An air purifier may be one of many tools to help your family survive allergy season, but are air purifiers really effective? It is not a panacea, according to pediatricians and immunologists.
Indeed, warmer temperatures bring out the finest in nature; everything is green, in flower, and vibrant. But, for children with seasonal allergies and their parents, spring may be a miserable time. Itchy eyes, sneezing, and coughing might diminish the enjoyment of outdoor activity.
“Pollens and mold can cause nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and itching in the spring,” explains Amiinah Kung, M.D., allergist and immunologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. According to Meng Chen, M.D., a Stanford Children’s Health doctor, tree and grass pollens are typically the most bothersome in the summer.
Seasonal allergies manifest when your child’s immune system perceives environmental triggers as harmful invaders, and they can manifest before your child enters preschool. Dr. Natasha Burgert, a board-certified pediatrician, explains, “Developing seasonal allergies needs numerous seasons of exposure, which is why infants are not prone to seasonal allergies but may develop symptoms as they age.” As early as age 2, a distinct pattern of seasonal symptoms can be observed.
Although there are numerous strategies to treat and prevent seasonal allergies in children of all ages, using an air purifier has been the subject of intense dispute. Before adding this pricy item to your shopping basket, read on for professional insight on the allergy-fighting efficacy of air purifiers.
How Does an Air Purifier Function?
The names of air purifiers are pretty literal. David Stukus, M.D., pediatric allergist and immunologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, explains, “Air purifiers employ fans or ions to attract microscopic particles in the air, which are subsequently captured on a filter and removed from circulation.”
According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the most efficient methods for enhancing indoor air quality are:
- Getting rid of sources (cleaning).
- Ventilation via window openings and furnace filter cleaning.
- Air hygiene (air purifiers with HEPA filters).
In other words, air purifiers are one of the numerous instruments for managing indoor air quality, but they are not a silver bullet capable of resolving air quality issues by themselves. In addition, it is essential to be aware of their limited ability to affect air circulation throughout the house. Outside of the immediate space or room in which they are positioned, they do not affect minuscule particles dispersed across multiple levels or rooms.
Seasonal Allergies: Do Air Purifiers Truly Help?
Divergent viewpoints exist regarding the effectiveness of air purifiers in preventing seasonal allergies.
On one side, air purifiers eliminate the allergens that are making your child miserable. Dr. Chen explains, “Allergens in your home’s air can trigger allergy symptoms, and air filtration can help reduce the number of airborne allergens, as well as reduce allergy and asthma symptoms.”
In a 2020 study, the effects of air purifiers on participants with allergic rhinitis will be studied (nasal allergies). Six weeks randomly assigned individuals to active or placebo air purification groups. In the active group, allergy medicine consumption decreased considerably.
Another 2018 study assessed the effectiveness of air purifiers in individuals with nasal allergies. After four months of use in their bedrooms, researchers discovered that HEPA air purifiers effectively reduced the concentration of particulate matter and dust mite allergens and relieved allergy symptoms.
Some research has also examined air purifiers and children especially. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Asthma indicated that after 12 weeks of using an air purifier vs. placebo, the air purifier group experienced considerably fewer nasal symptoms.
Nevertheless, air purifiers have limited capacities and are most effective in tiny rooms. They can also be costly and challenging to maintain.
Dr. Stukus states that air purifiers are not among the suggested home allergen avoidance methods. “They are ineffective against outdoor pollen allergens and have limited efficacy against indoor allergens, which tend to lodge on carpeting and furniture and are not airborne for long. Filter replacement requires frequent maintenance as well.”
The research on the subject is sparse and frequently based on tiny sample sizes. According to Dr. Burgert, there is insufficient data to recommend air purifiers for allergy control in children.
Choosing the Ideal Air Purifier
As part of your allergy treatment, if you’re considering using an air purifier, there are a few factors to keep in mind, including:
- Ensuring the presence of a HEPA filter.
- Selecting one that fits the dimensions of your room.
- Using and cleaning it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Dr. Meng suggests air purifiers with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. “Individual air purifiers are intended for a single room; therefore you should use it with the door closed and ensure that the air filter can accommodate the space’s dimensions. And while air purifiers can be costly, if you just have one, we recommend placing it in the bedroom, where you spend the most time due to your sleeping habits.”
In addition to portable air purifiers, there are methods for installing air purifiers into a home’s ventilation system. Dr. Meng explains, “If you have a central ventilation and/or heating/cooling system, you can also purchase an air filter for this system.” “Check the filter’s MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. The MERV rating should ideally be at least 11, and higher numbers are preferable. Also, ensure that you periodically clean or replace these filters.” Replace filters every three months.
Although air purifiers can help with seasonal allergies, they may not be the most effective solution. According to Dr. Stukus, air purifiers only filter the air in a fairly small zone within the home, which restricts their effectiveness. Outside of the immediate space or room in which they are positioned, they will have no effect on minuscule particles dispersed across adjacent levels or rooms.
Yet, some research indicates that air purifiers hold promise as part of a multilayered allergy and asthma mitigation strategy. If you wish to test one, make sure it will fit in the space you want by reading the product’s specifications thoroughly.