With the coming summer months, you may find yourself using your aircon more than usual. Sometimes, after waking up in an air conditioned room, you may find that you have a stuffy nose, and the constant need to sneeze: it’s an allergic rhinitis attack. So, what’s the deal? Is your aircon the one causing your allergies?
Well, yes and no. The allergic rhinitis is not caused by the aircon per se, rather it is the allergens being circulated by the air conditioner that is causing the attack. Once you control the level of allergens in the air, the incidence of allergic rhinitis will drop, and you will be able to use your aircon in peace.
In this article, we will get discuss the possible triggers for allergic rhinitis indoors, and the ways an aircon can help magnify it. We will also give you some tips to control the allergens in your room.
How your aircon spreads allergens
An air conditioner works by sucking indoor air through its evaporator, thereby absorbing its warmth, and thus cooling the air.
An aircon will not use air from the outdoors; it will just recycle the air inside your room. Which means that whatever is the air quality inside your room, it will mostly stay that way especially if your aircon does not have special filters to deal with the allergens.
Once it leaves the air conditioner’s blower, the air (with the allergens) will get broadcasted in your room, potentially causing an allergic rhinitis attack.
Granted, most air conditioners have a built-in air filter that can filter out large allergens such as animal dander and dust, but its function may be hampered if the filter is dirty. Also, a dirty filter can harbor mold spores, which can also cause an allergy attack.
Allergens that cause of allergic rhinitis
Knowing the types of allergens the causes allergic rhinitis is the first step of controlling them. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these are the most common pollutants found in indoor air:
- Viruses and Bacteria
- Animal dander
- Rodent and insect droppings
- Molds and mildew
These impurities are small enough to be inhaled, and thus cause an allergy attack.
How to prevent your aircon from spreading allergens
Now that you know the allergens that might be causing your allergic rhinitis, here are the steps you should take to control them:
Clean or replace the filters
As said earlier, air conditioners have air filters that catches large particles to prevent them from re-circulating in your room.
If this filter gets too dirty, it may not be able to do a good job at filtering the air. Worse, the filter itself may develop mold and mildew growth, whose spores can cause allergic rhinitis.
To clean the filter, you can either vacuum it or wash it in soapy water.
Note: Do not scrub the filter with a brush as this can tear holes in the mesh.
Consider buying an air purifier with HEPA filter
When the particulate matter in the air is just too much, your aircon’s filter may not be able to handle it. In that case, you should consider purchasing an air purifier with a HEPA filter to help your aircon remove allergens that may are causing allergic rhinitis attacks.
A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter out up to 99.7% impurities in the air as small as 0.3 microns in size. For reference, these are the particulate sizes of the following pollutants:
|Particulate||Size in Microns|
|Pollen||10.0 – 200.0|
|Mold||3.0 – 10.0|
|Pet Dander||2.5 -10.0|
|Bacteria||0.4 – 5.0|
|Viruses||0.02 – 0.25|
Unfortunately, since HEPA filters are bulky, they cannot be fitted to air conditioners. Hence, buying an air purifier should be the course of action.
Get an air purifier or aircon with ionizer
Ionizers create ions (positive and/or negative, depending on the brand) that are released to the air. These ions latch on to viruses, mold spores, and bacteria and destroys them.
Moreover, they latch on to bigger particles like dust and pollen, making them heavier and thus let them fall from the air, on to surfaces to be swept up at a later time. This reduction in suspended particulate matter in the air will prevent reduce the occurrence of allergy attacks.
Some brands have this technology present in their air conditioners and air purifiers, such as Sharp’s Plasmacluster Ion Technology and Panasonic’s Nanoe.
Get rid of molds in your room
If you see black spots on the walls or on the ceiling, that is a sign of a black mold growth. If left to its own devices, it will continue to spread spores all over your house, rotting the wood away, and causing allergic rhinitis as well.
The best way to deal with black molds is to clean the affected wall by scrubbing it with a disinfectant. To help keep them away, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier for your room.
To summarize: no, you are not allergic to your aircon or to the air it is blowing out. Rather, it is the existing allergens in the air that is causing your allergic rhinitis.
The best way to reduce the occurrence of allergy attacks is by avoiding and reducing your triggers. You should always keep your room and the aircon itself clean to minimize allergens. Also, you should consider investing in an air purifier to help with this.
- Lintner, T., & Brame, K. (1993, April 1). The effects of season, climate, and air-conditioning on the prevalence of Dermatophagoides mite allergens in household dust. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/009167499390343E
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020, July 15). Biological Pollutants’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality. US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/biological-pollutants-impact-indoor-air-quality
- Xu, Y., Raja, S., Ferro, A., Jaques, P., Hopke, P., Gressani, C., & Wetzel, L. (2010, February 1). Effectiveness of heating, ventilation and air conditioning system with HEPA filter unit on indoor air quality and asthmatic children’s health. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132309001528
- Editors of Merriam-Webster. (2020, November 19). Virus vs. Bacteria: What is the Difference? The Merriam-Webster.Com Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/virus-vs-bacteria-difference
- Sharp Corporation. (n.d.). Plasmacluster’s Benefits. Sharp Plasmacluster | Sharp Global. https://global.sharp/pci/en/effect/
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.