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can your A/C make you sick?


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This last week I felt like I was in a deep potshole and may well have been but here's the thing...we just started running our A/C (I know many of you still have snow on the ground but it's in the 80+ here!). Anyway, I have felt a very debilitating fatigue (more than the usual) and have spent most of the time propped up in bed on pillows reading and resting. Not so strange with POTS I know, but my husband noticed it this weekend as well. He reported feeling like he was drugged, he was so tired. He is out of town this week and feels fine.

2 nights ago I decided to move to another part of the house to sleep which runs off a different A/C (I also turned the one for our bedroom off). After a little while the fatigue was gone and for the first time in more than a week I felt better and had energy again. However, I got a scratchy throat and my lymph node under my chin swelled up making it painful to eat.

So 2 different A/C units with different symptoms. I don't think it is directly POTS because 36 hours ago when I turned all units off I have not had ANY of the same symptoms. I have called for someone to come out and inspect but already they have suggested maybe it is just my allergies...no, I don't think so!

I am so puzzled by what is going on. It just seems too coincidental that when I turn the units off I feel back to my "Pots-normal" self but with them on these other symptoms are hitting me.

Any thoughts? My husband is going to buy the really good filters and change everything out this weekend and hopefully the service company can find the problem but what else can I do?

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Maybe you need to have someone come to your house to clean out all of your duct work. It may kick up more trouble for a couple of days, but if you have the work done and then run air purifiers, it should clear out fairly quickly.

Also, could there be any mold in your house - behind walls or other unseen areas? By closing your house up to run the air, it could be trapping the allergens inside and giving a concentrated effect.

Good luck - do let us know what you discover!

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YES, YES,YES, I had the same problem, as I am very intolerant to heat. If I could I would keep the a/c at 60. Our home also has 2 furnaces and a/c units.

I was having problems in the downstairs had rashes, migranes,snot, runny eyes.... I mentioned it to my Orkin Man(LOL) and he said when was the last time your filters replaced? I didn't even have a clue we had owned the house 3 years.

So had heating and cooling people come tell me how disgusting they were. Then had them change the filters and hired a couple students to dust and vacuum before I returned. The recommendation to me if ib dusty type areas to change 2x year. My husband cleaned ours in between so that we needed only replace 1x year. Good luck and I am jealous you are in the heat. Miriam :)

P.S. we also have an air cleaner in the living area as well as bedroom

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Geneva, it sounds like an allergic reaction to me--perhaps to mold--especially since both you and your husband had problems.

You might want to ask this question of Michigan Jan (who sometimes visits here and also on the NDRF forum). She knows TONS about hvac systems, and went to great lengths to sanitize her system b/c of strong reactions to indoor pollutants and molds etc. She may be able to give you some advice.

By the way, with people with systems like ours, you're right--it's never "just allergies" ... but I do think allergies can tip a scale that's already in delicate balance and send us skidding down into the potshole.

I've been wanting to get hepa filters for my own home; you may want to investigate that too...

Best to you,


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Thanks everyone for your input. To answer a few of the questions, yes my husband changes the A/C filters every 3 months -- we used to do every 6 months when we first moved in 3 years ago when the house was new; we do have the carbon monoxide alarms and faithfully check the batteries. I even tested it when I first noticed the problem this week. My husband has checked the attic-- where the fan is located-- throughly for mold and can't find signs or any water leakage but we may have a professional come out.

I am hopeful, however, that the A/C technician will be able to pinpoint the problem when he comes out tomorrow and we won't have to look further. It is very warm and uncomfortable in our house tonight. I gave my husband an ice pack and personal fan and we are making do because I refuse to turn the units back on. I would rather deal with the heat intolerance than the other problems. He jokes that he is going to pitch the tent in the back yard tonight to sleep where it is cool!!!

Opus you mentioned the ducts being cleaned and I had thought of this but I have heard that it may be worse after having this done. I noticed you said only a few days so I guess that might be doable. A friend had it done and then had to fully clean everything where "stuff" fell out of the vents. That feels a little overwhelming to think about but maybe I will look into it and see what type services are available.

Also, I have heard mixed reviews on air purifiers to put in your room. Those of you who have ones do you find they work well? I know they can be pretty pricey but if they work it would be a good investment I suppose.

thanks again for all your ideas and support. I will let you know if we find out anything tomorrow.

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Guest tearose

I'll send you some cold snow if you send me some warm sunshine!

Also have the technician look at the freon levels in your a/c unit. That could have a leak.

We have a "whole house filter" on the a/c main unit and this helps too!

Good luck getting answers tomorrow.

Keep your cool...tearose

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One idea, remove the plate that covers the fan, check and see if there is any water there, also check around the unit, any cracks that could be letting in air the should be passing thru the filter could cause trouble.

If you have a wall mounted unit, remove the front and back covers and give them a through cleaning, and again check for any water, this should be done every few months as well

Hope you feel better soon.


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Guest tearose

Okay geneva, so what was the problem? Hope the technician was able to figure it out and had the parts on the truck!

Is it really that hot there?

There is a thread on a cooling vest somewhere in our past..

...can't even see the sun here today!

take care, tearose

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that is so weird that your post was at the top just now when i logged on, as i was just talking to my mom about the same thing!

this exact thing happened to me last year at this time.

i am soooo exhausted like you describe and feel like i can't hold my head up. this is 'different' feeling to me than my already bad potshole. this happens when i 1. have a med problem, 2. have allergies, 3. have an infection.

i was deducing allergies too. but it does send everything in to a storm.

we are not on a/c yet, but it is big time wet here...maybe mold here.

i am already taking allegra and singulair.

mom and i were just tossing around the idea of air filters...in room or whole house.

i know michigan jan is an expert (as merrill mentioned) and wish i could remember where she posted all her stuff...here or ndrf.

maybe she will see this thread.

others who have whole house filters or room filters...please pitch in!

we live in a house that is my age and probably kind of dirty! i was nervous about the duct cleaning too....

hope you feel better too. and thanks for the cards...i have to say...that was soooo clever and you had me completely fooled! i thought each card was from a different person until i opened them! are you a hallmark lady? with cards for every holiday? :blink:

allergies begone!


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Well, the news from here is yes, we really are still in the 80's and inside our house last night it was 77 so not so pleasant!! I do have a cool vest but made do last nite with the old fashion kind of fans.

The technician arrived this afternoon and listened carefully to what has been happening and with my husband looking over his shoulder and asking questions every step, he could find nothing wrong with the central A/C and heating units. They open everything up, checked the ducts etc but no answers. He seems equally puzzled and is going to speak with his boss on Monday and ask him to call if he has any other ideas. The biggest mystery is an occasional smell of "petroleum" from the problem unit because a roll of tape was accidently left (yes, can you believe it?) when the units were installed over 3 years ago. They found this last summer when I had to move out of the house in the middle of the night because the smell made me so sick.

In the meantime I spoke with an air quality company today who I got from our insurance co. and they are going to send someone out tomorrow with an air purifier unit -- I think ECO-Quest is the manufacturer and they will let us use it on a trial basis for 1 week to see if we think it helps. Also they'll set up a test to gather samples for bacteria, mold, mildew (if present).

If the purifier doesn't help, then we will bring in someone who can do all the air quality analysis tests. I hear this is very expensive so we are hoping that we find answers before then. I am too tired now to research Jan's messages but will do a search this weekend. Meanwhile, we are running the 1 unit and staying in the guest room....it's kind of fun to be a guest in your own home!!

thanks for your support and ideas.

P.S. yes, Emily I really am the hallmark girl!! I wanted you to look ahead and think good thoughts...so glad you are better.

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This is Michigan Jan. I am replying because I saw the references to my previous posts in this thread.

I am not sure if I can help because there are so many components in a HVAC system and it seems to me that you are already on the right track. I get an AC check every year before turning it on. Ours is central. Part of that check is cleaning the coils inside the plenum. Did you have this done when you had your inspection?

Awhile ago I was having trouble, too and was thinking of the duct cleaning. I did not do it--I decided it would stir up too much dust. And I was warned by sensitive friends who had it done to avoid at all costs the santizing process as it left odors.

However, I did clean inside each of the supply vents myself. The ones on my main floor go down only a few inches and then turn to join the main run across the ceiling of the basement. So I was able to reach to the "turn" area which is where stuff that falls into the supply vent collects. Then it blows around whenever the fan runs. I was amazed at what had fallen in there over the years. I did begin to have less symptoms after cleaning them out. If you do decide to stick you hand down a supply vent, be careful because there's all kinds of sharp things in there, including the pointy ends of the screws that go through the duct and sharp sheet metal edges, and sometimes I made contact with the edge of a baffle and that is sharp too.

Anyway, you did not mention a problem with the heat, only the AC. And I am assuming the supply ducts are the same.

Do you have your matress and box springs encased? I have mine encased in barrier encasings and my pillows, too. Every week the sheets, pillowcases, blanket and even the bedspread is washed in hot water. While I am washing them, I do a through dusting of the bedroom fro the top down. And I wear a mask while I do it.

This has also helped.

Please let us know what else you find out. You are on the right track.

Michigan Jan

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Michigan Jan, thanks so much for your reply and suggestions. I will ask my husband if the coils were checked. I did the technician check the heating function as well because in the last few weeks we have had times where 1 day the heat was on and the next the A/C. One thing we didn't do was change the filters BEFORE we turned the units on for the first time....will make a note to do that. We are going to start changing the filters every 3 months from now on and see if that will help.

I am glad to have your input on the duct cleaning. Our technician said he saw no evidence of needing to have it done at this time. I will see if my husband is willing to climb up the ladder and do the cleaning you suggest (I'm not too good on ladders!). We are going to hold off full duct cleaning because have told us it makes things worse for ahile.

About 6 months ago I started the hot water cleaning of mattress pads and sheets every week and dusting down the room. I don't do the bedspread however since it requires dry cleaning so I will have to think about that.

I am certainly continuing to learn more (than I might want to know) about central air conditioning and heating (LOL)

we ran the "good" unit last night and while I slept well, I have the fatigue this am although not as severe. We had a cold front come in overnight (68 degrees is a cold front for us) so I am hoping we won't need to run the A/C today or tomorrow.

Jan thanks again.

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Are your supply ducts up high? I was surprised to read that your husband would have to stand on a ladder. There are two kinds of vents--the returns that carry the air back to the HVAC unit and the supplies that carry the warm or cooled air into the rooms. If you change your filters and have good filters, then the return air should be cleaned before going back out to the supply vents.

I cleaned inside the supply vents, which in my case are in the floor. Food, dust, dead bugs, and other junk can fall into them in my case. And that dirt in the supply vents is not filtered out. It can just sit there and blow around.

Anyway, you want to clean the ones that blow the heated or cooled air into the rooms, not the ones that carry the old air back to the central unit.

Good luck

Michigan Jan

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Jan, thanks for the details. In our house the return and supply vents are all in the ceilings which are 10 feet high.

The new air purifier has been on for about 5 hours. It is called the Fresh Air model by ECOQUEST. I don't know ANYthing about the technology other than what the company provided which is it works off UVX lighting and something called Radiant Catalytic Ionization. What I am unsure about is the Ozone it releases into the air. The material states it is a low, safe amount similar to fresh outdoor ozone levels. The ozone has a smell (not bad) and you can turn that aspect off and it still works on the RCI aspects. Since it has been on we can both feel our stuffy noses open up so I guess that is a good sign.

I have asked the company to send us some information regarding the safety etc.

My husband is going to be our guinea pig tonight and go back to the bedroom and turn on the unit in question while running the air purifier....I shall remain safely on the other side of the house until the results are in (LOL)

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hey geneva...

how's that air thingie working????

after the discussion here and my symptoms being so bad...

mom cleaned the filters yesterday. she said 'i'm not even going to tell you how bad they were!'...so next time she is out for errands...time to get new ones!

it is raining, raining, raining here...so mold, mold, mold, i am sure!



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Hi Emily,

it is amazing how dirty those filters can get!! Ours were changed 6 months ago and were pretty dirty so we are going to start inspecting them at 3 months. Mold is what bothers me the most too and we have had a very raining winter so I know that has been a contributing factor to how I have felt.

I do think the air purifier is making a difference but wouldn't you know that the day we got it, we had a cool front and haven't needed either the heat or a/c!! But, we are headed back to the 80s the end of the week so it will get a real test. WIth the central heating/cooling off though I do NOT have that awful fatigue just my normal POTS wish-I-could-sleep-better-tiredness.

I have adjusted to the ozone smell by turning it on for short periods of time and letting my delicate system figure out that it is OK. Oh, how fun to do things the POTS-way (LOL).

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how are things with the house filter...

do you get consumer reports???

i wanted to post b/c i got it in the mail and they had an article on air purifiers.

they talked about how dangerous ozone emissions are...

and i was wondering how much ozone yours was putting out? and if it was still making you sick?????

i was soooo worried about you after i read it...

not wrtiing this to freak you out....it just really had me keyed up how these companies market these things as safe and they aren't!

i gotta hit the hay...


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Is this a window ac or central ac? I do believe you will see a difference when the filters are changed. Are you allergic to mold? I am so this is why i ask...if you shut the air off and do not use it for awhile all the mold spores dry up and sit waiting for the next bit of moisture to grow again. If the filters are not changed before the next use you will have mold spores hanging around. It is best to put new filters in every season used. If you can also clean off the air condition, if a window one, and if central air, make sure you have the filter changed and also duct work cleaned out as best you can. I agree with you, your flare sounds like the air conditioner helped it along.

Hope you get it figured out, i know I am no good in heat and humidity. By the way MN is almost snow free. Yea!!!

Best wishes,


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Emily, I just read what you wrote about the ozone dangers....yikes! I don't get consumer report so I will have to see if I can find someone around here who does. I had asked my yoga and massage therapist about the technology as they are very much naturalists and warn me about EVERYthing, but both of them said "no problem" and 1 of them has the same unit I do.

Wouldn't you know that after using for ten days we decided to buy the air purifier and I just paid for yesterday!! I can turn the ozone function to off and let only the UVX feature run. Of course, next month they will probably decide UVX is probably harmful too...what's a person to do?????????? I have not have any of the horrible fatigue but then again we are still sleeping in the guest room.

Brenda, yes, I do agree about the changing the filters frequently. I liked your explanation about the mold spores sitting around waiting for moisture. Perhaps that would explain why that unit always puts out a smell after a heavy rainfall. BTW, we have 2 separate central a/c systems and the other larger unit never has given us any problems.

EM, can you tell me the issue for CR? Is it MArch, April, or MAy? Thanks for the heads up!

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if you feel comfortable emailing me your address i could just mail you a copy of the article? forgive me if it arrives with no note or anything...just getting in the mail will be an accomplishment!

i will look next time i am up at the issue...we just got it in the mail like two days ago...probably is may?

i didn't want to freak you out...but i thought it was worth checking into...


it was mostly on room air purifiers...

do you know how much ozone your thing emits? the number??? you might want to check out the website www.cadr.org...

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