When the summer’s heat starts, homeowners are undeniably happy to have their AC to keep themselves and their families cool. However, the cold, dry air of the AC can easily go from invigorating and refreshing to making you feel ill. Sometimes, the air conditioning is set so low (especially in public offices and stores) that you start feeling a bit sick: sore throat, runny nose, shivers, or coughing. While there are a lot of positive sides to air conditioning, when set to a temperature that’s too low or not properly maintained, your AC can actually cause problems that are not worth the cool air during a warm summer.
Are people working in offices with AC more prone to illness?
Many individuals find that after a day of work, they often feel more tired than usual, headachy, and a general sense of illness. They also find that once they leave the place with AC, the symptoms often resolve. Sometimes termed “sick building syndrome,” it may be that air conditioning is the cause. People working in office buildings with central air conditioning often have more symptoms of illness than those who don’t have central AC in their office buildings. This is also true for your home’s air conditioner. However, cold air doesn’t make you sick, you must be exposed to germs, bacteria and viruses to get sick. An air conditioner, by itself, can’t make you sick; even though studies have linked ACs to increased sickness. To avoid “sick building syndrome,” the temperature needs to be raised slightly; just enough so that you’re not shivering. If that’s not an option, say in an office or a public space; make sure to take regular breaks to step outside for fresh air and for your body temperature to equilibrate.
Why are there bacteria in your AC?
When air conditioners are not cleaned thoroughly and filters changed, a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and fungi is created. These systems especially can be home to black mold, as moisture can build up in the coils and ducts from condensation that forms when the cool air passes through. As mold spores and other bacteria breed when they have both moisture and food (dust, dirt), and your AC can easily contain both, it’s not uncommon to find them is the evaporator coils or drip pan and condensate drain. When these microorganisms go air-borne, they can lead to a multitude of breathing problems, including a potentially fatal infectious pneumonia or Legionnaire’s disease, caused by bacteria. Make sure your air conditioning systems are cleaned regularly and the filter changed every few months.
How is your AC exposing you to more germs?
All homes have germs. Air conditioners are simply recirculating those germs throughout your home; all day, every time they turn on. The more you get exposed to those germs, the more likely you are to get sick. The reason why people who have air conditioning at home might be more exposed to germs is that with AC, the air gets circulated throughout the house. If two houses have mold in the bathroom, the one with AC will pull the air from the bathroom (with its germs) and circulate it everywhere else in the house; while in the house without AC, the contaminated air remains more or less contained to the bathroom. An AC makes it so that if there are germs somewhere in your house, you’ll be breathing that air wherever you are in the house. This constant exposure is what makes it more likely for people with AC to get sick!
So, does this mean that you should completely forgo your AC? No. Not only is that not realistic during the Arizona summer, it’s also not necessary. To keep your family safe, healthy, and still comfortable, you should simply make sure to clean up any water damage immediately to prevent the growth of mold and mildew in your home; have a professional remove any signs of mold and mildew that already exist; turn on your bathroom fans when showering (this helps remove humidity and reduces the chance of mold/mildew from shower condensation); and get an AC tune-up every year!