With temperatures soaring into triple digits, air conditioning can feel like a blessing. However, while A/C provides respite from the oppressive heat, experts warn that there’s a dark side to its benefits. According to Payless Power, 87% of US homes have air conditioning, 75% of which are central units. These can have both positive and negative health effects.
Here are some of the pros and cons of air conditioning:
- Dehydration. According to WebMD, air conditioners remove moisture from a room to bring down the humidity and cool the area. This can also pull water from your skin, drying YOU out. Your eyes may also suffer, becoming irritated and itchy.
- Sick building syndrome. If you work in an air-conditioned building with poor ventilation, you may suffer symptoms of headaches, nausea, dry cough, dizziness, trouble concentrating, fatigue and sensitivity to odors. Forced air can also increase your risk for COVID-19 infection. Regular filter changes and opening windows can reduce that risk, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “A large body of research has found that occupants of offices with air conditioning tend to report more sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms than occupants of naturally ventilated offices,” said William Fisk, leader of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Indoor Environmental Group.
- Reduces the risk of hospitalization and death due to cardiovascular disease. A study by Yale researchers found that the use of air conditioning lowers the risk for hospitalization and deaths related to cardiovascular issues.
- Lowers the risk for heat stroke and heat-related death during heat waves. Fisk points out that with climate change we are experiencing higher and more dangerous temperatures. Air conditioning helps prevent unnecessary heat-related deaths. A properly maintained A/C unit also filters out particles from the circulated air. “With A/C and closed windows, indoor concentrations of outdoor air pollutants such as particles, ozone and allergens are decreased,” he said.
- Boosts metabolism. Studies show that more time spent in cold weather could help you lose weight by burning more “brown fat.” Air conditioning in hot weather can help keep you in that cool, fat-burning state.
- Helps improve cognitive skills. A 2018 Harvard study showed that students who lived in dorms without A/C during hot weather months did worse on cognitive tests than those who had cool central air, says WebMD.
- Irritates Airways. Studies have found that people who work in air-conditioned buildings report more upper respiratory symptoms such as irritated nasal passages and trouble breathing than those who work in buildings with natural ventilation.
- Helps you sleep. Experts say that sleeping in a room that is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for best rest. A cool room helps your body cool down, which is part of a natural sleep cycle
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