For several weeks now, I have been testing several portable air purifiers that supposedly remove allergens, pollutants, and odors from my indoor air. HEPA air filters for allergies need to be changed more frequently than regular paper HVAC filters, especially during high pollen season. In the case of pet dander, particles that cause pet allergies can be removed by using an air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter. Changing your air conditioner filter regularly will reduce the amount of particulate matter in your home's air, reducing asthma attacks.

Don't expect an air purifier to clean an entire house and remember: only particles that pass through the air filter will be captured. Paper filters commonly used in your oven and air conditioner are designed to trap large particles such as dust that can build up in the motor and fans and reduce efficiency. I have been closely monitoring my usual symptoms such as watery eyes and nose to see if a household air purifier can help me feel better. However, if the air purifier has a limited ability to filter allergens then the problem has only worsened.

For example, HEPA filters, UV air filters, and ion filters are very good at removing dust, dander, pollen and mold but they are not good at eliminating odors. You can also order custom filters that target specific allergens and impurities such as pet allergy, toxin absorbers, germ defense or odor eliminating filters. Because HEPA filters are made of densely packed layers of glass fibers instead of paper, the best ones are able to trap more than 99 percent of pollen, dust and smoke particles and keep them out of the air you breathe every day. Carbon-based filters are good at filtering out some particles and odors but they are not as effective at removing dust, dander, pollen and mold. Learn the facts about choosing the right air filters for allergies as well as other HVAC maintenance tips that can reduce your suffering this season. Over the years, the Federal Trade Commission has taken action against several manufacturers of air purifiers including brands such as Honeywell and Oreck for baseless allergy relief claims or for announcing that their devices removed virtually all impurities from the indoor air that people breathed.

Suzette Childres
Suzette Childres

Extreme sushi junkie. Typical zombie fan. Friendly music enthusiast. Professional pop culture geek. Hipster-friendly social media evangelist. Typical pop culture scholar.

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