Can an Air Purifier Help With COPD?

Medically Reviewed by Paul Boyce, MD on November 03, 2023
3 min read

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.

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 in 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.