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Allergies Health Center

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HEPA Filters for Allergies

Air pollution isn’t just car exhaust or factory smoke. Dust mites, mold spores, pollen, and pet dander in the air inside your home can cause problems if your family has allergies or asthma. Using HEPA filters can trap these pollutants and may help bring allergy relief.

How HEPA Filters Work

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HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter is a type of mechanical air filter; it works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles such as pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and tobacco smoke.

Selecting and Using an Air Filter

You can find HEPA filters in most air purifiers. These are small, portable units that may work for a single room. If you are considering buying a HEPA filter, find out how much air that the filter can clean. Be sure you buy one that is big enough for the room where you plan to use it.

The best room for a unit is the one where you spend most of your time -- usually your bedroom. You can find HEPA filters in most home improvement stores or online marketplaces.

Some vacuum cleaners have HEPA filters that trap more dust from their exhaust. HEPA-equipped vacuums throw less dirt and fewer microscopic dust mites back into the room as you vacuum. Some people say allergy symptoms improve after using these vacuums.

How Much Can HEPA Filters Help?

Using a HEPA filter in your home can remove most airborne particles that might make allergies worse. But the particles suspended in air are not the only ones in your home. There are far more in your rugs, bedding, and drapes, and resting on countertops and tabletops. So it's important to keep these areas clean. It's also important, when possible, to get rid of the source of allergens and irritants. For example, the only effective way to keep tobacco smoke out of your home is to not smoke.

These filters can be part of a plan to remove irritating particles from your home. Other parts of that strategy should be to:

  • Vacuum frequently.
  • Replace carpets with wood, tile, or vinyl flooring.
  • Keep pets outdoors if you are allergic to pet dander or at least away from your sleeping area.
  • Change bedding frequently and wash sheets in hot water.
  • Replace draperies and curtains with roll up shades.
  • Use plastic covers over mattresses and pillows.
  • Use high-efficiency furnace filters.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on December 01, 2014

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