How Air Conditioning Can Exacerbate Allergy Symptoms

When you are allergic to airborne allergens and contaminants, anything that affects the air quality can exacerbate your condition.  Air conditioning, for example, can significantly increase the amount and severity of allergy symptoms for many reasons. Here is a list of how air conditioning can exacerbate allergy symptoms and how to combat the effects.

How Central & Standalone Air Conditioning Affects Allergies

With central and standalone air conditioning units, the airflow in a dwelling is restricted. And while this means that new allergens are not being introduced into the air from open windows, this also means that any allergens or impurities in the air are trapped and are continually being recirculated through the building.  Therefore, anyone who is allergic to the specific allergens or contaminants that are trapped will be continually affected by them.

Additionally, air conditioning can provide an ideal environment for other allergens to grow and thrive. In the case of central air conditioning, cooler air passes through ducts located in the attic and walls. When these blasts of cool air mingle with much warmer air, it produces condensation; which is an ideal environment for mold to grow. Mold is one of the main irritants that plague allergy sufferers.

With a standalone or window air conditioning unit, you have to worry about being more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, as well. A window unit works by drawing the heat and humidity from the room to lower the ambient temperature. This dehumidifier effect actually can dry out the mucous membrane of your nose and make it more susceptible to airborne viruses and impurities. In this way, air conditioning cannot just exacerbate allergy symptoms, but asthma attacks, as well.

During the fall and winter months, if a window air conditioning unit is not adequately covered it also creates the perfect environment for mold spores to grow in and around the unit, therefore contaminating the air quality inside the home.

On both standalone and central air conditioning units, if the filters are not changed regularly, then the contaminants that were filtered out can be reintroduced into the air.

Allergy Symptoms Experienced Due to Air Conditioning

  • Itchy, watery, irritated eyes
  • Sore, scratchy throats
  • Sneezing
  • Runny noses
  • Coughing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory congestion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

How to Reduce the Effects of Air Conditioning on Allergies

One significant way to reduce the effects of central air conditioning on allergy symptoms is to have your air ducts professionally cleaned on a regular basis. At least once a year, it’s best to have a qualified HVAC specialist inspect your air ducts for leaks and properly clean them to prevent impurities from re-contaminating your air.

It’s important for you to clean and change your air filters on a regular basis, as well.  For most air condition filters, it’s good enough to simply just rinse them with regular tap water to clean them. However, always double-check the manual that came with the system to ensure you’re cleaning the filters in the correct manner.

For allergy sufferers, High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are the most efficient choice for removing contaminants and impurities from the air. They are also disposable so you can simply just remove and replace them instead of cleaning, if you prefer. Even if these measures do not alleviate your allergy symptoms, you can also look at investing in an air purifier.

Maintaining Other Appliances

Remember that many other appliances can affect the air quality in your home and can require regular maintenance in order to keep allergic reactions at bay.  Air purifiers, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers are all examples of appliances that can relieve allergy symptoms if properly used and maintained. However, when these appliances are not properly maintained, they can significantly increase allergy symptoms.

Therefore, it is important to appropriately change and clean filters for air purifiers regularly so that they do not redistribute the impurities throughout the rooms the same way that air conditioners do. And just like air conditioners, air purifiers work best when HEPA filters are used.  It is also important to regularly clean humidifiers and dehumidifiers as they provide an ideal environment for mold to grow if they are not maintained.

Create an Allergy Management Plan

Now that you know the different ways air conditioning can exacerbate allergy symptoms, be sure to practice proper maintenance to keep the air quality in your home safe.  If you have any further questions about air conditioning and allergy symptoms or want to create an allergy management plan, be sure to contact Dr. Mayank Shukla today.

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