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Room air cleaners: Your ally against allergens

The spring and summer weather is always a welcome change. The allergies that come with the warmer temperatures, not so much. Depending on where you live, you might be dealing with any of a number of types of pollen, road dust or other allergies. The coughing and sniffles will put the brakes on even the most intense case of spring fever.

You might not be able to get rid of allergies completely, but a room air cleaner can help reduce certain allergens from the air in your home. Room air cleaners certified through AHAM’s certification program will display a label listing the room air cleaner’s efficiency in reducing three common household particulates from the air: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. The numbers displayed on the label are known as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). The higher the CADR rate for each of the three particulates, the faster the air cleaner filters the air.

How it works: AHAM certified room air cleaners are tested in independent labs and exposed to specific quantities of smoke (the smallest particulate), Arizona road dust (which has fine particles that will eventually settle) and paper mulberry pollen (chosen for its similarity in size to common allergy-triggering pollens).  Before the air cleaner is activated, the amount of contaminants in the room is measured.   The air cleaners are then run for a specific period, and the amount of particles that have been removed from the air are measured. Testers take into account the amount that is likely to have settled on the floor of the walls of the room (known as the “natural rate of decay”).

Based on the results, testers are able to determine how effective the room air cleaner will be in cleaning a room of a certain size.

What it means for you: Before you shop, know the size of the room or rooms where the room air cleaner will primarily be used. Shop carefully for one that’s appropriate for that room size.  We recommend following the “two-thirds” rule when it comes to the first rating: Choose a unit with a tobacco smoke CADR at least 2/3 your room’s area.”

Like some vacuums, many air cleaners use HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air. It’s important to change the air cleaner’s filter regularly. The air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often the filter needs to be changed, but it also may depend on the air quality where you live. A dusty environment may require you to change the filter more frequently. However, the filter may last longer if the room air cleaner is being operated in an area relatively free of smoke and other pollutants.

The room air cleaner isn’t the only appliance that can help you kick allergies this spring. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers and washing machines can be valuable allies as well.

Looking for fall allergy relief? Your humidifier or dehumidifier could help!

Late October usually brings beautiful autumn colors and more comfortable autumn temperatures. Unfortunately, sniffles, sneezes and colds are often close behind.

“It’s a trifecta this time of year,” said David Stukus, M.D., a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State

University College of Medicine. “The most common cause is circulating viral infections as kids go back to school,” Stukus says. “The other would be changes in the weather pattern, which can cause worsening symptoms that are often preexisting. We have ragweed and mold spores, especially on rainy days and when the leaves collect in the fall.”

Things might not be much better indoors for those with dust mite or other environmental allergies. As temperatures drop and the windows are closed, those allergy symptoms can get worse.

Depending on the symptoms and cause, the course of treatment might include use of a humidifier or dehumidifier. Here’s how each could help:

Humidifier: “For people with chronic nasal congestion or postnasal drip, we’ll often recommend running a humidifier in the bedroom at night,” Stukus says. Only use water in the dehumidifier, he says. “We never recommend putting any kind of medicine, herbal treatment or essential oils inside a humidifier,” Stukus says. “Diffusing medicine through these products can cause irritation of the skin, nose and lungs.” The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends only using distilled or demineralized water in humidifiers, as the minerals in tap water can increase bacteria growth and produce a dust that makes symptoms worse. Use the humidifier in the room in which you spend the most time. Typically, that means the bedroom. Clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold and mildew development, which can make symptoms worse.

Dehumidifier: Those who have allergies to dust mites will want to aim for a less humidity, as the microscopic mites tend to thrive in a humid environment. A dehumidifier can help. “If they have high humidity levels in their home or obvious mold growth, that would be a good indication to get a dehumidifier,” Stukus says. AAAAI suggests keeping the humidity level in your home between 30 and 45 percent.

There’s no single course of treatment for allergies, so it’s essential to see a physician who can conduct the proper examination and testing to find out what’s causing the symptoms. Don’t try to self-diagnose. “[Diagnosis is] complicated and highly individualized,” Stukus says. “You really need to know what’s going on with that person to provide the best course of treatment.”

Looking for a way to remove some of the pollen and allergens from the indoor air? Room air cleaners certified through AHAM’s certification program have been certified and verified by an independent laboratory, assuring consumers that the product will perform according to the manufacturer’s product claims for suggested room size and the reduction of three common household particulates: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen, commonly referred to as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).