When it comes to allergies, Dr. Robert W. Eitches knows his business. After earning his degrees at Princeton and Upstate Medical College in Syracuse, Dr. Eitches went on to intern at Albert Einstein Medical College, and finished his education with a fellowship at UCLA. Since then, he has become a beloved and accomplished allergist in the Los Angeles area. He has been named Physician of the Year by the California Chapter of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, had his work published in prestigious academic journals, and been interviewed for his expertise in the field of allergies by local and national news programs alike. Rabbit Air was lucky enough to sit down with Dr. Eitches for an interview, where we picked his brain to find out what he thinks about air purifiers and allergies.
What would you recommend as far as a technology for an air purifier?
Dr. E: I think that an air filter should first of all be quiet enough that people would actually use it, because you can have the best air filter in the world but if no one’s going to use it, then that’s not good. It should have a HEPA-type air filter and that’s probably the most critical thing to have. Often, if there’s a carbon filter that’s good too. There should be a filter that should be disposable in a sense that there can be two parts: there can be one part like a pre-filter, that could be cleaned, but it should also have the main HEPA filter that will need to be replaced every year or so.
The advantage of some air filters are that they are sleek and they’re quiet, which is really actually much more critical than people realize. One problem is that the thing that people are allergic to is probably dust mites and that’s going to be inside the home. That’s where the air filter may play a good role. And even if you have a central air filter, it’s not cleaning the room itself. It’s maybe giving you clean air, but it’s not cleaning the room itself. So that’s why you really almost need a room unit.
Do you recommend HEPA-filtration over all other air purifier technologies?
Dr. E: Yes. As far as I’m concerned, HEPA filtration is the most beneficial and definitely my first and foremost recommendation.
In what situation would you prescribe using a HEPA air purifier over allergy shots or another remediation?
Dr. E: I don’t know if it’s fair to say “over” allergy shots or other forms of therapy but I think “in conjunction with.” It’s definitely something that can be beneficial to people who don’t like to use medication, who can’t necessarily come in for allergy shots, who live in apartments where they can’t get rid of their carpet, who has a spouse that has a feathered product that they can’t get rid of, or despite using medications or [trying] allergy shots, they’re still not completely controlled.
So it’s a way to essentially decrease your exposure to what you are allergic to. One drawback is that sometimes dust mites and dust mite particles are heavy so that even if you do have an air filter in the room the dust mites don’t get kicked up until you move about in the room so even if the room starts clean, it gets dirty.
Have you ever been informed by your patients that they have been completely relived of their allergy symptoms by solely using a HEPA air purifier?
Dr. E: I have definitely had patients where the HEPA air filter has made their life much better. I can’t use the word “completely relieved.” I can’t use that, but I can say that their life has been much better. They’re very happy. They’ve had the air filter. It’s made a big difference. They use less medication. They have less symptoms.
Do air purifiers help asthma patients as well?
Dr. E: It definitely can help asthma patients because asthma patients can be set off by dust mites and impurities in the air, smog, etc. A good air filter will filter out small particles that will make the asthmatic’s lung twitchy and go into respiratory symptoms, so they definitely have a function for the asthmatic patient.
Is there anything allergy patients should avoid when looking at purchasing a HEPA filtration air purifier?
Dr. E: Well, first of all I think that they shouldn’t get a filter that isn’t a HEPA air filter. I think that’s the golden standard these days. So if there’s an air filter that’s just a negative ion generator, I don’t think that’s good enough. If the air filter’s too small or doesn’t have a good enough filter, then that would not make it useful either. Sometimes the other side of the coin, that if it’s too large and it’s industrial strength, it may take up too much room or may make too much noise so it won’t be practical.
Are there any other features that you would recommend having on an air purifier, besides being HEPA-filtration?
Dr. E: I like the sensor on an air filter that determines how clean the air is. I like the ability for an air filter to go to a higher speed if there’s more dirt in the air, more pollutants in the air and goes down to a lower speed when the pollutants decrease. I like that feature on an air filter.
Is there anything else you would like to expand on as far as air purifiers being an alternative for asthma and allergy patients?
Dr. E: For me, air filters are only useful. I mean, there’s no downside to an air filter. It’s only a useful thing in the treatment of allergic conditions. You can’t cure allergies; you have to get them under good control. If you have dust mites, dogs, cats or even say indoor mold allergies, an air filter can make your life much better.
Is there anything that you would like to add about what you can do to make your home asthma and allergy friendly?
: The other good things you can do in addition would be to avoid feathered products in general, to encase your pillow and your mattress and to remove carpeting. And to make sure there is no smoking inside the house.