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If you suffer from allergies, then you likely seek relief from a runny nose and itchy eyes in any way you can. One thing that could be worsening your symptoms is your air filter. Many people mistakenly believe that they only need to worry about replacing this filter during the heating season since the filter is often installed as part of the furnace.

However, that’s not true! ALL air passing through your home’s HVAC system, whether it’s for heating or cooling, will pass through this filter. If you neglect to change it during the spring and summer months, your allergies may actually worsen.

What does the air filter do?

Understanding the role of your air filter may help you to realize why it’s important that you replace it on a regular basis. The filter’s purpose is to trap airborne contaminants — such as pet hair, mold spores, and dust — in order to keep them from passing through your duct work and out through the vents into your home.

When you don’t routinely replace the filter, it becomes full of dirt and dust. Air trying to circulate through from your heating or cooling system may have a difficult time getting where it needs to go. In turn, this could cause your HVAC units to work harder than necessary to keep your home at the temperature set on your thermostat. This could ultimately lead to premature wear and tear on your heating and cooling systems and, eventually, an untimely breakdown — on what may be the coldest or hottest day of the season.

How often should I change the filter?

It’s recommended that you change your air filter at least once a month during peak heating and cooling season. However, you may need to change it more often if you have individuals in your home who smoke, or if you have pets. These things could be causing your air filter to get dirty more quickly than usual.

If you aren’t sure what size filter you need, or what MERV-rating is best for your HVAC needs, consult with the owner’s manual that came with your air conditioner and/or furnace. You could also check the existing filter for its specifications. It’s important to note that there are HEPA filters available if you or your family members suffer serious side effects from allergies during the spring and summer months. These filters may help to lessen your symptoms.

What else could I be doing to relieve my allergies?

If you replace your air filter regularly but still suffer from annoying allergy-related symptoms, the problem may also lie in the humidity levels in your home. If you don’t currently utilize a dehumidifier, your home’s humidity levels could be excessively high. When this happens, mold could be growing.

Mold is a dangerous fungus that needs three things to survive: organic material to feed on (materials in walls, floors, fabrics, etc.), moisture, and high humidity levels. Take away just one of these “ingredients” and mold can’t survive.

When mold is growing inside your home, the spores it releases into the air could be causing a variety of health problems for you and your loved ones, including sneezing, coughing, skin rashes, fatigue, headaches, and more.

There are a variety of dehumidifiers available, as well as humidity testing kits that are likely sold at your local home improvement store.

Additional tips

Be sure to vacuum your home regularly with a device that has a HEPA filter. These vacuums will suck up dirt, dust, and other indoor allergens that may exist on your rugs and carpeting — and not kick it back up into the air.

Additionally, if you have pets in your home, their hair and skin dander could be causing your allergies to worsen. Be sure to brush them often to reduce hair and dander shedding.