Can an Air Purifier Help With COPD?

If you or your loved one has COPD, you might think about getting an air purifier for your home. It may do your lungs some good.

What’s an Air Purifier?

Air purifiers are electronic machines that clean particles -- tiny bits of mold, dust, or pollen -- from the air in a room. They’re also known as air filters, sanitizers, or cleaners.

Air purifiers are often small enough to move them from room to room as you go about your day. You can also install air cleaning filters to your home’s furnace or central air conditioning system.

Both types can remove most (but not all) of the dirt, dust, or gunk in your home’s air.

What Are the Types of Air Purifiers?

The different types include:

  • HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) purifiers, which have pleated filters that trap tiny air particles.
  • Electric cleaners, which use electrically charged plates to trap particles.
  • Ionizers, which give off electrically charged ions. They attach to air particles in the room and make them cling to your curtains or shades, walls, or ceiling tiles.

How Do Air Purifiers Help?

High amounts of air particles in your home can make your health worse if you have COPD. If you live with a smoker, these levels can be more than twice as high as normal.

Polluted air can make you more likely to need medical care for your COPD or even have to go to the hospital.

These particles can cause some swelling in your lungs. Air pollution can worsen your cough, breathing problems, and congestion. It’s also bad for your heart, blood pressure, and can raise your chance of having a stroke.

The right kind of purifier may ease your COPD symptoms. That’s because they clear out most of the gunk. Some HEPA filters can get rid of more than 99% of the pollution in your home’s air.

Using an air purifier can also help if you live in areas with high air pollution or seasonal wildfires. For people with COPD who share their home with pets, room air cleaners may even help their lungs work a little better.

Air purifiers may cut levels of cytokines, or cell proteins that are linked to inflammation. Some research suggests using an air purifier may help your heart and lungs work better, and ease your blood pressure.

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Choosing an Air Purifier

Air purifiers with HEPA filters that have a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of 11-13 are a good choice. The higher the number, the better. They clean more than 99% of the fine particles from your room’s air. But they don’t remove gases like ozone, which can irritate your lungs, or radon, which can cause lung cancer.

Some air purifiers have small, noisy motors that could disturb your sleep, so test it out before you buy if you can.

Ionizers cause air particles to attach to your room’s surfaces, but in a few days, they go back into the air. Ionizers and electric air cleaners can also create ozone.

Where to Put Your Air Purifier

Portable air purifiers only clean the air in the room they’re in. So put one where you spend the most time. A portable air purifier in your bedroom may help you sleep.

You can put air purifiers in multiple rooms, but they aren’t cheap, and you should need to use them 24 hours a day. Look for more efficient Energy Star-rated devices so you don’t spike your power bill.

You can also install high-efficiency air filters in your home’s central air conditioning system or furnace to improve air quality.

Keeping Your Home’s Air Clean

Even if you use an air purifier, follow these tips to lower air pollution in your home:

  • Vacuum and dust often.
  • Change your air conditioner’s filter at least every 3 months.
  • Don’t let anyone smoke inside your home.
  • Use ceiling exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen.
  • Keep your windows closed on days with a high pollen count.

Don’t expect your COPD symptoms to get better right away with an air purifier. It may take some time to notice the effects.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 30, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: “Can Air Purifiers Improve Your Lung and Heart Health?”

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: “Air Filters.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital: “Air Filters, Dehumidifiers, and Humidifiers.”

Environmental Protection Agency: “Indoor Air Quality: Air Cleaners and Air Filters in the Home.”

American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine: “Indoor air quality in homes of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

American Journal of Epidemiology: “The effect of ozone and PM10 on hospital admissions for pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a national multicity study.”

Current Opinions in Pulmonary Medicine: “Pulmonary Health Effects of Air Pollution.”

Environmental Health: “Portable air cleaners should be at the forefront of the public health response to landscape fire smoke.”

Intermountain Health Care: “Do Indoor Air Filters Really Help You Breathe Easier?”

Clinical and Experimental Allergy: “Clinical effects of air filters in homes of asthmatic adults sensitized and exposed to pet allergens.”

Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “Cardiopulmonary Benefits of Reducing Indoor Particles of Outdoor Origin.”

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Consumer Reports: “Don’t Spend Money on an Air Purifier You May Not Need.”

Environmental Working Group: “Air filters.”

Johnson Memorial Health: “COPD Triggers and How to Avoid Them.”

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