Can Dirty Air Filters Cause Breathing Problems?

Microbial contaminants such as mold, bacteria, and dust mites that live in dirty air filters can cause allergies and asthma. Symptoms of these conditions can include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, congestion, and eye irritation. People with existing respiratory problems, such as asthma or allergies, may find that their symptoms worsen if they go too long without changing their air filters. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) has found that indoor air pollution caused by a dirty air filter can trigger allergic reactions and sinus congestion in those who are allergic to animals, pollen, and mold.

In extreme cases, this can lead to something called an “air conditioning lung” – a rare and serious immune reaction to small particles in the air. Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonologist at USC's Keck School of Medicine, has also noted that a dirty air conditioner can cause health problems such as itchy eyes, headaches, dizziness, congestion, and shortness of breath. Homeowners should take the responsibility of cleaning air filters seriously in order to protect the health of those living in the home.

If you commit to changing your air filters regularly, you may notice that your breathing problems improve due to the clean air you are breathing. During the hot summer months, pollutants such as pollen, dust, mold spores, and smog can easily enter the passenger compartment of a vehicle through air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems. This makes car air six times dirtier than outside air according to Car Care Advice. If no filter is present in an air conditioner for more than seven months, it is possible to get sick from this.

Replacing your system's air filter ensures that everyone in your home breathes the cleanest and healthiest air possible. When homeowners seek to improve air quality in the home by improving the air filters they use, it is best to consult a professional. Motorists can protect themselves and their passengers from these pollutants by replacing the vehicle's cabin air filter once a year or more often in areas with heavy pollutants or whenever heating or cooling efficiency is reduced. If dirty filters are left on for too long, dust particles may start coming out of the vents.

Not only does cleaning or replacing air filters save you money on repairs, it can also dramatically reduce your operating costs. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, small things like servicing the air conditioner and changing the HVAC air filter often slip through the cracks. When you leave air filters alone, dust, dirt, and debris build up over time which means that the air that flows through the ducts passes through them before entering your home and into your lungs. Many homeowners will try to clean their disposable air filters and reuse them to save money by not buying new filters. If you experience any reaction to the air conditioning or air quality in your home, see your primary care doctor for more information. For example, if you don't change your air filters regularly you may start having more sinus infections.