If you’ve ever had your nose running while sitting under the AC, you might have wondered: can you get sick from cold air conditioning?
Well, technically, cold air doesn’t make you sick. You must be exposed to germs, bacteria and viruses to get sick. Even though an air conditioner, by itself, can’t make you sick, studies have linked air conditioning to increased sickness due to such air quality concerns.
For example, one study found that people in air-conditioned offices were more likely to report having respiratory problems than people who work in an office without AC. Those in the air-conditioned buildings also had more sick days.
The reason is that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air indoors can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside! Considering that the average American spends more than 80% of their time indoors, this can create a problem for many of us. Poor indoor air quality can cause numerous flu-like symptoms and can actually leave us feeling ill if the conditions get bad enough. For this reason, it’s extremely important to have excellent indoor air quality to protect both you and your loved ones.
So how can you air conditioning make you sick?
SIGNS YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY IS POOR – AIR CONDITIONING SICKNESS SYMPTOMS
If your indoor air quality is poor, you and your loved ones could be experiencing some unpleasant side effects linked with AC sickness. While there are many signs that your air conditioner is producing poor indoor air quality, here are some red flags when it comes to symptoms of air conditioning sickness:
- Runny nose
- Sore, dry or scratchy throat
- Itchy, watery or irritated eyes
- Irritated skin
- Respiratory problems
Such air conditioner sickness symptoms are fairly common, especially when your air conditioning is too cold. There is a simple reason as to why your AC might be making you sick.
AIR CONDITIONERS EXPOSE YOU TO MORE GERMS
All homes have germs. Air conditioners are simply recirculating those germs throughout your home. All day. Every time they turn on.
And the more you’re exposed to sickness-causing germs, the more likely you’ll get AC sickness.
Still confused? Let’s look at a hypothetical example…
A tale of 2 homes
Say there are 2 homes, Home A and Home B. Home A has an air conditioner and Home B does not, but in every other way the 2 homes are identical. They both have some visible moisture problems in the bathroom. (Something several studies link to an increased risk of respiratory symptoms.)
The people in Home A are more likely to get sick than those in Home B. Why?
The air conditioner in Home A is running every hour or so. When the AC runs, it picks up the bacteria and mold spores from the bathroom and blows it throughout the home.
The circulation of air exposes the people inside Home A to germs that can make them sick. Without an AC, those in Home B are less likely to come in contact with the mold and bacteria.
Makes sense right?
Now there’s another factor of air conditioners that can make this problem even worse…
AN UNMAINTAINED AC BREEDS MORE GERMS
Mold spores and other bacteria breed when they have both moisture and food (dust, dirt). And your AC can easily contain both. Especially in these areas…
To cool your home, air is blown over the cold evaporator coils in your AC. As the air passes over the coils, the moisture in the air condenses and collects on the coils. And the moisture collects bacteria, dirt and dust from the air.
This creates a perfect environment for mold, mildew and bacteria to grow and then be blown back into your home’s air.
Drip pan and condensate drain
The moisture that collects on the evaporator coils is collected in the drip pan before being drained out of your home by the condensate drain. (This is usually a small pipe that goes outside your house.)
This drain line can leak or become clogged, causing the water to back up into your attic. Again, this creates a perfect breeding ground for sickness-causing germs like mold and mildew.
So should you just ditch your AC completely to avoid these problems? You could. But that’s not realistic (especially in Phoenix). Use these tips instead…
HOW TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF GERMS IN YOUR HOME
To keep your air conditioning system from getting your family sick, make sure you:
- Clean up any water damage immediately to prevent the growth of mold and mildew in your home
- Have a professional remove any signs of mold and mildew that already exist
- Turn on your bathroom fans when showering (this helps remove humidity and reduces the chance of mold/mildew from shower condensation)
- Get an AC tune-up every year (part of this service is cleaning the evaporator coils and making sure there’s no condensate drain line clog or leak)
- Consider an air cleaner
Have any other questions about your air conditioning or the air quality of your home? Contact us today. Performance AC has been keeping Florida homes safe, comfortable and energy efficient since 1959.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY
If your AC is making you sick, there are lots of things you can do to improve your indoor air quality and stay clear from air conditioning sickness. Here are some simple steps you can start taking right now:
- Change the filters: For starters, you’ll want to make sure your air filter is clean. Regularly replacing your air filter is an easy way you can ensure good indoor air quality year round.
- Check the ductwork: Be sure to check your ductwork regularly for leaks and gaps. Over time, holes can occur in the ductwork and cause unfiltered air to seep in and disperse throughout your home.
- Get a dehumidifier: Because Florida is known for being humid almost year round, a dehumidifier may help remove moisture and bacteria from the air in your home.
- Schedule a maintenance checkup: A maintenance checkup with the professionals at Performance will ensure that your AC is working as it should be.
If your air conditioner is making you sick, call the professionals at Performance today Our team of experienced technicians will quickly diagnose and assess any issues within your home that may be contributing to poor indoor air quality. To learn more about Performance and how we can help improve the indoor air quality in your home,
contact us today!