Many Canadian’s rely on air conditioners to get them through the summer comfortably. The combination of heat and humidity can make some days unbearable without it. Yet, few have stopped to think about what air conditioning does to our health and to our bodies. Air conditioning can have both a positive and negative effects on our health and much of it depends on how often we are in an air-conditioned environment and how clean the air condition or HVAC system is.
Air conditioning in a poorly ventilated building can increase your risk of getting “sick building syndrome”. Symptoms include headaches, dry cough, dizziness and nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and sensitivity to odors. Keeping the air conditioner clean with regular filter changes and opening windows to allow for fresh air will help minimize the chances of getting sick.
Air conditions can also enhance allergy symptoms. An unclean, poorly maintained HVAC system can become a home to microbial allergens. However, a clean and well-maintained system can actually ease up on your allergies by filtering out particles that often cause allergies.
We often notice our skin getting dry in the cold winter months but the same thing can happen in the summer in an air-conditioned environment. The AC sucks the moisture out of the room or building which is great for keeping the humidity low but not so great for your skin. It’s not only your skin that can get dried out, your eyes might also be effected, leaving them irritated, itchy, and experiencing blurred vision.
People who tend to spend most of their day in air conditioning tend to have more respiratory problems than those who limit their exposure to AC. These respiratory problems could include irritated nasal passages, and trouble breathing.
Living in an air-conditioned world makes people less tolerant to the heat. Your body gets use to the temperature that you are most exposed to making the hot outside temperature feel hotter and less bearable.
On a positive side, being in the cooler air can help boost your metabolism and may help you to lose weight. Your body may develop a greater amount of energy burning “brown fat” if exposed to a colder environment for longer periods of time (of course to get the full benefit of this you will need to keep the temperature down in the winter months as well).
The colder air can also help your brain. Living in a more comfortable, cooler environment on the hot weather will help you think better.
A nice cool air-conditioned room with minimal humidity can certainly help you get a good night sleep. As part of your sleep cycle, your body cools down and sleeping in a cool room encourages that, resulting in a better sleep and possibly getting to sleep sooner.
During a heat wave, air conditioning could be the difference between life and death for some people. It can minimize the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Not all air conditioners are equal in quality. Older models of air conditioners release CFC’s (chlorofluorocarbons) that harm the ozone and heat up the earth. If you rely on an air conditioner to get through the summer, make sure it is a newer unit that is energy efficient, and safer for the environment and for you.