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Why Do My Kids Wake Up With Congestion?

Dealing with nighttime nasal congestion is a frustrating experience, especially when it’s impacting your kids. Constantly waking up with a stuffy nose could be caused by several issues, such as dirty HVAC ducts, allergens, poor ventilation or other irritants. Read on to learn more about why your kids wake up congested in your Alexandria, Virginia, home.

Dirty HVAC Ducts

When your home’s HVAC system runs, it pulls air through the registers and moves it into the furnace or air conditioner for heating or cooling. From there, the air moves through the system’s ducts and re-circulates through the rooms to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. If the ducts clog with dirt, dust and other debris, the air can collect these contaminants and distribute them throughout the space.

Regular air duct cleaning is the best way to manage this common problem and keep contaminants out of your indoor air. An HVAC professional will perform this task, removing all the buildup from the inside of your ducts. This service can also help improve HVAC efficiency. As a result, you can save money on your monthly bills.

It’s helpful to change your air filter every one to two months to prevent contaminants from moving into the ducts. Does anyone in your home suffer from allergies or asthma? Use an air filter with a higher MERV rating that can remove smaller particles for a healthier atmosphere.

Allergens in the Air

During the spring and fall seasons, it’s always tempting to leave your windows open to enjoy the fresh air. Allergen levels are at all-time highs during these seasons, resulting in an influx of pollen and other potential contaminants coming into your home and settling on your surfaces. As the HVAC system moves the air, it’ll re-circulate these allergens, often causing allergy flare-ups at night. Common allergic symptoms include congestion, sore throats, headaches and eye irritation.

If your kids are waking up with these symptoms, keep your windows closed. Use your HVAC system to promote ventilation and airflow. Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week. Vacuum with a HEPA-rated filtration system to remove allergens from the bedrooms.

Poor Ventilation

Poor ventilation can cause congestion because you’re constantly breathing re-circulated air. It’s not always easy to know when your HVAC system is struggling with ventilation. Although, one of the most common warning signs is stale, stinky air. You may also notice an increase in allergy symptoms when the air in your home is stagnant.

One way to combat this common problem is to have your HVAC system tuned up twice a year. A service technician will perform routine maintenance on the air conditioning system in the spring and heating system during the fall. During maintenance, the service technician will:

  • Inspect all components to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Test the system for airflow and cooling or heating capabilities.
  • Check the refrigerant or fuel levels.

Regular tune-ups can ensure that the air is flowing and ventilating correctly for a clean, healthy indoor atmosphere. Additionally, routine maintenance can extend the lifespan of your HVAC system and improve efficiency, which will lessen your monthly costs.


Congestion and other symptoms can also be the result of irritants in the air. Some of the most common external irritants include tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust. If anyone in the home smokes indoors, the tobacco smoke will move into the HVAC system and re-circulate when it’s running. Car exhaust and outdoor pollution can also come inside when you have the windows open.

Cold or Flu

Of course, a stuffy nose is also a symptom of the common cold and flu viruses. So if your children also experience fevers, body aches, chills and other side effects, your indoor air may not be the culprit. When they’re waking up without any other symptoms and the congestion seems to disappear when they leave the house, schedule an air duct cleaning, HVAC tune-up, or another service to improve the quality of the air.

At Brennan’s Heating & Air Conditioning, we offer a variety of indoor air quality solutions. Contact us at 703-783-0145 today to learn more about how to keep your kids from feeling congested.

Image provided by Shutterstock

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