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Air Conditioners: Health Benefits and Risks Associated

Air Conditioners: Health Benefits and Risks Associated
Air conditioners not only help keep the temperature of a room or an entire building at a constant level, but also improve indoor air quality and reduce episodes of asthma and allergies. However, if not maintained and cleaned properly, they can pose some potential health risks as well.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Did You Know?
Air conditioners add to ambient or background noise and thus contribute to noise pollution.
Today, air conditioners have become an indispensable home appliance to beat the scorching heat of summer. They can not only make those hot, miserable summer months pleasant, but can also improve the quality of indoor air.

Basically, air conditioners can change the temperature of air to provide a comfortable environment in all seasons. However, they do pose some health risks, especially when they are not maintained and cleaned properly. On the other hand, properly maintained air conditioners can offer several health benefits. Let's discover more about the health benefits and risks of air conditioners in this HomeQuicks article.
Health Benefits of Air Conditioners
Protects Against Heatstroke and Dehydration
Excessive heat can cause heat strokes, where the body fails to regulate its temperature. If not treated immediately, it can damage the brain and other vital organs. Air conditioners can help prevent the occurrence of heat strokes by lowering the temperature of the air.
Man with electric fan
Dehydration is another problem associated with exposure to excessive heat. Profuse sweating due to high temperatures can cause dehydration, if the lost water is not replenished. Air conditioners can minimize the risk of dehydration by reducing sweating and the consequent loss of water.
Increases Productivity
By making the hot summer days bearable, air conditioners can help reduce heat-related fatigue and stress, which can go a long way in increasing productivity. Extreme heat can have a negative effect on both physical activity and intellect. Air conditioners can increase performance by providing a cool and comfortable work environment. Further, they can help you sleep comfortably and thus avoid fatigue and other problems associated with sleeplessness.
Improves Air Quality
Air conditioners help improve indoor air quality significantly. They can filter dust, pollen, and other environmental allergens, and check the growth of mold and mildew by reducing the level of humidity. In areas where air quality is poor, air conditioners can create a cleaner and healthier atmosphere.
Helps Reduce Asthma and Allergies
Air conditioners filter and disinfect the air we breathe. They can help reduce episodes of asthma and allergies by removing dust and pollen, and inhibiting the growth of mold and mildew. Exposure to mold is one of the most important factors that can increase the risk of allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory problems. While using air conditioners we keep our windows closed, which helps prevent the entry of dust, bacteria, and environmental allergens. This can be beneficial for people who are suffering from environmental allergies.
Risks Associated with Air Conditioners
Skin Dryness
Dry skin
Spending long hours in an air-conditioned environment can cause dryness and irritation of the mucous membrane. The skin can also lose its natural moisture in such an environment and become dry and sensitive.
Exacerbation of Respiratory Diseases
It has been observed that a sudden change in temperature and humidity can aggravate the symptoms of some respiratory diseases. This problem can be avoided to a great extent by setting your thermostat to a higher temperature and then gradually decreasing it to a comfortable level.
Allergies and Respiratory Tract Infections
Runny Nose
Excessive exposure to cold air from air conditioners can cause sinus problems, a runny nose, a sore throat, and other flu-like symptoms. Some air conditioners cannot humidify the air, which can cause the air to become very dry. Such dry air can cause irritation of the lining of the mouth and nose.
Sometimes, the air filters can become dirty, if the air conditioners are not cleaned regularly. Such dirty air filters can harbor dust, pollen, and bacteria, and recirculate them in the building. This can increase the incidence of respiratory tract infections, besides creating problems for allergy and asthma patients.
Sick-building Syndrome
Headache
'Sick-building syndrome' is more commonly observed in buildings that use air conditioning systems, but do not have proper ventilation. In such buildings, people often experience symptoms like breathing difficulties, irritation of the skin and mucous membrane, headache, and excessive tiredness or fatigue, which are collectively referred to as 'sick-building syndrome'. It is believed that this peculiar syndrome may be caused by the mold and other harmful microorganisms that accumulate in the air conditioning systems and then circulate in the air we breathe.
Legionnaires' Disease
Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by the bacteria legionella pneumophila. One of the major health concerns associated with air conditioners is that the warm water found in central air conditioning systems (especially those in hotels and hospitals) can harbor this bacteria. The most common symptoms of Legionnaires' disease are cough, body aches, high fever and chills, fatigue, and headache. If not treated on time, Legionnaires' disease can lead to life-threatening complications.
Weight Gain
Overweight Man
This may sound a little weird, but a study conducted by biostatisticians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham observed that air conditioners can contribute to weight gain. According to this study, when we use air conditioners to keep the temperature of our home at a constant level, our body no longer needs to expend energy or burn calories to adjust to the changing temperature of the environment. This in turn can cause weight gain.
Not So Environment-friendly
Most air conditioners use freon or CFC, which is known to cause ozone layer depletion. However, new-generation air conditioners are known to emit less greenhouse-gases, and so have a reduced impact on the climate.
The only way to reduce the risks associated with air conditioners is to clean them at regular intervals. The dirty filters of air conditioners can spread dust and trapped microorganisms in the air. In addition to the filter, the drip pans and the cooling coils can also harbor germs and pollutants. So, be sure to keep these parts of your air conditioner clean. In general, portable air conditioners are easy to clean and maintain than expensive air conditioning systems. Air conditioning systems with hidden ducts and inaccessible areas require professional cleaning at regular intervals, in order to minimize the risks associated with their use.