Seasonal shifts, unexpected viruses, and other factors can affect airborne allergy sufferers. While it’s easy to blame the weather, rising pollen, or your office mates for your allergies, your air conditioner could be contributing to these problems too. In fact, some people even refer to this as air conditioning sickness!
Air conditioners work to change the temperature of your space. When in use, they circulate air around your home. While most units have powerful filtering systems to stop harmful bacteria from lingering in the environment, it’s still possible for airborne allergens to get through.
If you can’t stand being in an air-conditioned room for too long, you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon to experience sore throats, a stuffy nose or a runny nose. Respiratory issues such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath may also occur when in prolonged contact with an air conditioning system.
Some people call this air conditioning sickness, although this is a misnomer. Air conditioners do not cause disease and the cold air they produce is not harmful on its own.
In some cases, setting your air conditioner too cold may cause tiredness, headaches, and related symptoms. This is because low temperatures can cause your arteries to restrict, leading to decreased blood flow, heat loss from the body, and increased susceptibility to illness. On hot summer days, keeping your cooler around 25 degrees will reduce electricity bills and avoid these symptoms.
Most of the time, people who have air conditioner sickness are actually experiencing allergy symptoms, or they are reacting to irritants that are in the air. Let’s look a little bit into how this occurs and what you can do to combat central air conditioning allergic reactions.
A refrigerated air conditioning system works by drawing in the warm air in your home, cooling it, and redistributing it as cool air. This means that new irritants can’t be introduced from outdoors (as long as your windows and doors are closed). But it also means that existing irritants will remain in your space.
Airborne pollutants that are already inside your home could include mould, mildew, dust mites, airborne viruses and bacteria, pet dander, and other indoor air pollution.
When you activate your air conditioning, you could be constantly recycling these irritants throughout your space.
If all those irritants were already present in your home, why do you notice them more when the air conditioner is on? The simple answer is air.
Both refrigerated cooling and evaporative cooling systems are forced air cooling units. This means they cool your home by dispersing a cool breeze. If your home is already plagued by indoor pollutants, the draught of the air conditioner can carry them closer to you, triggering a reaction.
Air conditioning systems have filters. In refrigerated systems, these filters help to remove indoor air pollution, and in evaporative systems, they ensure the air that is drawn in from outdoors is fresh, cool, and clean.
However, filters will clog up over time, making them far less efficient. Cleaning, maintaining and replacing your filters will increase the cleanliness of your air and improve cooling performance overall.
Wet surfaces can be a breeding ground for mould and mildew. These irritants can develop in your air ducts and other parts of your air conditioning if it’s not properly cared for. As well as replacing filters regularly, you should invest in air conditioning repair, servicing, and maintenance every 2-3 years.
While air conditioners are sometimes blamed for causing allergies or illnesses, they could actually be good for allergy sufferers!
Air conditioners trigger allergic reactions when there are already irritants in the environment, when your system is poorly maintained, and when your filters are dirty.
However, when you have clean filters, a clean environment, and a well-maintained air conditioner, allergies and irritants won’t stand a chance. This is especially the case for refrigerated systems – if the air in your home is already clean, the system will simply cool it, re-filter it and spread it back throughout your home. Refrigerated systems work best when windows and doors are closed too, meaning no irritants are coming in from outdoors!
While evaporative systems require open windows and doors, they will continually distribute fresh, filtered air throughout your home. So as long as your system is in good condition, your evaporative cooler can also be great for helping allergy sufferers.
Modern air conditioners also come with a range of air purifying features to help those with allergies and sensitivities. We’ll explore some of these features later on in the article!
Do you think your air conditioner is causing your allergic reactions? The key to reducing allergies is to remove the irritants from your environment, whether these are in the air, around your home, or in the air conditioner.
Completely eliminating dust and allergens might not be possible, but there are steps you can take to drastically lessen the symptoms.
If you have urgent concerns or your symptoms are worsening despite these tips, please consult your doctor.
HEPA Filters are proven to remove at least 99.7% of microscopic particles including dust and mould growth. You can use HEPA filters in vacuums and air purifiers, and you might even find them in your air conditioner.
Removing clutter from your surfaces will help to avoid a build-up of dust. As well as this, you should avoid fabric furniture and heavy window furnishings if you are susceptible to dust allergies. Washing your bed sheets in hot water, vacuuming at least once a week, and minimising carpeted surfaces can also help.
If you have pets, keep them out of your bedroom and try to collect hair, feathers, and mess when it accumulates.
If you have seasonal allergies, keep your windows and doors closed and consider refrigerated air conditioning for your cooling requirements.
Keeping your environment clean is the most effective way to combat allergies and irritants, but improving air quality using air filters and air purifiers can also help.
Your best option is to install an air purifier in the ductwork of an air conditioner. Having an additional purifier means your system can work double to reduce outstanding allergens.
Research shows that 40%-50% relative humidity is best for reducing dust mites and other allergens. This is because a lot of pollen, pet dander and bacteria in the air thrive in higher humidity levels. Make sure your air conditioner is set at the right humidity levels in your home.
In general, the less humid your home is the better, as harmful bacteria require humidity to flourish.
Melbourne is known for its extreme weather. Therefore, our air conditioning units – both heating and cooling – go through a lot of wear and tear. This constant use could mean maintenance is neglected. As mentioned above, a dirty cooling or heating unit could be harbouring all those unwanted bacteria causing your allergies. Clogged and dirty air conditioning filters will also be less effective at removing irritants that are coming in from the outdoors or already in your environment.
Units should be regularly cleaned and inspected at least once a year. Grime, dust and contaminants easily build over time and get stuck in the filters. Dust build-up in units could mean these allergens are being cycled throughout your home whenever you use your air conditioner.
Aside from cleaning, more thorough servicing and maintenance should be completed every 2-3 years
If you have the opportunity to, you can also install allergy-friendly heating and cooling systems in your home. While all air conditioning units are great for temperature control, some are more suited for allergy sufferers than others.
Here are some great brands you can rely on if you’re looking for cleaner air and lasting allergy relief.
Thinking of installing a new air conditioner to combat your allergies? Get in touch with Australian Climate Systems today. Our ducted cooling system experts will help you find, install and maintain the best air conditioner that suits you. Getting in touch is easy. Call us now on (03) 9726 4444 or send us an email inquiry at [email protected].