What air purifier should I use for seasonal allergies?
Employing air purifiers for the relief of allergies is just one aspect of getting ready for a new season. The coming of spring is often a mixed blessing to the vast numbers of Americans who suffer from allergies. We're glad that the hard, cold days of winter are over, but have little enthusiasm for the coming months of sneezing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
Most people procrastinate about preparing for the season so that it hits them with a vengeance and only then do they remember. If you had allergies last year, there's a pretty good chance you will this year as well. Using air purifiers alone will help but a more holistic approach will help even more with your allergies. While air purifiers can help while you are in your home you must be prepared to face the pollen and pollution outside.
Measures You Can Take In Advance
The following are tips on preparing your life, your home, and your work environment for allergy season. It is especially important not to procrastinate if you have children with allergies. Children have a tough time as it is concentrating in school when the weather gets nice outside. When you add the difficulties from allergy symptoms, and the medications that may need to be taken, it can be especially hard for them to do good work in school.
Get started right away, even if there is snow on the ground. Make an appointment with your doctor or allergist. Evaluate the efficacy of the medicines you took last allergy season and with your doctor, plan a strategy for this season. Get your written Allergy Plan together. Many insurance companies (such as Anthem) provide calendars with month to month tips on addressing these problems. Get your insurance provider and your doctor to send you everything they have. A phone call is easy to make. It's especially important that you understand your doctor's strategy for long term control and for quick relief. They may be different medications. Review the filter life of your air purifiers and if need be change them.
Plan Ahead for the Summer
If you are planning spring or summer vacations, get on the internet and check out the weather and pollen conditions for the places you are intending to visit at Weather.com. Integrate these into your Action Plan. Don't let an attack ruin your vacation, simply because you forgot to plan for it and to take the appropriate medications with you.
Be ready by the first day of spring. Get into gear and get your home into shape as an oasis for breathing. There was a good reason people did major spring cleaning in the olden days. During the closed-up winter days, the home becomes heavy laden with dust and dirt, dust mites in all those warm, wooly clothes and bedding, pet danders and allergens, smoke, soot, and ash from fireplaces and woodstoves, mold from closed up spaces, chemicals from all the grooming and cleaning products used, and viruses and germs to boot. Get your home, furnishings, bedding, carpets, upholstery, and clothes cleaned up. Do the same with your office if at all possible.
Smoking Makes Everything Worse
Most importantly, if you smoke, STOP! If you work around smokers, throw a fit and make them stop doing it around you. Second hand smoke is poison to allergy sufferers, and horrible for babies and children.
Once you've cleaned up your act, keep it clean with room air purifiers in key areas of your house. The bedroom is undoubtedly a key area. Many allergy sufferers experience attacks in the middle of the night, because the human respiratory system relaxes during sleep. Things you can handle during the day, will be more traumatic at night. You'll want to keep a good room air purifier running in your bedroom 24 hours a day with the door closed if at all possible. You want to sleep in the cleanest room possible. It will help you survive the daytime.
Get An Air Purifier for the Bedroom
Decide where else in the house you or your family spends a majority of time, and select a room air purifier large enough to adequately cover that space. If you do lots of cooking or grilling on an indoor grill, you may want an air purifier for your kitchen that can absorb chemicals.
With the plethora of allergy air purifiers on the market, which one do you choose? It helps to know specifically what you're allergic to. However, if you're not sure, but just know that you can't breathe easily during certain parts of the year, the vast majority of allergy doctors recommend HEPA allergy air purifiers. HEPA filters were developed by NASA years ago for use in the space shuttle. HEPA means High Energy Particulate Arresting. That means it sucks up the pollens and stuff flying around in the air. Many companies sell HEPA air purifiers, some much better in quality than others. The best have 5-10 year warranties on the machines themselves. HEPA filters have to be changed. When you throw one out you'll be amazed at how despicable they are and you'll be very glad you didn't breathe all that stuff.
Avoid Certain Types of 'Air Purifiers'
Other types of allergy air purifiers use ionization or electro-static technology to absorb the particulate. These can be very helpful, but HEPA is still the best way to go to get the vast majority of pollutants and toxins out of your air. Stay away from air purifiers based on ozone generation technology. Consumer Reports says "ozone generators should not be where people are." Grammatically incorrect, but still a good warning. It means they are fine for industry, but not for people.
It is also enormously helpful if air purifiers you choose have enough activated carbon or other media to absorb gases and odors. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), paint fumes, formaldehyde outgassing, ozone, and other such unpleasantries can be absorbed in addition to the particulates such as pollen.
Purchase enough good quality air purifiers to clean your home and mark your calendar so that you change the filters when they need to be changed. Some air purifiers indicate when a filter needs to be changed and some don't. It really doesn't matter. You can easily mark your calendar with the manufacturer's recommendations, and simply change the filters when it's time.
It's also helpful to get the filters in your air conditioning system changed before allergy season starts. If you don't know where to get the filters, simply get the manufacturer's name off of the system and call them up. They'll either carry the filters themselves or let you know where to purchase them. Many systems have electrostatic filters which can help keep the dust down. However, they don't absorb all the pollens and other pollutants so you still need room air purifiers in key areas of your house.
Just because you have allergies, don't banish yourself from the beautiful outdoors entirely. However, remaining indoors between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. are a good idea, because that's when pollen is usually emitted. Stay inside on very windy days too. Wash your hair and clothing when you've spent a lot of time outdoors, and wear a mask to mow the lawn. Or better yet, pay some teenager who is desperate for spending money to do it.
In summary, if you start today and don't procrastinate you can face allergy season without cowering, pick solid allergy air purifiers, be careful as we suggested above and you will minimize your symptoms.
Ted Zajac, Jr.
MSE Johns Hopkins University