What’s the first thing you crave for on a hot summer day? A refreshing drink or a cool atmosphere!!!!! You must have opted for the cool atmosphere like the majority of the people. The air conditioner is the best invention which relieves us from raging temperature. It was a luxury in initial days but now you can find air conditioning at most of the places such as offices, schools, bus, car, tube trains etc. and has become an integral part of our daily routine (whether you want it or not) which gives you relief from heat but its constant use can be harmful to health. Let’s see how it can affect our health and how can we prevent the health risks but before that just check out some of its features.
Benefits of air conditioning
- lower down the temperature which reduces perspiration and thus prevent dehydration
- its filters can remove the allergens like pollens and gives you clean air
- if it is properly maintained then it can purify the air and improve its quality
- cold temperature prevent the growth of insects and parasites
- it improves comfort level and job performance
- Health risks associated with air conditioning
Air contamination –
A poorly maintained air conditioner can become inefficient in filtering the allergens or circulating the air properly which can contaminate the air and causes nasal problems, itchy eyes, headaches, dizziness or difficulty breathing. If you will avoid the symptoms and keep on living in such a contaminated atmosphere then your condition can get worse with each passing day.
Respiratory problems –
When the air conditioner is not maintained properly, it can harbor all kinds of bacteria and fungi. For instance, black mold can grow in the coils and ducts due to the condensation process. When these microorganisms contaminate the air inside the room then it can cause breathing problems such as fatal infectious pneumonia, Legionnaire’s disease, caused by the bacterium Legionella pneumophila. The cold air dries out the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract which makes the upper respiratory tract more prone to bacterial infection and can cause chronic rhinitis, pharyngitis, throat irritation, and hoarseness.
Skin problems –
Air conditioning removes the water content of air or humidity and therefore it greatly affects the skin of exposed part of your body like face, neck, hands, and legs. This happens because cold air constantly also removes the moisture of the epidermis which results into flaking, dry and chapped skin. It is the moisture content of the skin which keeps it fresh, elastic and glowing and when this moisture is removed the skin starts shriveling and becomes more prone to creases and wrinkles. Air conditioning can cause early aging and make your skin dull.
Eye and ear infection –
Poor air conditioning can spread eye infection such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis. It can also cause irritation in eyes especially to those people who used to wear contact lenses. The molds in contaminated air can accumulate in the folds of ears and thus causing infection. It can lead to dryness or ear and bleeding in some cases. Less efficient air conditioners often make noises which can cause a headache and damage your hearing.
Heat intolerance –
Habit of living in air conditioning can reduce your heat tolerance limit means you cannot stand in warm places for long. If you have a job which require you to step in and out of the air conditioned environment on frequent basis then it can be shocking for your body. This sudden shift from low temperature to high temperature can cause stress in the body. You may feel exhausted from outdoor heat and experience dizziness, headache, difficulty in breathing and even heat stroke.
Fatigue, headache and general illness – many people complain about having headache, fatigue and sore body when they are working in air-conditioned atmosphere and these symptoms reduce considerably once they step out of such environment. This condition is commonly known as”sick building syndrome” and it is generally caused by air conditioning.
Weight issues – the use of air conditioning has made the lifestyle more sedentary as the user doesn’t want to step outside in the sun. In short, air conditioning has reversed our seasonal biorhythm. For example, our body is naturally present to go outside and stay active in summer days but due to air conditioning, we avoid going outside and thus start putting on weight which further becomes the reason of lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Precautions to be taken in air conditioned environment
- You can’t turn off the AC at your office but you can do that at your home. Try to live without it until it is necessary such as summer days.
- Use less soap and water to your exposed skin which can further dry it. You should moisturize your skin by applying moisturizing lotion to your face, neck, hands, elbows, knees and wherever necessary.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. Although, you won’t feel much thirsty in an air conditioned environment still try to sip water at regular intervals.
- You can place a bowl of water in the air conditioned room because the AC will dry out the water from the bowl first instead of your skin.
- Make sure the air conditioners are cleaned regularly and its filters are changed on every few month time. Clean or replace the unit filters as per the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Have a yearly maintenance check by HVAC technician
- Keep the temperature settings between 21 to 25 degrees Celsius and try to maintain an average humidity percentage ranging from 60 – 70.
- Make sure that your place has a proper ventilation system to bring fresh air inside and throw stale air outside. Turn off the air conditioner and open all the doors and windows for some period of time to allow natural air circulation in the room.
- Ask for a professional installation of air cleaner on the central heating and air conditioning unit.
- Turn off the system when you are stepping outside and nobody is at home as this will save your electricity bill and prevent circulation of contaminated air (if exists any).
- Carry or wear a light jacket while traveling in an air condition bus or entering into a building as it will protect your body from extreme temperature changes.