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Breathe Easy: Your Guide to Beating Air Conditioning Sickness

Breathe Easy: Your Guide to Beating Air Conditioning Sickness


As the mercury rises, our reliance on air conditioning to keep our homes and offices comfortable does too. But have you ever flipped the switch only to find yourself feeling worse, not better? You're not alone. This phenomenon, often called "air conditioning sickness," might be the culprit. Let's dive into what it is, the symptoms to watch for, the toxic causes behind it, and most importantly, how you can prevent it.

What Is Air Conditioning Sickness?

Air conditioning sickness occurs when individuals experience health issues that can be directly linked to spending time in air-conditioned environments. It's not the cooling itself that's to blame but what's being circulated in that cool air. From unseen mold spores to a cocktail of other allergens, your AC might be doing more than just keeping the heat at bay – it could be spreading irritants throughout your space.

Symptoms to Look Out For

The signs of air conditioning sickness can often mimic those of a common cold or allergies, making it tricky to pinpoint. Key symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Respiratory issues
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

If you notice these symptoms worsening indoors or shortly after the AC kicks in, it might be time to investigate your air quality.

Toxic Causes Behind the Chill

Several culprits behind air conditioning sickness lurk within our homes and offices, including:

  • Mold and Mildew: These fungi love damp, dark places, like certain parts of your HVAC system. When your AC is on, spores can be spread throughout your space.
  • Pollen: Especially prevalent in spring, pollen can enter your home and be recirculated by your AC, triggering allergies.
  • Pet Dander: Those with pets might find that AC spreads dander more widely throughout their living space, exacerbating allergies.
  • Dust Mites: These tiny pests thrive in warm, humid environments and can be blown around by your air conditioning.
  • Pollution: Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air, with ACs circulating these harmful pollutants.
  • Viruses and Bacteria: Microorganisms can spread through air currents, increasing the risk of respiratory infections.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Emitted by everyday items, VOCs can cause respiratory issues and allergies when circulated by ACs.

The Hidden Hazard: ACs and Mold Illness

While air conditioners are essential for beating the heat, they can also be a hidden source of mold, leading to toxic mold illness or even Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Mold thrives in the damp environments ACs can create, leading to symptoms that can become chronic in nature. If you suspect you have mold illness or CIRS, taking steps to identify and eliminate mold is crucial.

Turning the Tide: Tips to Prevent Air Conditioning Sickness

Thankfully, there are straightforward steps you can take to prevent air conditioning sickness:

  1. Change Your Filter Regularly: Opt for appropriate MERV-rated filters for you furnace and replace them according to this schedule for the best air quality:
    • Monthly: Best Practice
    • Every Other Month: Better
    • Quarterly: Good
    • Yearly: Not Recommended
  2. Control Humidity: Keep it below 50% to inhibit mold and dust mite growth. A dehumidifier or smart AC settings can help.
  3. Invest in Air Purification: Air purifiers with HEPA filters can remove the smallest particles from your air.
  4. Get Professional HVAC Check-Ups: An expert can spot and mitigate hidden mold growth or other issues in your system.
  5. Deep Clean Your HVAC: Ensure your entire system, especially the ducts, is clean to prevent mold and mildew buildup.
  6. Regular Laundry: Hot water washes for your bedding and linens can reduce allergens that settle on fabrics.
  7. Dust and Vacuum Regularly: Keep dust and toxins from becoming airborne with regular cleaning.

Feeling unsure or suspect a mold issue? Take My Mold Quiz Today to see if your symptoms might be related to mold exposure. Understanding your symptoms is the first step toward a healthier environment.

By taking these steps, you're not just improving your air quality; you're safeguarding your health and well-being against the hidden dangers of air conditioning sickness. Let's make our indoor spaces safe havens for relaxation and comfort, free from the worry of what's lurking in the air.

  1. Ganji V, Kalpana M, Madhusudhan U, John NA, Taranikanti M. Impact of Air Conditioners on Sick Building Syndrome, Sickness Absenteeism, and Lung Functions. Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2023 Jan-Mar;27(1):26-30. doi: 10.4103/ijoem.ijoem_23_22. Epub 2023 Mar 31. PMID: 37303987; PMCID: PMC10257240.
  2. Mark J Mendell, Commentary: Air conditioning as a risk for increased use of health services, International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 33, Issue 5, October 2004, Pages 1123–1126,

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