Air con­di­tion­ers spur nose runs, con­ges­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - KAREN WEINTRAUB

Q: Do air con­di­tion­ers cause si­nus con­ges­tion?

A: Yes, air con­di­tion­ers can make some peo­ple’s noses clog or run, for sev­eral rea­sons.

First, walk­ing into a cold, dry room can trig­ger a runny nose, just as walk­ing out­side on a cold win­ter day drives many peo­ple to reach for tis­sues, said Dr. John Oh­man, chief of the di­vi­sion of al­lergy at Tufts Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Bos­ton. The cold air seems to trig­ger ner­vous sys­tem re­flexes in the nose that cause glands in the nasal mem­branes to pro­duce mu­cus. The prob­lem can be par­tic­u­larly com­mon in peo­ple with al­ler­gies.

But changes in tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity should trig­ger only brief con­ges­tion, Oh­man said.

Those with al­ler­gies can de­velop con­ges­tion be­cause small par­ti­cles like pollen, mold spores, pol­lu­tants and dust mites get trapped by air-con­di­tion­ing fil­ters and then re­leased into the air when the ma­chine is turned on, said Dr. Maria Gar­cia-Lloret, an al­ler­gist at the UCLA School of Medicine.

Pol­lu­tants and bac­te­ria wouldn’t cause an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion per se, she said, but could ir­ri­tate the nose. Ex­po­sure to mold spores can cause al­ler­gic re­ac­tions that can be par­tic­u­larly long-last­ing.

Dr. Richard Le­bowitz, a rhi­nol­o­gist at NYU Lan­gone Med­i­cal Cen­ter, em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of chang­ing air-con­di­tion­ing fil­ters reg­u­larly. “If you don’t main­tain them well and ev­ery­thing you breathe is fil­ter­ing through this gi­gan­tic sheet of dust,” dis­pelling dust into the air, and “that’s not very help­ful,” he said.

Air con­di­tion­ers with clean fil­ters can re­duce si­nus prob­lems by keep­ing al­ler­gens out of the air, Le­bowitz said.

But there’s no way to avoid the runny nose that comes from changes in tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity. “Live with it — or sweat,” he said.

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