Sore Throat from Air Conditioner
As spring turns to summer, people turn up their AC to fight the heat. As you crank the AC, you might notice your throat is getting sore. Pollen and other plant allergies peak during the warm months, but let’s say you’re lucky enough to not have any allergies. The culprit behind your sore throat and other allergy-like symptoms might actually be your air conditioning. Read on to learn some tips to prevent a sore throat from your air conditioner.
Fix up your filter!
If you’re getting a sore throat from your AC, the first place to check is your filter. We’ve written a lot about filter health, but that’s because a clean filter is crucial to make sure your AC is properly functioning. A dirty filter is a breeding ground for bacteria, and too much build-up will cause the filter to break down and let some gunk through. Your AC will then circulate the dirty air through your home, which can lead to a sore throat from air conditioning.
That’s why most modern window ACs include a “Check Filter” light. But if you think you might have a sore throat from your AC, the filter is a likely culprit. It’s a good idea to check your filter every month to see if too much gunk has built up.
This is one reason why we designed the Windmill AC with two filters. Our reusable mesh filter grabs larger particles and prevents your AC from recirculating dust and other allergen particles through your home. The mesh filter is washable—so when you see there’s a detritus buildup, give the filter a quick rinse (and dry it out!) and you’ll be back to breathing clean air in no time.
The second filter is made from activated carbon. Activated carbon filters air through the process of adsorption. We go into more detail about our carbon filters and adsorption here. But the short version is that a carbon filter grabs pollutants and volatile organic compounds out of the air, keeping your AC from recirculating them. If you’re particularly sensitive to allergens, consider adding a carbon filter to your home system. The filter can make a huge difference if you think you’re getting a sore throat from air conditioning.
Bring new air into your home!
But let’s say you’re a filter pro, and you still think you might be getting a sore throat from your air conditioner. It’s possible that you’ve dehumidified the air in your home too much. If you keep all your windows closed and run your AC regularly, you’ll continually lower the amount of moisture in the air of your home.
Dehumidification can be a tricky balance. Too much humidity, and it won’t feel like your home is cooling at all. Humid air also carries more allergens and pollutants, because the water in the air is great at bringing unwanted passengers along. However, without any moisture in the air, you will dry out your skin, irritate your eyes, and possibly give yourself a sore throat. So if you think you’re getting a sore throat from your AC, there’s an easy fix: open a window.
Remember, a properly installed AC operates on a closed circuit. Introducing new outside air to the system will introduce moisture back into your home’s air. Your AC will go to work filtering and dehumidifying the air, back to levels that work for you.
Opening a window can help prevent you getting a sore throat from air conditioning. But it’s also helpful to reduce your AC use, which will save you money, too. On nicer days, try keeping the windows open—your wallet and your throat will both be grateful.
Don’t let mold take hold!
Alright: you’ve checked the filter and made sure to circulate fresh air into your home. So far, everything seems to be in order. But you still think maybe that you’re getting a sore throat from your air conditioner. Perhaps while checking the filter, you noticed a bit of gross slime inside your AC unit. This is the worst case situation: you’ve got a mold infestation inside your window AC. Mold produces a lot of spores which can cause respiratory issues, and if mold is growing inside your AC, that means you’re unwittingly spraying those mold spores around your home every time you turn your AC on.
When it comes to fighting mold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here’s three easy steps to prevent mold from finding a home in your home. For more info on preventing mold, check out the other sections of this article.
If you notice mold growth in your window AC, stop using the unit until you can properly clean away the mold. In a well-ventilated area, equip yourself with some kitchen gloves and protective eyewear. Make sure the unit is disconnected from power and wipe up the visible mold with a mild household cleaner and water. Make sure the unit is completely dry before resuming operation.
It can be difficult to deal with mold yourself, so think about contacting a professional before attempting a fix. However, mold growth might lead to a more serious condition than a sore throat from your AC, so make sure to stop using your AC until the issue is resolved.
Double-check your installation!
If you think you’re getting a sore throat from your AC, it might be the case that your AC isn’t properly installed. If you’re prone to a sore throat from allergies, this is an especially likely occurrence. Without proper insulation, allergens like pollen can enter into your home through the window in which your AC unit is installed. Because the allergens are entering your home next to your AC, they are more likely to get sucked up by the unit’s intake, and can then be redistributed around your home.
When installing an AC, try feeling around the edges for air leaks. We’ve designed the Windmill AC to be easy to install, with double-layered insulation you can adjust to fit your specific window size. If you notice any air leaks, cover the openings with additional insulation. In a pinch, you can use painter’s tape to cover up any cracks. However, you may need to uninstall and reinstall your window AC to properly insulate the window and prevent outdoor allergens from entering your home.
Putting it all together
How can you tell if your sore throat is caused by your air conditioning? Try to track when your throat is irritated. If you are only reaching for lozenges when you’re at home, then probably something in your home (like your AC!) is to blame. Conversely, if you only notice your throat is sore when out and about, an allergy is a much more likely cause.
A sore throat from air conditioning isn’t really caused by air conditioning. The real culprit is a poorly maintained home air system, whether that means leaving dirty filters installed or preventing new air from entering into your home. If you practice good air conditioner hygiene, you’re most likely doing enough to prevent any of these causes from occurring.
Following this advice will help you keep your machine (and your throat) in good working order. If you’re unsure how to check any of these factors, or if you have any other questions about your window unit AC, our support staff is available seven days a week to help. They’re also available to assist you with any other issues you might be experiencing.