For many people throughout the Midwest, springtime is a time of renewal and a return to warmer temperatures. However, for others, springtime means the beginning of allergy season as plants begin to bloom and pollen begins to circulate freely. Often, people with strong allergic reactions to common allergens will attempt to protect themselves by tightly closing all their doors and windows and turning on their air conditioning units in an effort to limit their exposure to dust and pollen. However, their efforts to isolate themselves from those allergens may, in fact, make them more susceptible to allergic reactions.

How Air Conditioning Affects Allergies

Air conditioning (AC) can, in fact, make your allergies, asthma, and other respiratory troubles worse. They do this in a couple of ways. First, they circulate air through ductwork which often contains dust and other contaminants that contribute to poor air quality. Common contaminants found in ventilation ductwork include:

  • Pollen
  • Pet dander
  • Dust mites
  • Mold and mildew
  • Bacteria and viruses

You can mitigate the recirculation of contaminants by:

  • Using an air purification system or plants that purify the air for you
  • Replacing your furnace filter with a HEPA filter
  • Changing your furnace filter quarterly
  • Having your ductwork professionally cleaned

However, even with such measures, your AC may cause you to experience allergy-like symptoms as a result of removing too much moisture from the air.

Too Much Dry Air Can Make the Problem Worse

It may come as a surprise to you that too little humidity can create symptoms resembling allergic reactions known as non-allergic rhinitis. The sneezing, coughing, and congestion caused by this condition cannot be alleviated through the use of common allergy treatments such as antihistamines. 

Additionally, too little humidity in the air can cause your skin to dry out and become itchy or even lead to frequent nosebleeds. This is a common experience during winter months when the humidity levels are at their lowest. If you experience these symptoms during the warmer seasons, your air conditioner may be the cause.

How to Identify if Your Air Conditioner is Causing Your Allergies

As with any allergic reaction, it can be difficult to identify the source of your symptoms. With that in mind, you might be experiencing allergy-like symptoms as a result of your AC if you have the following indications.

  • Dry itchy skin and/or nosebleeds along with sneezing, wheezing, or congestion.
  • A feeling of irritation and congestion while within your home that is alleviated within a few hours upon leaving.
  • The smell of mold or mildew throughout your home.
  • Visible dust or pollen drifting through the air with windows and doors closed.

If you experience allergy-like symptoms, dry skin, or frequent nosebleeds as a result of your air conditioner reducing the humidity levels of your home, you may want to consider a whole-house humidifier. As its name suggests, a whole-house humidifier serves to increase the humidity levels of an entire home. In addition, a whole-house humidifier typically includes a hygrometer which acts to control and maintain the humidity levels in your home within the optimal 25–40% range as recommended by the EPA.

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