Why does my new home clog my nose?
November 9, 2007 2:16 PM   Subscribe

My new home makes my nose slightly stuffy all day, every day. Why could this be, and how can I fix it?

I moved into a new apartment a few months ago.

The first few times I stayed there, my boyfriend and I noticed that our noses got stuffy by the time we woke up the next morning. At the time, we had recently painted the walls and refinished the floors, and we thought our symptoms would go away as the smell from the paint and floors faded. However, months later and now that I am sleeping at home every night, I find my nose is mildly stuffy all the time. My boyfriend stays on the weekends and I think he gets mild symptoms in the mornings, but he has always had a bit of a stuffy nose in the mornings so it is hard to say.

Here is the state of the apartment now: I have two HEPA air filters that run in the apartment all the time, and have since we moved in. There is some dust and I'm still unpacking, but I've never been allergic to dust or anything other than pet dander. We don't have pets. I also started a new job so I suppose it is possible that something in the air at work is doing this, but it seems more likely that my home is, because people at work seem just fine. There is a window right by the bed, and my boyfriend has suggested that maybe a draft is causing the stuffiness. However, it was warm out when we moved in and it seems like a draft would only get your nose stuffy if it was cold, if a draft would stuff up a nose at all.

1) What could still be causing this?
2) Ideas on how to fix it?

Thank you!
posted by lorrer to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
New carpet? They have some nasty chemicals in them.
posted by cmiller at 2:19 PM on November 9, 2007

Response by poster: We have wood floors and a couple of area rugs, but the area rugs weren't out for the first few weeks we were living there. No wall-to-wall style carpeting.
posted by lorrer at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2007

-Central heating (solution: replace the filters at the furnace)
-Dryness of indoor air (solution: get a humidifier)
-Construction dust, city air pollution, old pet dander, dust from unpacking, etc. (Solution: remove as much as you can with regular vacuuming. I would think the HEPA filters would help with this. You could try taking Claritin or other allergy med to see if it helps; if it does, then suspect one of these airborne allergens.)
-Toxic stuff in the air from: carpet or other offgassing; mildew; mold; etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:33 PM on November 9, 2007

Ask the landlord when the ducts were last cleaned.
posted by transient at 3:04 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I had this problem in my last apartment, and a HEPA air filter de-stuffified my nose.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:28 PM on November 9, 2007

Just because you can't smell it any more, doesn't mean your paint is no longer off gassing VOC's. You may need to continue to ventilate your apartment. The other thing I would suspect is dry air, like LobsterMitten pointed out.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:33 PM on November 9, 2007

Could be mold in the walls.
posted by COD at 3:52 PM on November 9, 2007

Have you checked/changed your HEPA filters and/or pre-filters lately? Some HEPA units become markedly less effective once their main paper filters become even partially dirty, although some manufacturers are now claiming that the central paper filters are "permanent." Units that run many hours a day, usually need main HEPA filter replacements annually, and carbon pre-filter changes monthly. The easiest way to judge whether a HEPA filter element is dirty, is to compare the penetration of sunlight through it, to a new replacement filter. If you see that visibly less sunlight is penetrating the old filter than comes through the new one, it is time to replace the old filter.

I'd also check to see if you've become allergic to your bedding. Many people develop allergies to down or feather pillows, as the pillows age, simply because they become a good home for dust mites. Quality down and feather pillows can be dry cleaned; foam and synthetic pillows can often be machine washed. If your current pillows and bedding are inexpensive, it may be more cost effective to simply replace them, or cover them in plastic.

If your apartment has forced air heating, you could also be getting air borne contamination into your unit from the central heating system ductwork, which could itself be a home for dust and mold spores, or merely a means of transporting VOC's and other allergens from other areas of the building to your unit. You'd have to get your landlord involved in solving this kind of problem, but if you have hot water or steam heat, or radiant heat, this is not a source of your problems, although these forms of non-forced air heat may be "drier" than your system likes. The "fix" might just be as simple as wetting a hand towel and hanging it in your bedroom, to dry overnight, raising the humidity significantly, while remaining easy to wash with regular laundry, thus avoiding becoming a long term haven for mold, as many cold mist humidifiers can be.

Finally, if your symptoms are mild, you might just find that a spoonful of Benadryl at bedtime helps you sleep, and controls the problem.
posted by paulsc at 9:11 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nthing dry air. Forced hot air kills me like that. So does electric heat. Humidifiers are a cheap and effective fix. Since you have no pets and no kids, a traditional no fuss steam humidifier might become your best friend.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:24 PM on November 9, 2007

It could be several things:
-asbestos from exposed insulation
-cigarette smoke
-mold or mildew, which can build up in air conditioners or unclean bathrooms
-formaldehyde, which can come from carpets, glue or plywood
-gas-fueled appliances
-cleaning products
-radon gas if the building is built on soil that contains granite

To fix it, you should get rid of any of these possible sources and/or clean out your home with cleaning products you're used to and/or switch your air purifier. Plants make fantastic air purifiers, possibly better than the machines. Or check out this link.
posted by giggleknickers at 7:16 AM on November 10, 2007

My guess is also that it's some issue with your central air. Maybe the vents need to be cleaned, or maybe you need to replace the filter in your unit.
posted by chunking express at 10:51 AM on November 10, 2007

« Older Pass me the homemade bread.   |   Pay Up, Mary Poppins. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.