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Am I Allergic to Air Conditioning?

In the sweltering heat of summer, there is no better friend and companion than your air conditioning unit. Whether you’re curled up next to a window unit or basking beneath a central air vent, AC is your ticket to comfort and wellness when the summer temps skyrocket. The only trouble is, that you start sneezing every time the cold air starts blowing. So… could you be allergic to your air conditioning?

The answer is mostly no… with a little bit of yes.


Can You Be Allergic to Air Conditioning?

You may start sneezing or your eyes may start to itch when you boot up your AC for the first time every year. But this doesn’t mean you’re allergic to your air conditioning unit. Instead, it means you’re likely experiencing allergies to something already within the air of your home—and your AC is pushing those allergens around the house. 

This is especially true if you’re relying on central air (sometimes called forced air). That’s because this system can very easily push allergens into every room in your home. This can include the following indoor allergens:

  • Pet dander: Even if your kitten is restrained to one room in your house–the AC could push that dander just about everywhere. Before you know it, you’ve got dog or cat dander coming out of every vent.

  • Dust mites: These tiny, nearly invisible critters munch on dust, so they’re mostly harmless. But they can cause allergies. Your AC can blow dust all across your home, providing ample food for mites—which then cause your allergies. 

  • Indoor molds: Molds will typically grow where there’s plenty of moisture (for example, in the bathroom). However, your air conditioning could easily spread mold particles throughout your house–which means you may start sneezing in every room.

This may be why you start sneezing or experiencing asthma symptoms every time you turn on your air conditioning. Air conditioning can/does set off many of the non-allergic rhinitis (aka vasomotor rhinitis) patients’ nasal symptoms. The cold, dry air is an irritant. This at times non-specifically bothers asthmatics for the same reason—mainly when the air is blowing on the patient. 

So, it’s not the machine itself–it’s the air those big fans push around. And that’s a good thing because it means that there are solutions that may help you keep cool–and stop sneezing.

How to Manage Your Allergy Symptoms While Using Your AC

There are several ways that you can help manage your allergy symptoms even when your AC is running through the warm South Dakota summer. Here are just a few:

  • Use other air cleaning devices: If you find that certain parts of your home are quite humid, even with your AC running, try running a dehumidifier to help eliminate mold spores. Likewise, standing air filtration devices have been shown to have some positive impacts as well.

  • Vacuum at least once a week: This will help make sure dust and other allergens that are on your carpet don’t start circulating around your house. Depending on your space and how often dust develops, you may even have to vacuum twice a week to help manage your allergy symptoms.

  • Keep your doors and windows closed: This will help prevent pollen and other outdoor allergens from getting in and hitching a ride on your HVAC system. Avoid opening your windows in the morning and running your AC in the afternoon. (This also helps your AC run more efficiently—meaning lower energy bills!)

  • Talk to an allergist: Are you allergic to your dog? Or to the pollen that hitched a ride on your dog’s long fur? An allergist will be able to find out for you. Your allergist will also work with you to develop strategies and treatments to help you manage your allergies and asthma. 

The summer heat can be pretty brutal in South Dakota. So if you’re having trouble coping with the heat and managing your asthma symptoms, talk to Dr. Bubak today. As one of only five board-certified allergists in South Dakota, he can help you understand your allergies–and find new ways to cope with them. Talk to Dr. Bubak today!

Topics: Allergy Myths

Mark Bubak, M.D.

About the Author: Mark Bubak, M.D.

Dr. Bubak is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology to care for adults and children with asthma and allergies. He has been active in allergy research and education with special emphasis on new allergy testing and treatment methods. A South Dakota native, his medical degree is from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine, with Allergy and Internal Medicine fellowships at the Mayo Clinic.


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