Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” Unbeknownst to Hemingway, for millions of people around the world, spring presents plenty of problems. They spend it sneezing, coughing, and contending with runny noses and watery eyes — all thanks to airborne allergies. 

“It’s always best to remove the source of the [allergy] problem entirely, but that's easier said than done.”
— Chris Haromy, Certified Respiratory Educator

The root of allergies lies in the immune system. Your immune system produces antibodies, which prevent invading germs such as bacteria and viruses from harming you. If you suffer from allergies, the antibodies in your system identify a certain allergen as harmful and prepare to attack it. As a result, you suffer inflamed skin, sinuses, or air passages. If you have asthma, an inflamed airway aggravates existing respiratory problems. In Canada, around 30% of the population suffers from airborne allergies and 8% suffer from asthma. Neither asthma nor allergies can be cured, but steps can be taken to reduce exposure to the sources of the most common airborne allergens: pollen, mould spores, dust mites, and animal dander.

“It’s always best to remove the source of the problem entirely,” says Chris Haromy, Certified Respiratory Educator at the Ontario Lung Association. “But that’s easier said than done.” It’s not so easy to simply remove your carpets to get rid of the dust or to part ways with your furry friends to get rid of the animal dander. 

To combat airborne allergens in the home, Haromy and other experts recommend using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtering devices. Filters can be added to your existing heating or cooling system, and portable filters, also known as air purifiers, can be used in individual rooms. 

It’s important to note that not every air purifier is equally effective and safe.

When searching for an air purifier, it’s important to note that not every device is equally effective and safe. You should look for one backed by research, and one that includes multiple filters, capturing even the smallest particles.

High-quality air purifiers can catch up to 99.99% of fine particles, including allergens and dangerous gases like formaldehyde. “Air filters (or air purifiers) remove fine particles and, if you have a carbon filter, it will remove gases as well,” Haromy says. 

Airborne allergens can cause rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma symptoms, and sleep problems. To combat allergies, and the issues that come along with it, improving air quality in the home is key, says Haromy. “An air filter is part of a holistic attack on airborne allergens.”