Do room air conditioners cause sinus problems?

senseless

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 23, 2008
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Pennsylvania, USA
I seem to get a stuffy nose when the room air conditioner is on. I'm often awakened in the middle of the night from this. Has anyone else noticed this problem and is there a solution? Is central air better?
 

CrickettGrrrl

macrumors 6502a
Feb 10, 2012
984
274
B'more or Less
I seem to get a stuffy nose when the room air conditioner is on. I'm often awakened in the middle of the night from this. Has anyone else noticed this problem and is there a solution? Is central air better?
You can have the same problems from central AC as well. Make sure your window AC unit is cleaned throughly. My brother in Florida told us to take the casing off & use oven cleaner on the metal fins, then rinse & dry.

The best thing you can do though is use something like a Ayr Nasal Saline Rinse kit frequently. You'll have less colds in the winter too.
(I wish I had known about it --and used it--long before I had my sinuses reamed out surgically. No fun. Huge cavern now, and still get the occasional sinus infection when I slack off on the Ayr saline rinse. Can't be helped when you live in a blighted torpid area with lousy air quality & way high humidity.)
 

senseless

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 23, 2008
1,805
211
Pennsylvania, USA
You can have the same problems from central AC as well. Make sure your window AC unit is cleaned throughly. My brother in Florida told us to take the casing off & use oven cleaner on the metal fins, then rinse & dry.

The best thing you can do though is use something like a Ayr Nasal Saline Rinse kit frequently. You'll have less colds in the winter too.
(I wish I had known about it --and used it--long before I had my sinuses reamed out surgically. No fun. Huge cavern now, and still get the occasional sinus infection when I slack off on the Ayr saline rinse. Can't be helped when you live in a blighted torpid area with lousy air quality & way high humidity.)
I will try cleaning the air conditioner itself. I can blow it out with compressed air and give it a bath. The filter is new (3m Filtrete)
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
50,809
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The Far Horizon
Also make sure that you yourself are properly hydrated, and that means drinking a lot of water; for myself, I have found that being dehydrated makes my sinus problems a lot worse.
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
66,390
33,009
Boston
I've not had any issues with air conditioners and sinus problems, though at the moment I've not put in the air conditioners yet. Summer here has not really been all that hot yet.

Its important to clean out the filters, I wash them regularly.
 

Kaylor

macrumors regular
Oct 18, 2011
206
115
Long Island, NY/Houston, TX
Also make sure that you yourself are properly hydrated, and that means drinking a lot of water; for myself, I have found that being dehydrated makes my sinus problems a lot worse.
This. You may also need to use a humidifier. My sinuses get irritated and inflamed when too much dry air is being blown around. Staying hydrated definitely helps (I drink about a gallon of water a day because for most of the year I live in a very hot environment and go running/to the gym quite a bit), but some days that's just not enough so I turn on my humidifier for a while which helps alleviate the problem.
 

SMDBill

macrumors 6502
Apr 12, 2013
255
1
If you're able to measure humidity in the room or area, try to make sure it stays above 40% and below 50%. Even when rooms approach 40 (in the 40-45% range), my sinuses begin to dry out even when hydrated because AC units pull humidity from the air.

A trick an Army doc taught me to keep sinuses moist in really dry areas or rooms was to take a Q-tip and get the cotton area of it covered lightly in vaseline. Rub that around the interior of each nostril. The added moisture is wonderful if you've got dry sinuses and can get things moving again to reduce any felt sinus pressure.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
1,532
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Shady Dale, Georgia
I have allergy problems when my air conditioner is NOT on. Opening the windows in the spring or fall is a bad news for me. So, I have to keep my air conditioner on. I do use HEPA filters although I'm not sure if they help or just cost more.
 

arjo

macrumors member
Jul 17, 2011
31
0
Philadelphia
If you haven't already, I suggest getting a cut-to-fit filter that you can place in your unit's mesh screen. I currently use these in my two A/C units and it seems to help my sinuses. For some reason the one in my bedroom gets dirtier a lot quicker than the one in the main area...
 

CrickettGrrrl

macrumors 6502a
Feb 10, 2012
984
274
B'more or Less
I will try cleaning the air conditioner itself. I can blow it out with compressed air and give it a bath. The filter is new (3m Filtrete)
It's amazing how moldy the insides of window AC units can get in a hot, steamy environment even if one regularly cleans the filters. Especially if they are a few years old.
 

senseless

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 23, 2008
1,805
211
Pennsylvania, USA
If you're able to measure humidity in the room or area, try to make sure it stays above 40% and below 50%. Even when rooms approach 40 (in the 40-45% range), my sinuses begin to dry out even when hydrated because AC units pull humidity from the air.

A trick an Army doc taught me to keep sinuses moist in really dry areas or rooms was to take a Q-tip and get the cotton area of it covered lightly in vaseline. Rub that around the interior of each nostril. The added moisture is wonderful if you've got dry sinuses and can get things moving again to reduce any felt sinus pressure.
That's interesting because the humidity drops to 43% when the air is running. Now I'm thinking the unit may be undersized, causing it to run all the time and pulling too much humidity out of the room. It is a dry irritation I'm feeling.
 

prostuff1

macrumors 65816
Jul 29, 2005
1,484
18
Don't step into the kawoosh...
It's amazing how moldy the insides of window AC units can get in a hot, steamy environment even if one regularly cleans the filters. Especially if they are a few years old.
You should be replacing the filter at least once a year. I replace the filter in my central AC/Heating unit every season. I put a washable filter in the AC in the spring and switch it out for a paper type filter in the fall.

If you run your AC a lot then switching the filter out every 3 months would not be a bad idea either. I don't run my heating in the winter all that much since I heat with a wood stove. I use the paper filter for 2 seasons before replacing it. The one I put in for summer use gets washed out every 3 months or so just to make sure it is nice and clean.
 

SMDBill

macrumors 6502
Apr 12, 2013
255
1
That's interesting because the humidity drops to 43% when the air is running. Now I'm thinking the unit may be undersized, causing it to run all the time and pulling too much humidity out of the room. It is a dry irritation I'm feeling.
My heat pumps pull the humidity down to about 43% as well. I think I'm inside and outside enough to keep things moist in the spring/summer while humidity is high so it doesn't bother me. But I've watched mine get to below 40% in the winter and I really have to work to keep the sinuses moist. Sometimes using the vaseline trick 2 times per day helps.
 

CrickettGrrrl

macrumors 6502a
Feb 10, 2012
984
274
B'more or Less
You should be replacing the filter at least once a year. I replace the filter in my central AC/Heating unit every season. I put a washable filter in the AC in the spring and switch it out for a paper type filter in the fall.

If you run your AC a lot then switching the filter out every 3 months would not be a bad idea either. I don't run my heating in the winter all that much since I heat with a wood stove. I use the paper filter for 2 seasons before replacing it. The one I put in for summer use gets washed out every 3 months or so just to make sure it is nice and clean.
Definitely good recommendations for central AC. I have a 100+ year old home so window ACs have been a pretty good way to go, the units are more efficient all the time, and quieter than they used to be, however they do not have replaceable filters. They have the type which are gauzy fabric mesh in a flexible plastic frame. Besides vacuuming them with a brush attachment, we also scrubbed them with a dishwashing brush & soap & water once a week and hung them out to dry thoroughly. This does a pretty good job. However, even if you use new window ACs in a hot, steamy urban environment for 2-3 years, you will find some mold inside in the metal tray, on the fins, etc. anyway.
 

G51989

macrumors 68030
Feb 25, 2012
2,530
10
NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
I seem to get a stuffy nose when the room air conditioner is on. I'm often awakened in the middle of the night from this. Has anyone else noticed this problem and is there a solution? Is central air better?
AC units pull moisture out of the air, so if you are sensitive to a lack of humidity, it could be doing it.

Also, make sure the filter is changed.

Also, rather than just using compressed air, go to your local hardware store and buy some coil cleaner, then rinse with water.
 

G51989

macrumors 68030
Feb 25, 2012
2,530
10
NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
That's interesting because the humidity drops to 43% when the air is running. Now I'm thinking the unit may be undersized, causing it to run all the time and pulling too much humidity out of the room. It is a dry irritation I'm feeling.
This as well, if the unit is undersized if will run a lot longer than it should be, so it makes everything super dry.
 

A.Goldberg

macrumors 68020
Jan 31, 2015
2,361
8,479
Boston
Typically allergies are worse with AC off. Like others have said, try cleaning the filter and as much as the interior as possible where the air flows though- as thoroughly as possible. Past season allergens could be trapped inside and now bothering you.

It could be the air conditioner is dehumidifying too much, but that would likely lead to dried out sinuses rather than a stuffy nose, but you never know. Can you be more descriptive about your stuffy nose (sorry I'm a pharmacist I get to ask questions like this)

It sounds like this is occurring only in your bedroom. You might want to try changing your bedsheets and such as it could be a dust allergy. Bedrooms hold a lot of dust due to all the rolling around in bed (the biggest % of dust comes from dead skin). The air conditioner could be a false association. Just a thought...

Have you been tested for allergies ever?
 

Scepticalscribe

macrumors Sandy Bridge
Jul 29, 2008
50,809
34,329
The Far Horizon
Typically allergies are worse with AC off. Like others have said, try cleaning the filter and as much as the interior as possible where the air flows though- as thoroughly as possible. Past season allergens could be trapped inside and now bothering you.

It could be the air conditioner is dehumidifying too much, but that would likely lead to dried out sinuses rather than a stuffy nose, but you never know. Can you be more descriptive about your stuffy nose (sorry I'm a pharmacist I get to ask questions like this)

It sounds like this is occurring only in your bedroom. You might want to try changing your bedsheets and such as it could be a dust allergy. Bedrooms hold a lot of dust due to all the rolling around in bed (the biggest % of dust comes from dead skin). The air conditioner could be a false association. Just a thought...

Have you been tested for allergies ever?
Excellent post, as are most of the others which have discussed changing filters and so on.

Re bed sheets, I'd recommend natural fibre - i.e. 100% cotton, and regularly changing them.

And, as mentioned earlier, make sure you are drinking enough water. For myself, I drink at least two litres a day, and ever since I started doing so, my sinuses, (which used to give me an enormous amount of trouble) have improved considerably.
 
Last edited:

A.Goldberg

macrumors 68020
Jan 31, 2015
2,361
8,479
Boston
And, as mentioned earlier, make sure you are drinking enough water.
Thanks, great point there too. Hydration is definitely key to a properly function sinuses.

Speaking of hydration it appears people also have recommended irrigating/cleansing your sinuses- also not a bad idea before you go to bed. A saline spray will help with irrigation, but they're not great at actually removing debris/allergens/dust/etc. Neti Pots, despite how ridiculous they may look, are very effective cleaning out you sinuses. Fun Fact: I recently was told "neti" is Sanskrit for "nasal cleansing", the process dates back thousands of years, and was/is a suggested practice in Yoga. An even more effective option would contain saline in a bottle or syringe so you can add pressure to the cleaning. There are a number of different styles out there.

Avoid using a OTC nasal spray like Afrin (oxymetazoline) as it can quickly cause dependence (in a matter of days) and lead to rebound congestion when you stop. As this is a situational but chronic issue, this Afrin would not be a good choice (it is more useful if you have a temporary condition, like a cold).

Clean your AC, drink some water, wash your sheets, maybe clean your sinuses out, etc. If that fails, the next step would preferably be a visit to an allergist or alternatively trying some OTC antihistamines.

Let us know what happens. Best of health!
 

senseless

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 23, 2008
1,805
211
Pennsylvania, USA
I'll probably have a Mitsubishi mini-split air conditioner installed and get rid of the window units. Hopefully this will help me sleep better at night.
 

Emmiecolt

macrumors newbie
May 16, 2015
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Reply

It also depends on the compressor whether it is clean or not.You first of all check it, if you will not get any solution from it then you take help from any air conditioning repairing company.
 

senseless

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Apr 23, 2008
1,805
211
Pennsylvania, USA
I'll probably have a Mitsubishi mini-split air conditioner installed and get rid of the window units. Hopefully this will help me sleep better at night.
I'm happy to report that getting the mini split unit fixed my problems. Sinuses are good and I'm sleeping through the night because it's so quiet. The mini split moves the air gently. It's not drafty like the room air conditioner was.
 

Fzang

macrumors 65816
Jun 15, 2013
1,313
1,068
I use a mini-split almost every night, and I have never had any problems. The unit is also blowing air away from me, and not towards me, which I hear is usually the culprit.
 

kazmac

macrumors G3
Mar 24, 2010
8,624
6,554
Any place but here or there....
It's bad at work, I have to constantly wear earplugs when the A.C. is on (and stay in my office when some idiot kicks on the supplemental A.C. making it even colder.) Even with my much improved diet and some exercise, that artificial cold is murder on my sinuses. I'm in constant cold all day (commute and work) so I avoid turning on the A.C. at home unless the humidity is very high.

I imagine we should clean the filters in our ancient A.C.s at home again.

Speaking only for myself here: I have found that a much cleaner diet, the aforementioned hydration, exercise and nasal breathing have stopped most allergies and sinus issues for me.

The Mini split Acs sound great, but way out of my budget.
 
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