Can Air Purifiers Make You Sick? (Myths & Misconceptions)

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Air purifiers have exploded lately. Their popularity is quite obvious for some crystal clear reasons. Pollution around the world has never been higher – cities all over the world are covered in smog. Even if the smog is not that obvious, thousands of cars on the roads on a daily basis will inevitably bring in pollution to your household as well.

As if all these were not enough, people with various respiratory conditions are exposed to even more dangerous complications due to the pollution and the lack of clean air. However, while extremely popular, not everyone knows how they actually work or whether they come with any adverse reactions. Nothing is perfect out there, so it makes perfect sense to ask yourself – can air purifiers make you sick?

Air purifiers are often put in the same category with other similar appliances, especially air conditioning systems, which also clean the air. From this point of view, lots of people believe running an air purifier for too long can cause mild affections like sore throats, headaches or nosebleeds, among many others. Now, what should you know about these appliances and what kind of risks do they come with?

How different types of air purifiers work and affect you

Air Purifiers Helps Clean The Air

Before understanding the side effects of air purifiers, you have to become familiar with the three major types of appliances. Different technologies come with different operating principles. Some of them are safer, while others are more efficient. Keep in mind that modern models come with a plethora of fancy features, bells and whistles. But when it comes to their technologies, there are three types out there.

The electronic air purifier is quite common and basically sucks in air. The air is charged then, so all the particles (visible or not) will stick to filters. Once passed through this system, the air is then released back into the room. The operating principle is similar to static electricity. This type of purifier may come with other technologies that can include UV light, ionization and so on.

The ozone generator works on a completely different principle. Its name is self explanatory. It generates heavy amounts of ozone and pushes them around the room. Ozone is known as a solid purifier. Once around the room, it will purify the air by killing all living microorganisms. Bacteria, viruses, mold and mildew will be history in no time.

Finally, the mechanical filtration systems work like electronic air purifiers, only they do not use electricity in the same manner. The air is sucked in, while a few filters remove all the particles in it. The air is then released back into the room. These filters come in more varieties – some of them are ceiling mounted, while others feature HVAC filters.

Is ozone good for your health?

Now that you know how they work, you can easily determine which option is more harmful. Ozone generators might be efficient, but they can also affect you. Ozone is harmful to your health, as well as your pets. This is why such purifiers are actually banned in certain places.

Ozone in small quantities will not kill you, but heavy amounts of it will affect the lungs and olfactory cells, leading to other issues. Initially, symptoms are quite obvious. With time, they disappear, so most people are not aware of the risks associated with the exposure. Furthermore, it reacts with household cleaners like terpenes.

When mixed with terpenes (found in the common pine and citrus flavors), ozone will cause the formation of formaldehyde, one of the most popular carcinogen for people.

Are electronic air purifiers better?

The ozone generators can, but how about electronic purifiers? Are they any better? While many of them are rated to be ozone free, ozone is actually a byproduct of their running process. The truth is pretty much any purifier generates a bit of ozone. It is because of their working principles.

The air is statically charged, so molecules go through an electrical field. This is nothing but a spark. When you end up with an electrical short in your household, that unpleasant smell that you feel is actually ozone. That is the smell that tells you something is wrong.

Electrical air purifiers need this kind of process to run. While much safer than ozone generators, they still generate small quantities of it, which might be harmful in the long run.

How mechanical air purifiers work

The mechanical operation is the easiest to understand – no sophisticated processes, claims and studies. From this point of view, it is said to be the safest option on the market. However, for maximum efficiency, you need a superior airflow, so make sure you install this appliance in the right place. You also need a powerful motor and a decent CFM rating – the higher the CFM, the better.

Can air purifiers give you headaches?

Many ionic air purifiers emit ozone – not in heavy amounts, but still. Ozone is practically a byproduct associated with the purification procedure. The good news is that such quantities are not large enough to cause headaches – not to mention more severe options. Simply put, the concentration is not enough. It might be a problem if you run the purifier on a 24/7 basis and you spend most of your days in that room though.

On another note, an ionizer or a classic HEPA purifier is more likely to actually prevent and reduce headaches, as such appliances remove many common allergens. From pollen and pet dander to dust and mold, these issues will become history in no time. Other allergens that can be removed include musty odors and dust mites.

Can air purifiers cause cough?

You know it already – air purifiers will clean the air, so you are less likely to develop problems associated with clean air. But then, will air purifiers make you sick? Can they cause a cough? It is not unusual to start coughing as soon as you start using the purifier. This is one of the main reasons wherefore so many people associate purifiers with cough.

Some ionic purifiers can, indeed, cause mild irritations in your throat. However, they are less likely to cause cough. There are other elements inside your household that can cause such problems. It might be bacteria or dust, not to mention other allergens.

Air purifiers work in the other direction – they eliminate such problems, so they actually help you out.

Can air purifiers cause sore throats?

It depends. If you get yourself a quality HEPA air purifier, you should be alright. They remove bacteria, so they eliminate the causes of sore throats. Luckily, many appliances today come with HEPA filters, which are slowly becoming a standard.

There are, however, a few types of purifiers that can cause sore throats – nothing severe though. These air ionizers tend to cause sore throats in those who already suffer from respiratory conditions like asthma. This is because ionizers release charged particles to tackle allergens. Ozone is a byproduct, so it will also cause mild throat irritation.

Tips to prevent air purifiers from making you sick

A few tips and tricks can prevent potential issues associated with some air purifiers. Sometimes, it is also about you, rather than your appliance.

  • Air purifiers use must be done correctly. Run it continuously and start with a high setting, then lower its speed for maintenance only.
  • Avoid ozone. While it might be difficult at times, at least avoid ozone generators because they are dangerous for both you and your pets.
  • Change filters. Failing to perform regular maintenance will reduce the efficiency of your air purifier, so you might feel sick again soon.
  • Keep your household clean. Just because an air purifier cleans the air, it does not mean that you can overlook household hygiene.

Frequently asked questions

It is perfectly normal to ask yourself a series of questions while researching air purifiers. Are air purifiers worth the money? Do they actually work? Here are some of the most common questions out there.

Should you leave an air purifier on all the time?

If you can, yes. Run it a high power in the beginning for a complete cleaning cycle, then run it round the clock for air quality maintenance. If you stop it, air quality may degrade again.

Do air purifiers keep you from getting sick?

Air purifiers remove all kinds of pollutants and allergens from your air. Not only do they prevent allergies and other affections, but they can also help those with chronic illnesses like asthma. Some types of purifiers may have a few side effects, but choose the right type and you will be alright.

Are air purifiers good for you?

In a world where pollution standards go higher on a daily basis, yes, air purifiers are excellent for most people. Besides, those with certain affections will require purifier air at all times.


Final words

So, can air purifiers make you sick? Not really, especially if you do your research and choose the right model for your household. Air purifiers are meant to make your life easier and healthier. Simply avoid heavy ozone generators, keep on top of the cleaning procedures around your household and maintain the filters on a regular basis. Your air purifier will keep you healthy then.

Instead, you will gain a plethora of advantages. You can avoid allergies and even treat them, improve your overall health being and make your place a more pleasant environment for your family and pets.

Hi, my name is Alex Sayad and I’d like to welcome you to DD Counter Measures! Ever since I started my family, I’ve spent countless sleepless nights worrying about how to keep them safe. So, during those nights, I went online and read about home improvement guides and security systems. After a while, all my friends started coming to me for advice and tips on how to protect their homes. Seeing how much I loved talking about it and sharing my knowledge, my wife suggested that I create a website. That’s how the idea of DD Counter Measures was born. Now, after a few years of hard work, I’m happy to say that this website has grown into something I never imagined possible. We have built a community of writers and readers who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge on home security, improvements, tools, and much more. I hope you fall in love with this website while reading it as I do every day while writing for it. Enjoy!