Health risks of air conditioning

In most parts of the world, summer seems to be typically hot and humid. The extreme heat could have a negative impact on the physical health of our body. The use of an air conditioner can save us from dry heat.

The air conditioner is a system or a machine in which warm air is removed from the enclosed area and replaced with cooler air. It uses chemicals that convert from gas to liquid and back again quickly. The most commonly used AC refrigerants are Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC’s) i.e. Freon (R 22) and R 402A for domestic and commercial air conditioning systems. Nowadays, Hydro Fluro Carbons (HFC’s) i.e. R-32 and R-410A, are used in most of the systems.

Apart from adding ozone depletion and having an adverse effect on global warming, the regular use of the air conditioning system is quite hazardous to human health. This write-up is focusing on the long-term health risks of air conditioning systems when our dependency increases on them.

Possible health risks

  1. Regular use of air conditioner may lose the moisture which further leads to dry and stretched skin. The constant dryness of skin further affects the inner layer of the skin and appears flaky and feels itchy.
  2. Temperature difference. From very cold to hot or hot to very cold temperatures can make people uncomfortable. A sudden shift from two extreme temperatures or climates is very irritating and stressful for the body. The continuous use of air conditioning environment may cause the inability to deal with heat. Many of us found it intolerant when moving from an air-conditioned room to a sweltering outdoor air. It may also lead to an increased heat-related death during heat waves in summers.
  3. If the unit is not maintained properly, it can become contaminated and potentially harmful. It becomes home for many other bacteria and fungi also. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the water in air conditioning units if not maintained regularly, can contain a type of bacteria called Legionella which may further lead to Legionnaires disease like high fever and pneumonia.
  4. Even the change in temperature or humidity can irritate the nasal membranes which put a running nose or rhinitis or nasal congestion.
  5. Throat congestions also may experience if the person is more prone to allergies and the room is not clean. Sore throat results of dry air in the air-conditioned room.
  6. Dryness of eyes, itching, eye-strain could be the results of continuous use of air conditioner for the long term. AC reduces the humidity and may cause evaporative dry eyes.
  7. Generally, it has been observed that people with continuous use of AC’s, may experience headaches, backaches, and fatigue. Cold temperature stimulates the trigeminal nerve, causing the brain’s blood vessels to constrict and thus create a headache.
  8. Sometimes, lungs may also have a problem with breathing cooled air. Many-a-times, we keep AC’s ventilators off for the economic purpose. Moreover, this is harmful to the lungs and overall health as it blows away stale air.
  9. According to a study published in 2013, the air conditioner is found to be one of the main reasons for the adversely affect and increased arthritis and joint pain in both Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis patients.
  10. Blood pressure is generally higher in cold weather than in warm or hot, because low temperatures cause your blood vessels to narrow. A sudden change in temperature or humidity also affects blood pressure. According to a study published in the Central African Journal of Medicine, the mean systolic blood pressure was higher when exposed to air conditioning an hour. Similarly, diastolic blood pressure was also higher than the normal temperature. Though the study also mentioned that the differences were not significant, but the results suggest that the study of the effect of AC on blood pressure and pulse in older or hypertensive subjects is necessary. The person with cardiovascular illness must avoid such extreme climate fluctuations.

The said health risks of an air conditioner are possible when used heavily and with very low temperatures. If excluded, there are many benefits to the use of an air conditioner like it improves comfort and leisure, reduces the risk of dehydration and less sweating and also improves air quality if the unit properly maintained. It is advisable to keep the room temperature between 21 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Happiness is…air conditioning on a hot summer day!!


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