Air conditioning systems are almost a must for those who live and work in areas with extreme temperatures. Nonetheless, air conditioning systems require periodic maintenance services in order to make sure that the air is clean and healthy, otherwise you may experience severe health problems. Here is a brief overview of the most common health dangers associated with dirty air conditioning systems, and how you can prevent them:
By Sancho85 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
1. Asthma And Bronchitis
As you may know already, air conditioning systems use filters to deliver fresh air, but if these filters are not replaced on a regular basis they will accumulate dust, spores, bacteria, debris and other particulates that will enter your home and increase the risk for various respiratory conditions, especially asthma and bronchitis.
Fortunately, you can easily prevent these health issues by simply cleaning the filters by yourself or having them replaced by a professional. The best case scenario would be to clean the air filters on a monthly basis, but if you do not have the time or resources to do it, then you must do it at least once every three months, just before each season starts. A garden hose is usually the best choice for filter cleaning: make sure to clean it on both sides and then let it dry, and this is certainly the cost-effective and time-effective alternative to filter replacement.
2. It Can Dry Your Skin And Mucous Membranes
Although dry skin is not necessarily a health concern, it is certainly very unpleasant from an aesthetic point of view. It is a known fact that using the air conditioning for a prolonged period of time can dry your skin as well as your mucous membranes, which makes your skin more prone to cracks, especially during the cold season when the weather is already very aggressive.
Having said that, it is important to take two notable safety precautions: firstly, you need to moisturize your skin on a daily basis, as this will prevent the dry air from dehydrating your body. Secondly, it is recommended to use a special humidifier or if you do not have any, then simply use water: fill a bowl with water and leave it in a corner where it does not bother you. On the other hand, you should also increase your water intake (drink at least eight 8-oz glasses of water per day) and try to reduce your caffeine intake, as caffeine is known to rob your body of moisture.
3. Air Conditioning Units Can Increase The Risk For Allergies
If you have an allergy to dust or any other particulates, then you should know that air conditioning carries both fungi and airborne dust, which are known to increase the risk for allergies.
While medicines can certainly help with your allergies, it is very important to treat the cause rather than the symptoms – in this case, the air conditioning. If you are allergic to pollen especially, make sure to close all the windows and doors when you use the HVAC system. Also, add an extra filter to the air conditioning vents: you can use high-efficiency particulate air filters that you can easily find at almost any convenience store.
4. It Can Worsen Certain Eye Conditions
If you suffer from blepharitis, conjunctivitis or dry eyes, then air conditioning can worsen these eye conditions even more – this aspect is particularly dangerous for those who wear contact lens, as their eyes can get easily irritated due to dust and debris. Poor hygiene of the air conditioning unit (which is linked to the proliferation of fungi, bacteria and even viruses) is known to cause eye inflammation and infection.
There are several ways in which you can prevent these conditions triggered by air conditioning: for instance, you should increase your water intake and eat more fish oil, fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins (especially Vitamin E and Vitamin A) and you should also use eye drops to prevent or treat mild redness, itchiness or inflammation, as well as to stimulate the tear production.
5. Other Potential Health Dangers
In addition to the health problems mentioned above, poor hygiene of the air conditioning has also been linked to sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, pharyngitis, hoarseness and chronic irritation of the throat. To lower the risk for these conditions, all you need to do is to remove the allergens and prevent dust accumulation and mold growth by thoroughly cleaning the air conditioning and the heating system – not only the filters, but also the air ducts.