The air is getting colder as we approach winter and the holiday season, so the obvious move is to switch on the heat. As the house warms up and you start getting more comfortable on the couch, the last thing you want to do is start sneezing, coughing, and blowing your nose. Unfortunately, for many homeowners, these symptoms are all too common when your heating system starts running. But, why is that happening? You may not want to hear this, but it is possible your heater could be the culprit.

In general, people do not usually start blaming the heater or furnace when they start feeling under-the-weather, especially in the colder seasons. Usually, it's "that bug going around" or any of the usual suspects for illnesses, but that may not actually be the case.

Can Your Furnace Make You Sick? 

Yes. In fact, many of the symptoms of seasonal illnesses are mimicked by the body's reaction to breathing in allergens (even if you are not prone to allergies) and sitting in hot, dry conditions. The low humidity common in winter paired with the heat from your furnace can dry out the air, while dusty and dirty vents, ducts, and filters, and mold, fungi, and mildew growth can all contribute to illness or the general feeling of illness. 

Here are a few symptoms of "heater sickness" and their causes: 

  • Sore Throat & Coughing: Dry air plus bacteria from your air vents can dry out your throat and nasal passages. 
  • Itchy Nose & Sneezing: You can be breathing in the dust, pollen, mold, and other allergens that surged into your air ducts during spring, summer, and fall. These particulates can cause nasal irritation and sinus congestion.
  • Headaches: These are frequently caused by breathing in fungi, mold, and dust and the smells they produce. Malfunctioning furnaces can also leak small amounts of carbon monoxide, which can have a similar effect.  
  • Itchy and/or Watery Eyes: Another allergic reaction from dry air and dust. 
  • General Discomfort: If your heating system is on the fritz, it could heat some rooms better than others, causing alternating warm and cold conditions. The dryness caused by the heat can also make you feel dehydrated. 

What Can I Do to Avoid This Problem?

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, and you have cranked up the heat recently, there is a high possibility that you are dealing with "heater sickness." So, what can you do to make yourself feel better and prevent this from happening? Watch the video below to find out: 

If your heater is causing you grief, call the professionals at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® of Bucks County for a furnace inspection in Richboro, or any number of heat pump services in Montgomery County, PA.