Can an Air Purifier Cause a Sore Throat?

So, air purification is an important topic. 

Depending on where you live, it might even be important to your longevity. However, can air purifiers cause a sore throat?

The answer is, “That depends”.

If you go on Quora or any other online Q&A forums, you’ll find many people asking this exact question. 

It’s not uncommon for people to experience a sore throat, among other systems, and for their air purifier to look like the most likely culprit.

Reported Adverse Effects of Air Purifier Exposure

The anecdotal evidence that air purifiers make people sick is abundant. 

Many people complain of headaches and sore throats, alongside less common complaints of other issues.

The reality is that some types of air purifiers can cause harm.

Air Ionizers

According to the Mayo Clinic, some air purifiers can cause adverse effects. 

Specifically, air ionizer purifiers have been shown to produce several health problems:

  • Coughing
  • Throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Increased risk of respiratory infections

However, these effects are only reported from the use of ozone inhalation. Air ionizer air purifiers produce ozone to mask indoor odors. 

When inhaled, ozone can irritate the lungs, producing adverse effects, particularly in those with asthma.

Ozone is a naturally occurring gas important to Earth’s upper atmosphere. 

However, at ground level, it doesn’t produce a helpful result in terms of air pollution. In fact, at ground level, ozone is classified as an air pollutant.

Air ionizers release small amounts of ozone, but prolonged exposure, even to small amounts, can be irritating to the lungs. 

Air ionizers are not a healthy response to poor air quality. 

They are, however, proven to produce harmful gas.

When inhaled, ozone can cause multiple problems:

  • Throat soreness
  • Throat irritation
  • Lung irritation
  • Coughing

These occurrences are so common that ozone is probably the reason if you’ve heard rumors of air purifiers causing a sore throat or other problems.

How Much Ozone is Too Much?

Ozone in any amount won’t have a positive effect on your respiration. But the amount officially considered “dangerous” depends on the relevant regulatory bodies in your locality.

In California, the safety standard for ozone is that the air purifier should not produce more than 70 parts per billion during 8 hours.

Like many other localities’ regulations, California’s regulations are very specific.

There is no universal standard as to how much ozone is harmful.

Do All Air Purifiers Cause Respiratory Problems?

Actually, only some types of air purifiers aggravate the problems they are supposed to solve.

Some types of air purifiers work as intended and filter harmful elements out of the air. 

The most effective air filters you can use for this purpose are HEPA filter-based air purifiers.

HEPA Air Purifiers

High-Efficiency Particulate Air Delivery (HEPA) filters are also “mechanical filters.” 

They are the best option if you aim to remove the vast majority of pollutants 0.3 micrometers in size. 

In practice, that means that HEPA air purifiers will effectively filter out:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Other allergens and pollutants

Of course, removing harmful pollutants and allergens from the air doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t experience discomfort.

Overall, certified HEPA air purifiers, when operating normally, are incredibly safe.

Can HEPA Air Purifiers Cause A Sore Throat?

HEPA air purifiers operating as intended will not cause a sore throat.

To ensure the air purifier is “operating as intended,” you must read the manual and maintain the air purifier as instructed.

The only case where a HEPA air purifier will not work or cause problems is when you do not use them for a long time.

When an air purifier is unused for an extended period, sometimes bacteria will form on the filter. 

Mold can also develop, leading to more direct and painful distress. 

Then, once you turn the purifier on, these germs will be released into the air and inhaled by everyone.

Despite the concern, this may cause you, the good news is that these problems are easily avoidable in HEPA air purifiers. 

You need to do a few things to make sure this doesn’t happen:

  • Change your air filter regularly, as instructed by the manufacturer
  • If you aren’t going to use your air purifier for a long time, remove the filter and store it safely

If you can follow those steps, a HEPA filter is almost sure to work as intended and improve your air quality.

What About Other Types of Air Purifiers?

We’ve already gone over the least harmful and most effective air purifiers. But there are a few other types:

  • Ultraviolet
  • Activated carbon (most use HEPA filters)
  • Electronic air cleaners (most use HEPA filters)
  • Air-to-air exchangers

Overall, no other type of air purifier is proven to cause any of the problems that air ionizers do. 

This is especially true of any kind that uses a HEPA filter.

What is the Difference Between a HEPA Purifier and a HEPA Filter?

“True HEPA” air purifiers meet the Department of Energy’s HEPA standards. They are superior to alternatives that use HEPA filters.

A HEPA filter is a pleated mechanical filter that meets the air quality measures set by the US Department of Energy. 

They are defined by their ability to capture 99.97% of airborne particles sized 0.3 microns. However, a “HEPA-type filter” only needs to remove 99% of such particles. These are known as the most penetrating particle size (MPPS). 

That means that they are capable of removing the following:

  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Mold
  • Any other airborne particles


Only a few kinds of air purifiers cause sore throats when misused. 

Most other air purifiers won’t cause sore throats or any other symptoms unless they aren’t properly maintained.

If you’re worried about the harmful effects air purifiers can cause, you should avoid ozone-emitting devices. 

True HEPA air purifiers are the most healthy and effective of all air purifiers. 

They should not cause any adverse health effects when appropriately maintained.