There are a few things worse than having congested sinuses, or what people commonly refer to as a stuffy nose. With the headache, runny mucus, and pain around your cheeks, eyes, and forehead that comes with it, a clogged nose is almost intolerable.
But what if you’re not out in the winter’s cold when your sinus suddenly feels inflamed? You are, in fact, in the comforts of your own home on a summer afternoon with the AC running. Can an air conditioner cause a stuffy nose?
Yes, air conditioning can cause a stuffy nose under certain circumstances or conditions within the HVAC equipment. But there are things you can do to reduce the chances of a stuffy nose. Read on for some causes and solutions to air conditioning-related nasal congestion.
3 Reasons Air Conditioning May Lead to a Stuffy Nose
The medical term for a stuffy nose is nasal congestion. Others referred to it using more specific terminologies such as sinus congestion.
The expression “stuffy nose” is appropriate to describe the feeling of a person suffering nasal congestion. The blood vessels and tissues on and around your nose contain so much fluid that gives that swollen or blocked feeling in your face, causing pain and discomfort.
Along with the feeling of a plugged nose are a heavy throbbing head and intense facial pain, while your sinuses feel like they are on fire. Most cases of a clogged sinus involve mucus discharge or “runny nose” as commonly referred to, but not all cases.
A 2021 survey reveals that 1 in 4 Americans suffer from nasal congestion every day. As common as this condition is in the US and all over the world, its ugly symptoms cannot be ignored.
A major percentage of the respondents of the said research, about 90%, report experiencing negative effects of a stuffy sinus in their day-to-day activities. Sixty percent (60%) disclose that the stuffy nose prevents them from having a good night’s sleep, 48% say that it robs them of their ability to enjoy a good meal because they cannot smell or taste the food, and another good deal of study participants, 33%, also share that a congested nose stops them for taking pleasure with outdoor activities.
Clearly, a blocked nasal cavity should be taken seriously and immediately. Besides taking over-the-counter medicine, specialists on the matter recommend determining the ultimate source of the stuffy nose and eliminating it from its roots.
The most common culprits inducing nasal blockages are infections like colds, flu or sinusitis, allergies, and nasal polyps, the non-cancerous lumps found deep in the nasal passages.
But medical sources are now pointing their finger at an unlikely source: Your air conditioning system could be causing your sinus problems and symptoms.
Before you go into a full-blown denial, let’s have a look-see at how your beloved AC can bring the cold and cozy in your home, but also the clogged nose triggers. There are also tips below on how to dodge these nasal problems potentially brought on by air conditioning.
Temperature Differences Trigger a Runny Nose
If you are coming from outside where the sun is blazing on a hot summer afternoon and you are walking to your home where the AC is blasting, your nose will definitely react acutely.
The huge temperature differences in the air between the outdoor and inside your home can set off sinus issues. The New York Times vouched for this information in their 2017 article featuring Dr. John Ohman saying, “The cold [produced by air conditioning] air seems to trigger nervous system reflexes in the nose that cause glands in the nasal membranes to produce mucus.”
“But, I can’t live without the AC in this scorching weather!” you inwardly complain.
While we don’t recommend turning your HVAC all the way off, you may consider bringing the indoor air temperature in your home closer to the outside air.
So if the outdoor temperature is at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, your body may not react so drastically if you set your air conditioning at around 76 to 78 degrees initially and gradually lower it as your body adapts to the indoor air temperature. You will be surprised at how efficiently your body can adapt to the environment’s temperature after settling down.
Use of Air Conditioners Dries the Air
A clogged nose can also be caused by very low humidity in your home. How is your AC related to this scenario?
As your air conditioner cools your home by removing the heat, it also eliminates the excess moisture from the air as a byproduct of its process. A lower indoor humidity, in turn, contributes to the overall comfort of an air-conditioned space.
A fair warning, though. If your air conditioner is set too low and has been left running for too long, it may sap out all the moisture from the air. When this happens, the lining of the nasal area gets irritated and swollen with mucus production. Et voila! Stuffy nose happens.
Other side effects of too much dry air is parched skin, eye irritation, and sore throats. Additionally, Inhaling dry air leads to nosebleeds and respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis.
To prevent this from happening, health experts suggest maintaining the humidity level within 30% to 50% range. You can do so by using a humidifier to supplement the lost moisture, irrigating your nose with neti pot, and of course, staying hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Allergens in the Air
Allergy is one of the top things that can cause congestion of sinuses.
When you get exposed to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mold, your body interprets it as an attack. So your immune system will immediately react by producing histamine and other chemicals to fight off the invader. This results in swelling of the nasal membranes and inflammation of the sinuses where the production of mucus accelerates.
Ironically, your AC filter should filtrate these usual air toxins and prevent them from recirculating in the indoor air. However, these filters could backfire if they are not properly cleaned or replaced.
The dirt and dust accumulated overtime can be blown back to your breathing space, exposing you again to the allergy-triggers.
The remedy for this allergy problem is quite simple. Regularly and properly maintain your air conditioner to rid it from these pollutants. Making sure that your HVAC system gets its well-deserved annual service and maintenance by a professional will also maintain your AC’s efficiency all year round.
How to Ease AC-Related Sinus Congestion
Understanding what scenarios with your air conditioner can lead to congestion is already a strong weapon against AC-related nasal problems.
More so if you prepare and take action to minimize significant temperature differences indoors, keep a healthy level of humidity in the air, and perform regular and adequate air conditioner service and maintenance will keep the stuffy nose at bay and away from you and your family.