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Can Air Conditioning Make You Sick? And What You Can Do About It

Air conditioners can make you more comfortable on a hot day and can help you avoid overheating. However, in some cases, they can make you feel sick due to a condition sometimes known as “air conditioning sickness.” Homes and businesses with cooling systems can also have a higher risk of occupants experiencing sick building syndrome (SBS).

Are AC Units Safe?

It’s that time of year again, where the air is so hot and stifling that you crave the relief of walking into a cool, air-conditioned building or home. Your unit works well and keeps your house cool on the hottest days, so no worries right? WRONG.

Your air conditioning unit could be becoming a health hazard to you and your family. You wouldn’t drive your car for 50,000 miles without changing the oil. The same should apply to servicing your HVAC unit. The months of June, July, and August are going to be sweltering. According to weather.com, “There is a historically large amount of background global warmth around that will likely skew all temperatures towards the warmer side for the next few months.” As mentioned in our previous blog, the La Niña will be bringing extreme temperatures. Therefore, your HVAC system will be cranked all summer. The longevity and efficiency of your HVAC unit is determined by how often it is maintained. However, there are more dire effects that lack of maintenance could have: negative health effects on YOU and your family.

Can You Get Sick From Air Conditioning?

Air conditioning sickness is not a serious or dangerous condition for most people. In most cases, you will start to feel better if you get fresh air. This condition, which can cause feelings of being “stuffed up” as well as a feeling of weakness or common cold, is usually caused by mold, mildew, fungi, or bacteria.

Pollutants from your HVAC unit being generated throughout your home could create new illnesses or aggravate existing problems such as allergies, asthma, and sinusitis. Don’t let yourself and the people in your home become susceptible to worsening existing health problems.

A more serious effect of dirty HVAC filters is Legionnaire’s disease. The disease is not spread from person to person, but instead through the mist produced by HVAC units. It is a severe form of pneumonia. An infection in your lungs causes them become inflamed, hinder breathing, and cause a harsh cough. Why put your family at risk to something that is so easily prevented?

Sick building syndrome has been linked to poor indoor air quality. It can be caused by HVAC systems that blow around allergens or by inadequate ventilation. Symptoms can include headaches, itchy eyes, sneezing or wheezing, sore throat, gastrointestinal issues, and other problems.

Why Can It Make You Sick?

HVAC units work simply: they produce cool air and circulate it throughout your home. The hazards occur when the air being circulated throughout your home becomes contaminated, or the equipment in your unit becomes bacteria-ridden. How does this happen?

Lack of maintenance! Imagine a vacuum cleaner being used for months on end without emptying the canister. It becomes congested with dust and dirt, and works much less efficiently. Sometimes, the vacuum will even spit some of the dust and dirt back out onto your floors. The filters in your HVAC unit get clogged with dust and dirt similarly. These clogged filters result in polluted air being generated throughout your home. The filters should be changed every 30-90 days, depending on the style of the filter and the number of pets in your home. You can change these filters yourself, or contact a certified Shipley technician for assistance.

When your air conditioner is on, any mold, mildew, bacteria, and other allergens in the home get airborne. You can end up breathing this airborne matter in, and since the air conditioner can also dry out the air, it can irritate your nose and throat as well. If you’re indoors all day, eventually this can make you feel ill.

Worse, the condensation produced by HVAC units in the drain pan could cause mold and fungus to grow. As this fungus grows within your unit, its particles are being distributed in your home and yourself, your family, and your animals are being exposed. The mold could be making people in your household sick as it proliferates in the pan. Even if you don’t see the mold, if there is an odor it could still be there. The graphic below shows a severe case of mold growth in a unit.

How to Avoid Getting Sick From Your Air Conditioning

When you spend a lot of time in an air-conditioned space, you can often prevent feeling unwell with these tips:

  • Clean your home: Vacuum often, wipe down surfaces and keep your home free of allergens that can become airborne. Consider removing your shoes at the door as well to avoid tracking mold spores, bacteria, and debris inside.
  • Get serious about mold and mildew: Tackle excess moisture and any signs of mold or fungi in your home. Eliminate the root cause of mold and mildew.
  • Have your air conditioner maintained properly: Make sure your air conditioner is properly cleaned and has a new filter every few months. Professional maintenance work can also help uncover any mold or mildew in the unit or around the coils.
  • Take care of your health: Drink plenty of water to counteract the drying effect of the air conditioner. If it’s not too hot or polluted outside, you may also want to enjoy some fresh air each day, even if only for a short while.
  • Don’t lower the temperature too much: Keeping the air indoors too cold can cause excessive dryness in your home and irritation to your throat and nose. Turn the air conditioner to a comfortable temperature below the outdoor temperature.
  • Keep the air in your house clean and safe to breathe. Be aware of the importance of regular maintenance on your HVAC system, and schedule it! This includes filter changes, duct cleanings, and overall service by a technician. Don’t be a victim to your own home.

If you have any air conditioning sickness symptoms that are severe or seem to last, see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

If you need to have maintenance conducted on your air conditioning unit to help improve your home’s indoor air quality, contact Shipley Energy to speak to a professional. We can help you keep your air conditioner safe and healthy for your home.

Get in Touch to Breathe Your Best Air Today!

Get in Touch to Breathe Your Best Air Today!

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