When it comes to changing the atmosphere around us, air conditioning is one of the more powerful mechanical developments we have in our holster.
Maintained properly and installed correctly, AC units have the ability to completely change our surroundings in order to appeal to our needs and provide exterior comfort that is tailored and unique.
Whilst the benefits of air conditioning are clear, the side effects are not so widely discussed, which is why we want to make sure as many people as possible are fully educated on these systems which we surround ourselves with.
Here are 8 side effects of air conditioning you didn’t know:
1. Respiratory Problems
Any drastic change in temperature or humidity will play havoc with our respiratory system and the changes we put our bodies through when going from extreme heat outside to a cool supermarket / car / office, can cause some real problems.
Due to the air circulation in environments of this nature, you may also be making your body more susceptible to respiratory infections and other problems such as pharyngitis or throat infections.
There is proof that people who spend more time in air conditioned environments are more likely to suffer from symptoms effecting the nose and throat, from nasal blockages to the more severe problems such as rhinitis.
Some research that was conducted explained that 35% of people in air-conditioned spaces had nasal blockage, opposed to 9% in naturally ventilated buildings (1).
But how does this happen?
Removing the humidity from your environment, creates a dryer environment, which in turn dries out the protective mucus in your nasal passages which can cause irritation, making you more susceptible to viruses.
2. Eye Problems
It’s not just our airways that can become irritated by air conditioning. It has been known to make some eye conditions deteriorate faster, particularly in blepharitis and conjunctivitis. It has also been noted that those wearing contact lenses can suffer more.
This is due to the drier environment causing eyes to dry out and become itchy and irritated. An issue known as ‘dry eye’ can also be worsened by spending long periods of time in an air-conditioned space. This uncomfortable condition causes symptoms such as burning, stinging and blurred vision.
3. Air Conditioning Causes Dehydration
Another effect of the air conditioning’s ability to suck humidity out of a room is that it can leave you feeling too cold to feel thirsty.
If we forget to drink, we become dehydrated and there is a direct correspondence between air conditioning rooms and dehydration levels.
4. Air Conditioner Can Give You a Headache
As mentioned above, dehydration is a common side effect of air conditioning. A symptom of dehydration can be headaches and is also a trigger for migraines, but this is not the only way you may end up with a sore head in this kind of environment.
If the air quality emanating from the air conditioning unit is of a poor quality, those in the vicinity will become more susceptible to headaches.
5. Air Conditioning Makes You Feel Lethargic
Very commonly, you will hear people singing the praises of air conditioning, claiming it has made users feel fresher and more awake and therefore more productive (particularly in work environments). However, this is not always the case.
Research indicates that this artificial environment makes people three times more likely to complain about feeling sluggish or tired than in spaces which are naturally ventilated (2).
6. Keep Your Skin Fresh From Office Air Conditioning
When the weather changes our skin often struggles to adjust. In the cold winters or hot summers you may have noticed your skin going through dry patches.
Summer can be one of the most difficult times for your skin, with an increase in UV exposure and with us being more likely to whack the AC up, you can be left with really difficult to manage skin problems and dryness.
If you work in an environment which has AC, always remember to keep a good quality moisturiser in your drawer!
7. Allergens and Fungi
Unsurprisingly, air conditioning is the perfect breeding ground for illness but it is also perfect for spreading allergens and fungi too!
It is very common that people with asthma struggle more in any air conditioning environment and during hay fever season, pollens and air pollutants are passed through the system, worsening sufferers symptoms.
8. Noise Pollution
Finally, a side effect you may not have considered before (but now you won’t stop hearing it!) is the noise the AC makes.
If you turn it off you may be greeted by an eerie silence, had you forgotten what it sounds like.
In warmer climates, some people may never hear true silence if they go from a home with AC to a car with AC to an office with AC!
Have you ever stopped to consider the effect this may have on our environment via noise pollution?
So What Does This Mean?
Are we saying you shouldn’t use air conditioning? No. Of course, in an ideal world, natural and green alternatives are always better for both our health and our environment.
However, in this day and age where our exterior environment is changing faster than ever, it is important we maintain efficient and comfortable lifestyles that can adjust with the times.
How Can You Limit These AC Side Effects Then?
Due to the nature of these air conditioning side effects, the key is to keep systems clean and well maintained. Ensuring spaces have adequate ventilation (and are installed with room to be maintained) is the first step to a healthy environment.
If you’re reading this and wondering about investing (or not) in air conditioning, don’t let us put you off. Just ensure you start as you mean to go on.
Professional AC installation and maintenance may be a cost, but they’re also integral to ensure you systems are working properly and efficiently.
Finally, come the warmer months, try to avoid any drastic changes in your environments. That’s to say, keep humidity at an average of 60-70% and temperatures between 21 and 25 oC (69-77 °F) and you will find you come across a lot fewer side effects.
A common mistake can be in summer that we get into our car from the heat outside and put the air conditioning onto the coolest setting possible.
However, being sensible in these scenarios will allow your body to do what it does best and naturally adjust, rather than shock the system!
Go forth and keep cool this summer, but bear these tips in mind to avoid any unwanted bugs or illnesses.
1. Robertson, A. S., P. S. Burge, A. Hedge, J. Sims, F. S. Gill, M. Finnegan, C. A. Pickering, and G. Dalton. “Comparison of health problems related to work and environmental measurements in two office buildings with different ventilation systems.” Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 291, no. 6492 (1985): 373-376.
2. Mendell, Mark J., and Allan H. Smith. “Consistent pattern of elevated symptoms in air-conditioned office buildings: a reanalysis of epidemiologic studies.” American journal of public health 80, no. 10 (1990): 1193-1199.