6 Signs That Your Air Conditioner Could Be Making You Sick
1. Breathing or Respiratory Problems
When air conditioners aren’t cleaned thoroughly and the filters aren’t changed often, they become a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and fungi. In especially bad cases this can result in black mold, as moisture can build up in the coils and ducts from condensation that forms when the cool air passes through. When these microorganisms go air-borne, they can lead to a multitude of breathing problems, including a potentially fatal infectious pneumonia, or even Legionnaires’ disease which is caused by the Legionella pneumophila bacteria.
Solution: You can prevent this easily by taking the time to make sure your air conditioning systems are cleaned regularly and that the filter is changed every few months.
2. Watching for Mold
Living or working near an old and moldy air conditioner can increase your chances of respiratory infection. Mold has also been know to cause symptoms like: throat irritation, wheezing, and congestion. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, it may be time you checked out your surroundings for mold. Check inside the vents of your air conditioning unit for small spots, and pull out the filter for inspection.
Solution: The best and most effective way to destroy mold is with a mixture of 1 qt. water and 1/2 cup bleach. Be sure to scrub down the spots of mold with a sponge and use protective gloves. If the filter has moldy spots on it, then replace it with a fresh one.
3. Fatigue, Headaches, and Fatigue
Many individuals find that after a day of work they tend to feel more tired than usual, some have headaches, and some a general sense of weariness. Those same people will also find that once they leave the building, the symptoms often resolve. Chances are that it may be something in the building, such as the air conditioner. In a study published in the Aug. 19, 2004 International Journal of Epidemiology, people working in office buildings with central air conditioning had more symptoms of illness than those who did not work in buildings with central air.
Solution: By simply raising the temperature, just so that you are not shivering, and by taking regular breaks to step outside for fresh air you should be able to avoid the fatigue of “sick building syndrome”.
4. Contamination and Germs
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that we may be exposed to more pollutants inside than outside. One cause of this could be because of central air conditioning circulating old stagnant air, rather than bringing in fresh air from outside. Meaning that if there is mold, dust, animal dander, viruses or air-borne infections floating about then individuals are more likely to be exposed and get sick.
Solution: Some central air conditioning systems are built with this in mind and allow a “leak” from the outside. This can also be managed by creating your own leak by cracking open a window.
5. Dry or Flakey Skin
Spending lots of time in an air-conditioned environment can cause your skin to dry out. The cold, dry air has been known to cause your skin to lose moisture, which results in dry flaky skin. The same can be said for your hair and scalp, as they may suffer some ill effects as well.
Solution: An easy solution to this is to get a moisturizer or cream, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
6. Visiting the Doctor Frequently
Studies have shown that individuals who spend more time in an air-conditioned environment have an increased use of health care services. An analysis found that there was an increase in complaints related to ears-nose-and-throat problems, respiratory issues, and dermatological problems.
Solution: Follow all of the other steps above, and take the time to ensure that the facility and air conditioner is clean.