Air conditioning and its effect on health

Air conditioning and its effect on health

How pleasant it is to escape from the sweltering heat to a well-tempered department store or switch on a cooling fan in the car while others have sweaty shirts sticking to their backs – air conditioning can make life easier not only in summer. But they are not without problems.  As pleasant as the cool air is on a hot summer’s day, the discomfort caused by the air from an air conditioner can be just as unpleasant.

Health disadvantage of air conditioning

Many people who are regularly exposed to air conditioning in the office, for example, complain about impairments: too much draft, too much cold, mucous membranes that are too dry. As a result, more illnesses occur, primarily  colds , problems with the bronchial tubes and sinuses and increased susceptibility to infections. Irritated skin and mucous membranes,  headaches  and  concentration problems  are also attributed to the air-conditioned air.

And reports keep circulating that air conditioning systems also mutate into killers if they are not properly maintained: Legionnaires’ disease in particular, which is caused by  legionella  , can lead to severe, potentially fatal  pneumonia  .

The air conditioner stinks? Cleaning helps.

Microorganisms such as bacteria and  fungi  lead an unnoticed and undisturbed life of their own in the filters and pipes of the air conditioning systems. They collect and multiply and are thrown directly into the human organism with the air flow. Mold fungi are particularly happy when there is high humidity. High humidity is caused, among other things, by condensation when hot air cools. Air conditioning systems must be professionally serviced at least once a year – technical and hygienic defects can only be remedied in good time through such air conditioning system maintenance.

Air conditioning makes you sick

Even if the air conditioning system is optimally maintained, it can have disadvantages: with outside temperatures of 30 or 40 degrees Celsius and high humidity, everyone  sweats . In the air-conditioned and therefore cool office, restaurant or hotel room, it is easy to catch a cold – the abrupt change between high and low temperatures stresses the  immune system  and weakens the immune cells. The sweat suddenly cools down, the dry air also irritates the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract – many types of viruses have an easy job and the stiff neck is not long in coming. In addition, the cardiovascular system is also heavily loaded.

In order to avoid abrupt temperature fluctuations, especially in hot summer, air conditioning systems should not be set too cool – the temperature difference between inside and outside should not be more than 6 °C. If necessary, keep a jacket handy, even in summer. American researchers have discovered that air conditioning makes you fat. What sounds like an April Fool’s joke is justified as follows: In indoor rooms that are always the same and at a pleasant temperature, you sweat and shiver less – and therefore use less energy.

Air conditioning also blocked the natural summer diet mechanism, especially in summer, with which the heat causes our appetite to decrease.

Regularly maintain air conditioners in cars

Air conditioning is becoming more and more standard in cars: when a car quickly heats up to 50 degrees and more in the sun, you are not only grateful for your own cooling, but also that you can transport your fresh  groceries  home unharmed. But be careful if it smells musty. What applies to offices should also be considered in the microcosm of the car: the interior air filter, through which the air from the air conditioning system is also blown, should be changed about once a year so that pathogens and pollen cannot spread in the car.

The main problem here is the evaporator in the dashboard. This is where the condensate that automatically occurs during cooling is collected and evaporated. The microorganisms feel particularly comfortable in the humid environment. Evaporators need to be cleaned and ideally disinfected. In the car, a temperature of 23 to 27 degrees and humidity of 35 to 65 percent is ideal for driving.

Dry air on the plane

The air in aircraft is particularly dry, and many passengers suffer from irritated eyes, especially on long journeys. This affects first class passengers in particular: Since the passengers here do not sit quite as close together, they also moisten the air less when exhaling. While the humidity in Economy Class is around 16%, in Business Class it is only around 10% – values ​​between 40 and 60% are comfortable. At a flight altitude of ten kilometers, the outside air is very dry at around minus 52 degrees. Before it gets into the cabin, the fresh air is warmed up – but humidifying it with air conditioning systems is not practical:

A jumbo jet would also have to carry a ton of water to have a noticeable effect. And that costs fuel. In addition, condensation could interfere with the electrical systems. It is therefore advisable to drink plenty of water or  juice  (no alcohol!) and put artificial tears in your eyes if necessary. Depending on the type of aircraft, the air inside the aircraft is exchanged an average of 30 times per hour. However, part of the used air is not transported outside, but blown back into the machine after special treatment via filters. Here, too, germs, especially viruses, can spread in the interior of the aircraft.

However, the risk of contracting an infection in this way is low. However, problems can arise in immunocompromised patients. If in doubt, a doctor should be consulted. Organ transplant recipients should plan a flight with particular care.


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