Working in an office building often means wearing a sweater or jacket indoors during the summer months because air conditioning makes it feel like winter. Many of us endure cold toes, arms, and legs while it is blazing hot outside.
In many places, having A/C is a luxury and we don’t take it for granted, but breathing in that cold office air can sometimes leave you feeling miserable. The same thing can happen at home. While scientists are still trying to pinpoint if, how, and why air conditioning units can make people ill, there are a few theories floating around.
When looking into what’s deemed as “sick building syndrome,” they found a series of symptoms linked to sitting in an air-conditioned environment all day. Not all were sinus-related. Below are a few signs that your air conditioner could be adversely affecting your health.
The most obvious issue is the inhaling of cold air. Do you get a runny nose or suddenly become congested? Cold, dry air tends to set off a reflex in the nasal passages, causing your nose to produce mucus.
You may notice that congestion or runniness comes and goes during the winter when you walk between cold and warm rooms – or indoor to outdoor. It’s the same effect as air conditioners.
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Sometimes, the congestion doesn’t go away and morphs into an infection. To make it worse, cold A/C temps can also dry out the nasal lining, leaving you more susceptible to viruses, allergens and other sources of illness.
Some health experts also count what’s in the air as the possible culprit of air conditioning woes. Systems are designed to filter out dust mites, mold, fungi, and other microbes, but if it’s dirty or is harboring too much condensation, those same germs will spread throughout your home or office.
Besides sinus issues, you may also experience headaches. When the air conditioner kicks in, it creates cold and humid conditions, which may dry the air out to the point that you are dehydrated. Combined with hot summer temperatures outside, it could be zapping the fluid out of you.
Be sure that you are taking in enough water during the day, whether you spend time outdoors or not. If you are extra sensitive to low humidity, use a humidifier along with your A/C.
Additionally, if it’s too cool, you could have a flare-up in the trigeminal nerve in your head, leading to a headache. Lower the temp.
Constantly in air-conditioned surroundings? You could be setting your body up for chronic fatigue. As your body is burning up energy trying to warm itself up, it can make you tired. You need fresh air and a break from the cold so your internal thermometer can do its job. The cold also makes your muscles stiff, which in turn can affect your energy.
Lowered humidity in the air can cause dry or cracked skin, and for some, dermatitis or acne. Keep a moisturizer on hand if you’re at work, and go outside to get some fresh air. And, stay hydrated!
You don’t have to switch your unit off, but if you’ve noticed you’re picking up a bug or two at work or home, make adjustments to protect yourself. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere where the thermostat can be touched, ask to raise the temperature a few degrees.
Do you suffer from sick building syndrome? Does air conditioning set off your allergies or other sinus problems? Are any of the issues mentioned a shock to you?