Do Air Conditioners Improve Asthma Control?
Air conditioners are great for those hot summer days. They keep the air cool, refreshing, and comfortable. There’s also evidence they may help improve asthma control. With that in mind, here’s all you need to know about asthma and air conditioners (A/C).
Do air conditioners reduce airborne asthma triggers?
According to many studies, the answer is yes. However, they only benefit asthmatics if their filters are properly maintained. A 2011 study showed air conditioning reduces the impact of traffic pollution on children with asthma.1
Another 2011 study showed the benefits of central air conditioning on asthma. The article noted that 75% of U.S. households had “ducted forced air heat.” And 63% had “ducted central air conditioning." The study showed that both of these heating and cooling systems are great for filtering out airborne allergens. Examples include dust mites, animal dander, pollen, and mold spores. They also work great for filtering non-allergic asthma triggers, such as smoke from wood fires, smoke from cigarettes, and various forms of air pollutants.2
Maintaining an A/C unit
Air conditioners are not effective if the filter is not replaced or maintained as recommended by the manufacturer. Heating and cooling specialists say they often find that filters are filthy. When this happens, they can become breeding grounds for air contaminants, such as mold spores. When this happens they can actually increase airborne contaminants. So, it’s essential that asthmatics properly maintain filters.2
The authors highly recommend whole house filtration systems. This is best accomplished with central heating and cooling systems as opposed to the kind you put in windows.2
When the filter is properly maintained or replaced, these units are very effective at minimizing airborne asthma triggers. So, they are effective at minimizing the risk for asthma symptoms. A/C also makes it so you can keep doors and windows shut. This can also help to keep outdoor air pollutants (like pollen) outside.2,3
Do they create a better breathing environment?
The general consensus of experts is probably “Yes they do!” As noted above, they work great for filtering airborne asthma triggers. They are also great at reducing humidity. The hotter the air the more water it holds. So, during the dog days of summer, the heat and humidity can trigger asthma symptoms. There are a variety of reasons for this.
Hot, sticky, air can feel thick and hard to inhale. This alone may trigger asthma in some. Another reason is that hot and humid air creates a breeding ground for some asthma triggers. Both mold spores and dust mites love this environment.
Mold can grow in this environment without you even being aware of it. And it releases mold spores into the air. They can trigger asthma. Dust mites can also rapidly multiply in this environment. Dust mites and their feces are easily aerosolized and inhaled. They may trigger asthma.
A/C’s work great for both cooling air and at the same time reducing indoor humidity. Most experts recommend that indoor humidity be kept between 30% and 50%. This is ideal for anyone living with chronic lung disease.4
Are air conditioners good for asthma?
Air conditioners are nice. They keep the air cool and refreshing. They can reduce humidity and airborne triggers. The combination of these effects can improve asthma control. They can make breathing easier. But, they may also trigger asthma if not properly maintained.
So, the best A/C units will have "CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® filters." These are capable of filtering 98% of airborne allergens. Turn it on. Use the recirculate setting. You'll feel more comfortable. Your lungs will be happier.
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