Is Your Air Conditioner Making You Sick?

Published on: 24/08/2021

As they make our lives more convenient, we shouldn’t neglect the maintenance of our air conditioning units. Because a poorly maintained air conditioning system — whether in your house, business, or vehicle, can become contaminated and even hazardous to our health.

With the pandemic prompting most of us to work from home or at least stay longer inside our houses, we all have learned different ways to deal with the situation. We might have even set up working and learning spaces to ensure productivity and make things a little more convenient.

In doing so, we might have also learned to depend on one more house equipment: our air conditioning unit. Clearly, even as the rainy days have started to arrive, the heat can sometimes still be unbearable. As such, the aircon still remains essential for most households.

But even with their importance, we might be overlooking the maintenance of these aircon units. Just because they continue to be functional, doesn’t mean that they are still within their optimal capacity. Keep in mind that as our air conditioner continues to run, its efficiency decreases with each passing day. Furthermore, when not cleaned properly, they can even pose threats to our health. 

Sicknesses Caused by Air Conditioners

Do you know how it feels when you switch on the air conditioner on a particularly hot day and you start sniffling, coughing, or sneezing? You may be thinking that you’re allergic to air conditioning. This isn’t likely the case — you may, however, be allergic to the kind of air circulated by your air conditioner.

Although air pollution is most typically associated with the outdoors, it can also be present indoors. The air conditioner might already be circulating toxins that are causing your problems. It's also possible that the issue is contained within the unit itself. 

If you start to feel sick when you turn on the air conditioning, several airborne allergens could be at fault. In some cases, bacteria and viruses are transferred by air conditioning units.

This type of biological contamination can trigger allergic reactions, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. According to Dr. Mark Mendell of the California Department of Public Health, contaminated air conditioners can cause worsened asthma and allergies, among other health problems. Meanwhile, Dr. Michelle Bell, an environmental health expert at Yale University, said that exposure to airborne pollution particles can increase your risk of hospitalization and early death due to cardiovascular conditions.

Other reactions to air contamination can include:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • fever
  • watery eyes
  • dizziness
  • tiredness
  • shortness of breath
  • digestive issues

The consequences of airborne pollutants are particularly severe in the elderly, children, and individuals who already have respiratory problems.

Addressing the Causes of Indoor Air Pollutants

To ensure that you are resolving the root of your symptoms and keeping the air in your home healthy, take note of the following: 

  • Replace your air filters as necessary. The most crucial task for ensuring your air conditioner's efficiency is to change or clean its filters on a regular basis.
  • Clean the aircon vents (intake and output). 
  • Take care to clean up any dust or debris that has accumulated around the outside air conditioning unit.
  • Keep an eye out for mold and make sure you get rid of it as soon as possible.
  • Have your air conditioning ducts cleaned by a professional.

Even if you only use your air conditioner rarely, it's important to get a professional cleaning done at least once a year. This allows for a thorough examination of all components, as well as the detection of any leaks. Being proactive in servicing your air conditioner may help you get the most out of it in terms of enjoyment and efficiency, with fewer unwanted surprises down the road.