Is Air Conditioning Good or Bad for People with Allergies?
A common question this time of year is, “Is air conditioning healthy for people with allergies?” The short answer is yes, if it’s a well-maintained HVAC system, possibly not so much if it’s a neglected system.
Many people experience endless sneezing, nasal stuffiness, and even ear congestion from February or March through the end of the hot, humid summer months. Some allergy sufferers feel, as the season wears on and hot weather arrives, that the more they use their air conditioning, the worse their allergies become.
Indeed, some pollutants and microbial contaminants that cause adverse health reactions can come from your HVAC unit. However, there are things you can do to alleviate the situation, and we will talk about those below.
What Are Allergens?
Any substance that causes an allergic reaction in certain people is considered an allergen. Pollen, dust, and pet dander are common allergens, although many things can trigger allergic reactions.
Pollen is the principal cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, if you find yourself battling a runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing most of the year, you probably have a non-seasonal form of hay fever. Animal dander, dust mites, and mold are the most likely causes of this condition, which is known as perennial allergic rhinitis.
Common Indoor Allergens
A variety of substances can build up in your HVAC unit and provoke mild to intense allergic reactions in some people. The most common indoor allergens include:
- Dander (dogs and cats)
- Dirt and dust
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Pet rodents (hamsters, gerbils, etc.)
All can enter your living space via the duct system, potentially stirred up and carried into the indoor air by a dirty, dust-caked air conditioning unit. If these are present in your HVAC system, there’s a very good chance you’ll come into contact with and breathe them in, since indoor air passes through your HVAC system an average of 5-7 times a day.
Seasonal Allergy Symptoms and Signs
Seasonal allergies manifest in various ways, including sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, throat clearing, and postnasal drip, among others. People can also experience asthma symptoms such as wheezing and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms involve the skin, such as eczema and seasonal dermatitis.
So how can you tell if your HVAC system is responsible for making your seasonal allergies worse?
- Your sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy nose, and other allergy symptoms noticeably worsen when the air conditioner is running.
- Your symptoms improve when you are away from your home.
Allergens in Air Conditioning Systems
Common allergy-inducing contaminants in air conditioning systems include:
- Pollen. Pollen is a fine powder produced by flowers, trees, and grasses that can enter your home through open windows and doors during the spring and summer. If the filter of your air conditioner isn’t working correctly, small pollen particles can be distributed throughout the house and become trapped in carpeting and furniture.
- Dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like pests found in pillows, blankets, curtains, carpeting, and other fabrics.
- Pet dander. Pet dander is composed of microscopic flecks of skin shed by animals with fur and feathers. This causes reactions in people allergic to proteins found in the saliva, urine, and feces of dogs, cats, and other pets.
- Mold. Toxins released by mold and mildew can cause extreme allergic reactions. Thriving in damp, humid environments, mold grows where there’s moisture, such as around leaks in windows, pipes, and HVAC systems, and is also found in dust, carpet, upholstery, and fabric.
What You Can Do
With regular HVAC maintenance and a few simple tricks, you can substantially reduce your air conditioning unit’s effect on your allergies.
- Replace air filters. Regularly replacing the air filter can dramatically reduce the amount of dust, dirt, dander, and other pollutants in your air conditioning ducts. If you find your allergies worsening, schedule maintenance with our skilled technicians, who can provide high-efficiency filters that capture more contaminants.
- Have your system cleaned. By having your HVAC system professionally cleaned inside and out by Indoor Air Quality, Inc. technicians, you can eliminate dust, debris, and other tiny microbes that your unit may be swirling around your house. (If the indoor coil appears to be part of the problem you are experiencing, we will recommend cleaning it. Cleaning the indoor coil is not included in routine maintenance visits.)
- Check for mold. Mold can affect your HVAC system and other parts of your house. You can likely deal with small amounts on your own, but it’s better to call for professional service if dealing with a large amount. Mold is a nasty health hazard as well as a major allergen.
- Vacuum regularly. Carpets and furniture are standard collectors of pet dander, dirt, and other loose particles that worsen allergies.
- Wipe down surfaces. Clean off countertops, appliances, and other areas where dust accumulates in your home, about as often as you vacuum.
- Make sure all windows and doors are sealed. To keep out pollen, bugs, and other outdoor allergens, close all entrances and exits to your home as best you can. In addition to helping your allergies, this helps your HVAC function better, too.
- Clean up food or other messes. Insects like cockroaches are drawn to food and messes such as stacks of papers that contain skin oil residue from being handled. Don’t let these sit around long.
Call Us Today for Professional HVAC Maintenance
Indoor Air Quality, Inc. has served Highlands Ranch and the Denver Metro Area for more than 20 years. Our team of professional HVAC/R technicians has over 60 years of combined industry experience. Check out our customer testimonials, contact us, or use our online contact form for more information and a free quote.