Are Ceiling Fans Bad for Allergies? It Could Be Ruining Your Sleep

Photo: Stocksy / Carli Teteris
Night sweaters know all too well that sleeping with a ceiling fan running is essential, especially now that the weather is warming up but it's not yet hot enough to blast the air conditioning. But that fan could be stirring up more than cool air. Are ceiling fans bad for allergies? John McKeon, MD, CEO of Allergy Standards, says ceiling fans alone aren't the issue.

"It's not it's not directly related to the fan," says Dr. McKeon. "The issue is keeping the surfaces in your room reduced from allergens."

It's impossible to keep your home completely dust-free, but if you suffer from a severe dust allergy, the Cleveland Clinic says it's best to keep ceiling fans off. The National Sleep Foundation says it's common for those with seasonal allergies to report trouble sleeping. And studies have shown that seasonal allergies can contribute to snoring, sleep disorders, and lower quality sleep. But, if you can't let go of your nighttime breeze, Dr. McKeon explains that there are some steps you can take to lessen the impact of ceiling fans on your allergies.

Think about all the dust that collects in your room. Every time you sit on a dusty chair or mattress, or walk on a dusty carpet, "those allergens can get airborne and then they'll get mixed by the fan," says Dr. McKeon. The same goes for dust that's sitting on hard surfaces like tables and dressers.

Clean surfaces aren't the only thing to consider. You'll also want to consider how much dust has collected on your fan. "Because [ceiling fans] are, well, on the ceiling, they're quite inaccessible. It's out of sight, out of mind—people often forget to clean the top of them," says Dr. McKeon. "So over time, dust mite allergens and other household allergens can build up on top of the ceiling fan blades. And then when you turn it on, that dust then get distributed."

Dr. McKeon says the best way to clean them is with a damp cloth, like the Guardsman Dusting Cloth ($13), which is certified asthma and allergy friendly by Allergy Standards. If you use a dry cloth or a feather duster, you're likely just move the elements onto your pillow, onto your bed, or whatever is beneath the fan, he says.

There isn't any research to suggest that ceiling fans move dust around in the air any more than standing fans, regardless of which direction your ceiling fan is rotating. While it's easier for ceiling fans to collect dust (ahem, gravity), you should also make sure you're also regularly dusting standing fans.

"You can get a collection on the back of the blades and behind the device, so therefore it's important to clean it," he says. This information also applies to portable air purifiers and through-the-window air conditioners. "There's always a buildup of dust around the grills," he says. Be sure to dust these regularly, and check the manufacturer's instructions for how to clean the filters.

If you sleep with a fan on notice that you often wake up feeling stuffy, it's time to get dusting. The last thing you need is your ceiling fan ruining your sleep.

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