Are air purifiers useful for asthma/allergy sufferers?
January 17, 2013 9:25 PM   Subscribe

Are air purifiers useful for asthma/allergy sufferers? Our 11mo son is currently sick with pneumonia, is at high risk for asthma and our doctor has recommended a air purifier.

We live in a heavily polluted environment (Makait, Philippines), and our doc has recommended buying an air purifier. The brand she recommends is the Sharp Plasmaculture line.

I can't find too much info or independent/customer reviews online, other than some glowing ones on Amazon and other links that say that all air purifiers are just a waste of money and "open the window".

Can anyone shed any light or research on these devices?
posted by Admira to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
10 years ago, we had these ionic breeze contraptions from sharper image. they were high maintenance, but I think they worked.
posted by colin_l at 9:39 PM on January 17, 2013

My allergist recommended I use one, and gave me this (and some other articles from allergy journals which I can't find online) to read. I was skeptical, but I feel like I can notice the difference.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:13 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

That specific Sharp range includes the one that a family friend with fairly serious asthma uses and swears by, for what that's worth.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:15 PM on January 17, 2013

I have asthma and allergies and I've had an air purifier for about 18 months. I do think it helps me. I know that if I start to feel wheezy it's already ramped up into turbo mode, which also sort makes me feel better ("there really is crap in the air!"). Mine is a Rabbit Air and its in my living room. I like that its easy to clean the filters on it and I looks nice.
posted by marylynn at 10:15 PM on January 17, 2013

Absolutely, though not those ionic thingies (the whole "ion" thing is BS, and can even be harmful). We have a HEPA whatever rated one, which is what you lok for here. (I don't know about anywhere else). Make sure you get replacement filters and keep it clean.
posted by wintersweet at 10:45 PM on January 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have an ionic "purifier" (no fan, no HEPA filter) that I inherited from my father, who was a "natural health and energy restoration" practitioner alarmingly susceptible to assorted kinds of woo. I switched it on in my office one day just to see if it would turn dust into sticky marks on the wall. It smelled slightly of ozone, and brought on a paroxysm of coughing in a friend who usually has no such trouble in my office.

If iI were looking for a purifier to improve air quality in a heavily polluted city, I'd be looking for one with a HEPA filter for particulates and activated charcoal to reduce volatile organics, and no ionic (electrostatic) component; seems to me that polluted city air would already have more ozone in it than you want.
posted by flabdablet at 11:06 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to this rather dubious looking site:

Sharp Plasmacluster Air Purifiers is a Technological Breakthrough in air purification. Along with Superior Quality conventional Passive air filtration system, Sharp Air purifiers employ a Unique Active Air Purification Technology.
This technology is called Plasmacluster Ion or PCI. PCI generates a balanced shower of positive and negative ions by splitting the molecules of water in the air. Doing so, the Plasmacluster Ion device Doesn Not Produce any Ozone(!) unlike the conventional Ionizers used in most other air purifiers, that may produce Ozone as a by-product.

TBH I have no idea but the Sharp does have a HEPA filter in it.
posted by Admira at 11:20 PM on January 17, 2013

I work with a government agency that rated the best air filters for public school and they found a company called IQ Air to be among the best. I have installed a whole house filter that ties into the HVAC and I love it. They also have stand alone units for smaller commitments. You need a filter that captures particles and the ionic blade ones do not cut it.
posted by dottiechang at 11:50 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

To answer your other question, filters can provide benefit to asthma sufferers by reducing the amount of harmful fine particles in the air.

You should also take precautions to improve indoor air quality in other ways, like reducing use of other known asthma triggers--such as cleaning products or personal care products with strong odors, dust mites in pillows/mattresses, tobacco smoke and pet dander. You can buy cases for mattress/pillows for the dust mites, switch to natural cleaning products and things like that.

My main asthma triggers are tobacco smoke, dust and chemicals like bleach.
posted by dottiechang at 12:00 AM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just get a general HEPA purifier, and know what's involved in changing the replaceable filter(s). Mine have a HEPA filter and a cheaper, more frequently replaced carbon filter. Here, they are available at big home improvement stores for ~100 and...

... they work _great_ in a single room. Very good. You also need to keep surfaces clean, make sure there's no mold nearby, etc., but the purifier is soooo nice.
posted by amtho at 12:08 AM on January 18, 2013

When we first moved into our current apartment, there was enough mold in our bedroom that I would wake up in the middle of the night because I couldn't breathe properly, and suffered lots of other symptoms (sneezing, itching, coughing). Our landlord took a while to getting around to fixing the worst of it, and despite strong antihistamines and frequent use of my inhaler I was so intensely miserable I shelled out for a small Bionaire HEPA purifier out of sheer desperation less than a week into the experience.

It made a world of difference. We kept it running 24/7 for a while, and with it on, I could actually breathe when I woke up. Now, ours is just for a rather small room, but the HEPA filter is the real deal. It kept the air in there breathable for me even with actual mold growing on the walls.
posted by harujion at 1:04 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding IQ Air. I have had one of their larger models running 12 hours a day for the last 5 years and its still going strong. The filters are a bit pricey, but if you use the pre-pre-filter you can stretch the life of the oter three filters significantly (depending on your existing air quality of course). I think your doctor is half right - get a filter, but do the research to find the most effective one.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:47 AM on January 18, 2013

My son has asthma and had pneumonia as a baby too. I think the air purifiers with the HEPA filter do help. Keep his room door closed and run it as much as possible. We kept that bedroom as a "clean" room most of his childhood. In your case because of your environment probably it's best to get a couple for your home and keep all your windows shut.
posted by lasamana at 4:58 AM on January 18, 2013

I have allergies that give me migraines--when I run the HEPA filter we have at night, I don't wake up with headaches anymore. That is purely anecdotal, but it seems to work for me for what it's worth.
posted by Kimberly at 5:13 AM on January 18, 2013

We own this specific Rabbit Air model and we find that it is worth every penny.
(One nice side benefit of a quality air cleaner is that you have to do much less dusting.)
posted by lstanley at 7:11 AM on January 18, 2013

HEPA filters are what you want, though if you have any connections in the US it might be a good idea to leverage that to get a Honeywell or something. My relatives in Makati have had us ship them over since they couldn't find the one they wanted there.
posted by brilliantine at 9:37 AM on January 18, 2013

HEPA filter is the goal. Avoid the ionisers, as they mostly generate ozone, which creates an oppressive atmosphere for the lungs. A proper HEPA-filterd air purifier can help the indoor environment, so it's worth giving a try.
posted by batmonkey at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2013

Looks like IQ Air is available here via Mothercare so I think once we get out of hospital I'll check those out.
posted by Admira at 2:44 PM on January 18, 2013

I have two HEPA purifiers in my house, and they've had no effect on my asthma. I hope they kick the hell out of your kid's, though!
posted by mudpuppie at 3:56 PM on January 18, 2013

Looks like IQ Air isn't available here anymore :( I'll look into other brands and make sure its HEPA grade and I can get filters easily.
posted by Admira at 6:11 PM on January 19, 2013

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