There’s no doubt that having access to air conditioning in the sweltering hot season as temperatures surge is a welcome thing. When it comes to enduring some of the hottest days of summer, flipping on the air conditioner for a few minutes (or hours) can bring a massive dose of relief. But as much as we love our air conditioners — and we do — there are actually some ways your air conditioner could be making you sick.
Just to be clear, your AC is probably doing a lot more good than harm: cooler temps help us sleep during the dog days of summer, and for those of us with allergies or asthma, an AC can help filter out some of those pesky particles. But at the same time, as a slew of recent articles has noted, keeping it artificially cool can have an impact on your health, from a fan’s drying abilities to the possibility of spreading mold and dust around. As Mic reported, “poorly maintained units with dirt or grime could cause infection or illnesses,” for one example — so make sure you’re keeping that AC squeaky clean. Here are a few ways your AC could be making you sick, and how to deal with them.
1You’ve got grimy filters
Because air conditioners circulate old air without pulling any fresh air into the mix, keeping those filters clean is super key to avoiding illness. According to the Huffington Post, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that dust, mold, animal dander, and viruses can all get circulated via your AC, so making sure your unit is cleaned and those filters are switched out every few months — or at least every season — is important, in addition to keeping the unit itself free of dust or grime.
2Your temp is set too low
The Huffington Post also suggests that according to a study published in a 2004 International Journal of Epidemiology, air conditioning may lead to health problems in some people. While the study’s authors note that the research is not entirely conclusive, there is evidence that keeping your AC unit free of dirt and molds, and also keeping the temp up a bit warmer than you’d think, can help keep the air clean and your body temperature regulated — so you can avoid the AC-induced respiratory issues, fatigue, and headaches that some folks experience.
3Your nasal passages get too dry
According to sinus expert Dr. Garrett Bennett, dried out sinuses from blasting the AC can lead to an aggravation of respiratory issues like sinus infections, bronchitis, and nosebleeds. If you notice that your skin is drying out, and your nasal passages and sinuses are irritated, you might need to shut off the AC for a bit. You can also invest in a simple room humidifier to help balance the air moisture out.
4You never shut it off
If you keep your AC on blast to the point that your apartment is a frozen tundra from June to August, you may be messing with your body’s ability to handle high temps — making the hot weather even less bearable over time. According to New York Magazine, our over-reliance on air conditioners may mean we tolerate the hot weather less over time, since we don’t have to acclimate to it. So it’s not a bad idea to shut off the AC from time to time, save a bit of energy, and give your body temperature a chance to regulate itself a bit.
5You Never Open Your Windows
This one may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook: Shutting the AC off and opening your windows can help circulate old, stagnant, and bacteria and virus-ridden air out — while letting some much-needed fresh air in. Fresh air, according to the Huffington Post, can help boost your immune system along with other benefits, so it could be worth shutting off that AC for a bit.
That being said, remember that you can still definitely enjoy your air conditioner as summer temperatures continue to climb. Knowing the potential AC-related side effects, however, can help you avoid any potential health pitfalls along the way.