How does air conditioning affect my health?

air conditioner
air conditioner

air conditioner

On a scorching day, a cool blast from the air conditioner feels glorious. But there’s a catch. If the AC isn’t well-maintained, then the breeze could carry germs too. 

Unlike heating systems, the process of cooling hot air creates lots of moisture and condensation, which must be filtered out. If it isn’t filtered properly by the AC thanks to inadequate maintenance for example, the units may become infested with bacteria and fungi. 

Health hazards

Mould growth

When air is cooled inside an air conditioner, moisture is created and it’s the machine’s job to get rid of the excess moisture through a vent. If the ventilation system isn’t working properly, or if you don’t empty the water pan, it becomes the perfect breeding space for mould. Mould can set off health problems as it circulates in the air. Watch for symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and eye and skin irritation. 

Fluctuations in temperature

The human body is usually easily able to adapt to changes in the temperature. This means that moving from being outdoors to air-conditioned indoors isn’t much of a problem. If you have a health condition like diabetes though, adjusting to different temperatures can be difficult. 

Low humidity

Air conditioners reduce the humidity inside your home by absorbing moisture from the air. Although this is helpful during sweaty days, it can be hazardous too. Low humidity could contribute to the risk of health problems like sinus, congestion and inflammation. 

Nippy air

Yes, the point of an AC is to cool you down but if you run it too cold, it ups the risk for viruses like colds and flu. These viruses thrive in low humidity and cold environments. What’s more: extremely cold temperatures enable the arteries in your skin to constrict to protect your body from losing heat. This makes it difficult for blood to flow and particularly, white blood cells which protect your body from illnesses. Long-term shivering is also a risk as consistently being in a cold environment results in extreme shivering. This leaves you with sore muscles, fatigue and headaches.

Heat intolerance

Have you ever noticed that it can feel uncomfortable being outside after sitting in an air-conditioned office all day? If the weird feeling escalates to discomfort, it may be heat intolerance. It causes symptoms like dizziness, headaches and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, heat intolerance can cause a heat stroke.

Keep cool and safe

  • Clean or replace the unit filters regularly. Keep up to date with the manufacturer’s timelines.
  • Have a technician check your air conditioner once a year.
  • Turn the AC down or off when no-one’s home.This helps minimise harmful particles from circulating in the air.
  • Fresh air is important to reduce harmful indoor pollutants. Open your windows and turn off the air conditioning at least once a day to ventilate your home. 


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
34% - 9260 votes
66% - 17814 votes