Can An Air purifier Cause Headaches? (Or Help With One)

There are many myths about an air cleaner, and here is another one to add to the list. “Can air purifiers cause headaches?” We will address why that is not the case with undeniable, scientifically proven facts. We will also explain how an air purifier can be a headache reliever, particularly for allergy sufferers. Find out which type of air purifier works best and what else you can do to curb the chronic condition.
Short answer
Air purifiers will not cause headaches. On the contrary, it will alleviate it.


Can An Air Purifier Help With Headaches?

A HEPA air purifier will not cause a headache, and you can safely use it 24 hours a day. In fact, an air purifier can help with headaches by removing the airborne pollutants in your home. The frequency of recurrent headaches will reduce. You will enjoy cleaner, healthier air free from particles, odors, and gaseous triggers. Air purifiers will act as a preventive measurement that works well with any doctor’s prescription or over-the-counter pain relief. The American Lung Association also recommends purchasing air purifiers for families suffering from allergies, asthma, and other sensitivities.

Always go with a mechanical/ filter-based air purifier that is safe, effective, and best for your health with zero side effects. It uses a fan to draw air in through a series of filters before releasing clean air out. If you have Hyperosmia or are sensitive to smells, a good air purifier equipped with an activated carbon filter would come in handy. The carbon filter chemical adsorption materials remove toxic vapors and fumes such as VOCs, cigarette smoke, radon, and ozone that are causing your migraine. Likewise, if your headaches are due to dust mite, mold, pollen, and other allergens, you will need a True HEPA filter with a particle removal efficiency of 99.97% down to 0.3 micrometers. Only opt for a True HEPA filter that meets the standardized quality set by the United States government. A pre-filter is also a must to remove larger particles like dust, lint, pet hair in the air and protects the HEPA filter. While you’re at it, look for keywords like antibacterial/ antimicrobial coating that prevents pathogen growth or a medical-grade H13 air purifier with a superior H13 filter. Last but not least, make sure the air purifier has a strong air cleaning cycle and the suggested room size that matches your requirement.

What Causes Headaches?

There are many causes of headaches and migraine. Genetics, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, poor eating habit, dehydration, too much caffeine, smoking, and even fluorescent lighting could aggravate chronic pain. Sinusitis can also lead to headaches triggered by airborne allergens, chemicals, smoke, odors, and other external sources.

There are four pairs of sinuses in the skull.

  • Frontal sinuses (surrounding the eyes)
  • Maxillary sinuses (surrounding the nasal cavity)
  • Ethmoid sinus (between the eyes)
  • Sphenoidal sinus

In an unhealthy air quality environment, dust, tobacco smoke, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and germs can irritate mucous membranes in their sinus cavities. The membrane of the sinus cavity will swell and fill with fluid and presses the nerves. The pressured trigeminal nerves will result in sinus headaches. Sinuses can also become inflamed from an allergic immune response and autoimmune disorder.

There are four types of headaches, primary:

  • Migraines (pain with nauseating and visual change symptoms)
  • Tension (pain on forehead squeezing head feel)
  • Cluster (pain in and around one eye)
  • Sinus headaches (pain behind browbone, cheekbones, nasal cavity)

An air purifier will not make you sick. However, if you are experiencing symptoms such as headaches, sore throat, coughing, asthma attacks, and difficulty breathing when an air cleaner is turned on, ozone byproducts might be the root cause. An ozone generator or Ozonator is an electrical device that uses high voltage to split oxygen molecules (O2) to create ozone molecules (O3). It is notorious for causing chest pain, shortness of breath, irritating lungs, aggravating health issues, including headaches and migraines. Long-term exposure to a high amount of ozone will worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, reduce lung capacity, and compromise the body’s immune system.

Ozone generators are not recommended by EPA, FDA, or any government agency. It is ineffective in removing airborne substances as ozone molecules will dissolve before making any impact. Unfortunately, it is often marketed as an air purifier through false advertisement. Many people are confused that the distinct ozone smell is fresh air released from the device without realizing the danger. No one should purchase an ozone generator as it will do more harm than good.

There are also emitting, non-filter-based air purifiers that use either UV-light or ionization to clean the air. Electrostatic Precipitators, AKA electronic air purifiers, electronically charge air molecules to fall and adhere to the collector plate or surface area, e.g. bed, floor, clothes, and wall. UVGI or UV air purifiers release UV-light radiation to sterilize biological pollutants in the air. Both technologies are safe and do not require any filter. However, they do emit a low concentration amount of ozone, according to California Air Resources Board (CARB). A person with a weakened immune system may be susceptible to ozone, so stop using one if it triggers a headache.

There you have it. Not every type of air purifier may not fit the bill. The table below will give you a heads up of which type of air purifiers you should buy and avoid.

Which Type Of Air Purifier Should I Get?

Types Of Air PurifiersCan It Cause Headaches?Should I Buy One?
HEPA Air PurifierNOYES
Ionic Air PurifierNOIT DEPENDS
Electrostatic PrecipitatorsNOIT DEPENDS
Ozone GeneratorYESNO

While fixing the root cause of air pollution is the ideal approach, it is often impossible to do as you may not have control over your surrounding environment. For example, you are constantly exposed to second-hand smoke from your job or are living in a heavily polluted area. The next best thing would be investing in an air purifier to deal with the airborne substances triggering your headache. We recommend purchasing a well-rounder air purifier that comes with both a HEPA filter and a carbon filter. It is the best of both worlds.

Final Thoughts

A genuine air purifier has nothing to do with a headache. In fact, an air purifier can be the difference with your recurrent headaches providing it is the right type. However, it will not provide instant relief to your headache woes, as that is not the intention. An air purifier is in for the long run. If that is not what you are looking for, there are other alternative ways to deal with headaches that you could also explore, such as:

  • Take prescribed antihistamines, migraine medication, aspirin, or anti-inflammatory medications to help decrease inflammation.
  • TAvoid exposing or inhaling the offending substances when possible, even though it is easier said than done.
  • Set a boundary for pets or keep it outside for those with a pet allergy. Do not chain them!
  • Avoid using perfumes or cologne for those with odor sensitivities.
  • Resolve indoor pollution sources and biological contaminants that are plaguing your home.
  • Vacuum daily to reduce dust accumulation.
  • Ventilate your room and make sure HVAC systems are well-maintained.
  • Never smoke indoors, or better yet, quit smoking.
  • Maintain the right relative humidity level between 30% to 50%. Get a dehumidifier if room humidity is high. Get a humidifier to remove excess moisture.
  • Eat healthy, exercise, and sleep well.

Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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