Are air purifiers good for sinus problems?

This article discusses the effectiveness of air purifiers against the causative agents of sinusitis. Furthermore, we also discuss the sources of these agents, and how one can mitigate and prevent these from happening.

Are air purifiers good for sinus problems?

Yes,air purifiers are effective when it comes to prevention of sinus problems. Sinus problems originate when the sinuses, which refer to chambers present in the forehead, the frontal, and the nasal region are irritated.

What causes sinus issues

These can happen due to many reasons. Some of those are:

  • Particulate matter
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Gases and odors
  • Mold and pollen
  • Weather conditions

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Particulate matter (PM)

Air purifiers are mainly designed to remove particulate matter, or simply PM, from the indoor air. 

PM refers to particles, either solid or liquid, that are mixed and suspended in the air. They are a major part of air pollutants, and have a variety of natural and anthropogenic sources. They usually range between 2.5 to 10 microns (PM10 and PM2.5).

Particulate matter is a major contributor to both long term and short term illnesses. There are many well-documented studies that have shown progression of illnesses with an increase in the concentration of PM. 

PM2.5 is of a major concern, as it can easily enter the lower respiratory tract, therefore causing more serious cardiac and respiratory issues.

These particles can easily find their way into the sinus cavities, where they cause an inflammation of the sinonasal inflammatory cell accumulation in the nasal airway lavage fluid.

Moreover, PM is also linked to premature deaths of people who had pre-existing health issues such as people with cardiac or respiratory issues, obesity, asthma, and so on.

They can also act as adsorbents, allowing various elements to be stuck to their surface, which in turn can prove more harmful when inhaled.

Bacteria and viruses

Certain bacteria and viruses, such as the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, are also known to cause sinus problems on exposure.

These microorganisms require a medium for transport, since they cannot transmit on their own. This is achieved by sticking with mucus droplets, pollutant particles, and so on.

Therefore, the higher the concentration of pollutants in your indoor environment, such as PM, the chances of one being susceptible to sinus problems increase as well.

Gases and odors

Certain gases and odors are known to cause irritation in the inner linings of the sinus cavities, especially in people who are prone to developing sinus infections, or are recovering from one.

These gases include cigarette smoke, perfumes, paint fumes, exhaust gases from vehicles, and so on. Therefore, a person is as prone to experiencing sinus problems in an indoor environment as they would be in an outdoor environment.

Mold and pollen


Both are an example under particulate matter, but given their significance and scale of impact on human health, it is important to discuss them in more detail.

Mold is defined as fungal colonies that grow in the form of multicellular filaments.

Most of them are harmless in nature and cause minor allergic reactions other than the odor, but some can have serious implications on health if inhaled.

Some of the most common species of mold in a typical household environment include Alternaria, Aspergillus Chaetomium, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium and Stachybotrys

Mold growth usually occurs in a dark, humid, and cool temperature condition. Under such conditions, the growth of mold and bacterial microorganisms is favoured.

Certain areas in the house, such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and so on, harbor such conditions, thereby being an ideal spot for mold growth to take place.

Additionally, mold growth can also happen in other parts of the house during seasons in which the relative humidity levels are generally high, such as in summer and spring seasons.

Mold itself does not cause any apparent harm to human health. However, the spores that emerge from mold, which are basically the seed, are the ones that can be harmful to health.

Mold spores typically have an aerodynamic diameter in the size range of one to forty microns. Most of these can get filtered out by the barriers in the respiratory tract.

However, the smaller mold spores can evade the protective mechanisms of your respiratory system, and can reach the sinus chambers, where they cause irritation and swelling of the inner sinus linings.

Pollen on the other hand are the spores generated by the anther, which are the male reproductive parts of a flower. These spores are responsible for forming the seed in a plant, when they combine with the ovary, the female part of a flowering plant.

Pollen, however, is small and microscopic in size. Given their  size, they too can enter the respiratory tract through the nose, and can end up reaching the sinuses, where they can cause issues such as sinus infections, sinusitis, and so on.

It is particularly seen in seasons such as spring and summer, when the flowering plants are at their peak maturity. In the same time, the reported cases of hay fever also rise.

Weather conditions

Certain weather conditions can also cause aggravation of the sinuses. This is usually seen in the winter seasons, when the air is too dry.

The dry air causes irritation in the inner sinus linings, which causes the mucus to get thicker. This in turn causes the mucus to clog up in the sinus cavities, which causes sinus headaches, and can also cause sinus infections.

How air purifiers help

Over the previous decades, the rise in air pollution has been prevalent, especially in urban areas. Air pollution is caused by both natural processes as well as anthropogenic (i.e., human-based) activities, however, the latter is the main culprit.

Activities related to rapid urbanisation, such as traffic related air pollution, emissions from industries such as thermal power plants, brick kilns, factories, etc., and other such processes have significantly contributed towards the steady degradation of air quality.

An average individual spends more than 90% of their time within an enclosement, with more than 80% of this time in an indoor setting such as offices, residents, and so on.

There have been studies that have shown that in large cities, indoor air pollution poses a higher risk on human health than outdoor air pollution.

Indoor air pollution can originate from indoor sources, such as household items, furniture, combustion of fuels, smoking, and so on.

Indoor air can also get polluted when pollution from outdoors infiltrates through openings such as doors, windows, gaps, cracks, seeps, and so on.

Most of these pollutants are composed of PM of various sizes, or are odors. These pollutants and odors can affect the inner linings of the sinus which can in turn lead to the development of sinus problems.

This is where air purifiers come in the picture. Air purifiers mainly work on particulate matter, and rid the indoor ambient air of the PM pollution in the room, thereby cleaning the indoor air and making it safe for breathing.

They filter out particulate matter less than 0.3 microns, and the HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters typically have an efficiency of more than 99%.

Furthermore, certain air purifiers also have additional components, such as a germicidal UV light, an activated carbon filter, or an air ioniser.

These components further improve the efficacy of air purifiers against the pollutant species, and can also neutralise the microorganism species that get trapped in the filters.

Other methods to prevent sinus problems

Apart from an air purifier, there are additional methods to prevent any flare-up of sinus problems. These are:

  • Improve ventilation
  • Clean your house regularly 
  • Use an air humidifier

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Improve ventilation

Opening your doors and windows for some time during the day helps to increase the air exchange rate with the outdoor air. Doing so helps to remove the indoor pollutants as well as the odor, while introducing fresh air.

However, it is important to check the outdoor pollen and mold count, since on days of high concentration levels, which can further exacerbate sinus problems.

For places which do not have proper sources of natural ventilation, such as basements, HVAC systems are especially helpful. 

However, one should also ensure that the HVAC systems are being maintained on a regular basis, since faulty systems as well as older units may sometimes contribute adversely to the air quality.

Regularly cleaning your house

It is important to keep your house clean, especially surfaces such as beddings, carpets, or places where people usually are present.

Studies have shown that nearly 60% of total dust accumulated in the indoor air originates from outdoors. Within these dust particles, mold spores and other substances can be present, which cause indoor stale odor.

By regularly dusting surfaces and cleaning the house, there are lesser chances of accumulation of substances that give rise to stale air smell.

Invest in an air humidifier

Humidifiers are devices that increase the humidity of the indoor environment. These are generally used in dry seasons such as winter, when RH levels dip below the optimal range.

For people that live in cold places, or places at a high altitude, the ambient humidity levels are typically low. Hence, one should invest in an air humidifier in order to counter dry air conditions.

Humidifiers keep the air moist, which in turn keeps the sinus cavities moist. However, one must also ensure that the device is being maintained regularly, in order to prevent any side effects which can also lead to sinus problems.

Other FAQs about Air Purifiers and Filters that you may be interested in.

Are air purifiers good for COVID-19?

Can you run an air purifier and humidifier at the same time?

Can air purifiers help with mold?

Conclusion

Air purifiers help to get rid of pollutants and odors from the indoor air which can otherwise cause sinus problems. Most of these pollutants exist as particles suspended in the air.

Other than an air purifier, one can also prevent the flare-up of sinus issues by improving ventilation, cleaning the house regularly, and by using an air humidifier in dry seasons.

Air purifiers to consider

FAQs

How long does it take for an air purifier to clean a room?

This depends mainly on the coverage area of the air purifier, as well as the size of the room. For small rooms, a typical air purifier will clean the air in about 30 minutes.

However, for larger rooms, it can take upto 2 to 3 hours to completely clean the indoor air. But, air purifiers also have an option to vary their flow rates, which could help in getting the job done even faster.

Can air purifiers also cause sinus problems?

Yes, air purifiers which have dirty air filters can also contribute to the exacerbation of sinus problems. This is because overloaded filters cannot get rid of the pollutants present in the indoor air.

Furthermore, if you use your air purifier in high humidity conditions, there is a chance that there is mold colonies present in the filters, which in turn can generate spores, thereby further degrading the air quality.

References

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