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Is your air filter making you sick?

Have you been experiencing repeated bouts of allergic symptoms but cannot figure out a cause? There’s a good chance your air filter is the culprit.

A home air filter installed in AC systems and furnaces traps dust particles and other contaminants from the surrounding air and vents. However, a dirty or clogged filter can cause you to get sick as it cannot function effectively.

This article discusses how an air filter can adversely affect your health and what you can do to prevent it.

Adverse Symptoms Caused By Contaminated Air Filters

An air filter that has been clogged and contaminated for a long time can significantly affect your respiratory system.

Some of the symptoms you might experience due to a poorly maintained filter are:

  • Worsening of allergies
  • Frequent asthma attacks
  • Respiratory and sinus infections
  • Recurrent colds
  • Watery eyes
  • Repeated coughs and sneezing
  • Dizziness and headaches

How Does a Dirty Air Filter Make You Sick?

A dirty filter means reduced effectiveness in keeping the air clean in your home.

This can negatively affect your health through:

Promoting the Growth of Microbes

If an air cleaner is clogged, it hampers the airflow from reaching the evaporator coils. A lack of proper airflow results in the freezing of normal condensation.

The excess moisture and trapped dust particles promote the growth of microbes such as bacteria, mold, mildew, and other fungi.

An unclean and clogged filter also cannot effectively remove humidity. It serves as the perfect environment for microbes to grow and multiply.

These microorganisms can invade the respiratory system when inhaled, leading to adverse symptoms, infections, and diseases.

Lowering the Overall Air Quality

The clogging of an air cleaner with different trapped contaminants and allergens such as dust, pet dander, bacteria, pollen, and smoke causes it to function inadequately.

This malfunctioning results in the circulating air in the surroundings not being correctly filtered. A dirty and clogged filter recirculates the contaminated air around the house, which lowers the overall air quality.

Breathing in this poor quality and polluted air constantly leads to developing adverse symptoms and poor respiratory health.

How to Prevent Getting Sick Due to Air Filters

Luckily the diseases and symptoms caused by dirty air filters are reversible if regular maintenance is ensured.

There are two types of filters: disposable and reusable air filters. Both of them require regular maintenance in different ways.

A disposable filter requires replacement every one to three months. On the other hand, reusable filters should be regularly cleaned and washed at the same interval depending on the build-up.

If you live in a smaller home, your air cleaner can last much longer without frequent replacement as less air needs to be filtered.

However, the installed filters would require frequent replacement and cleaning if you live in a larger home or within the city.

If you have pets in your house, repeated filter cleaning should be performed to prevent the accumulation of pet fur that causes respiratory problems.

If you are unsure what a dirty air filter looks like, inspect its color to see if it has turned dark or gray. It should also contain dust particles and other contaminants.

You can opt for installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing (HEPA) filter if you suffer from asthma or allergies. This filter is highly effective in trapping health-triggering contaminants and adequately filters the circulating air.


Heavily contaminated air filters are a significant cause of recurrent sickness. The ineffective filtering function resulting from clogging deteriorates the air quality, which in turn leads to the occurrence of various respiratory health problems.

It is necessary to check the condition of your installed air filters and get them replaced or cleaned on time.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio at Pexels

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