What are the effects of air conditioning on lungs? Nobody wants to think that some of the things at home that bring them the most comfort or joy can actually be damaging to their health, but this is, unfortunately, true in a lot of cases. One that not many consider or think about is the effect that their air conditioning system might have on their lungs and overall health.
Air conditioning can be an amazing thing, especially if you have been outside all day working in the hot sun. It makes it possible to be comfortable when everything seems hot, sticky, and uncomfortable, and granted, air conditioning likely has more pros than cons, but similar to all things, excessive use of air conditioning can be harmful in certain ways. The impact is even greater when the air conditioning unit itself has been poorly maintained, as it impacts air quality in the home. Since this is the air that you breathe, it is no surprise that low-quality air can have damaging effects on your lungs, so what is it exactly about air conditioning that affects your body?
What Is Air Conditioning Lung?
There is such a thing called air conditioning lung, though it is more officially referred to as hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is an inflammation of the lungs associated with breathing in air contaminants that are commonly present in one’s air conditioning system and the air that gets circulated throughout the home.
For air conditioning lung to be severe, one usually has to expose him or herself to air contaminants consistently. Either you work in a place with contaminated air, or the air quality in your home is extremely low, and you spend a lot of time there. The contaminants associated with air conditioning lung include the following:
- Gaseous pollutants
These contaminants can be introduced to the home in a number of ways. Excessive moisture can cause mold particles to grow and spread, humid environments allow mold, mildew, and dust mites to thrive. Those who smoke indoors are filling the air with contaminants that get circulated by your air conditioning units. All of these things are factors in your air quality, and all of them can be worsened by your air conditioning system.
When Your Air Conditioning System Is Dirty
When your air conditioning system is dirty, the air coming into your air will likely be dirty as well, and this is the air that you have to breathe in all day long. Air conditioners get dirty when they do not get serviced or cleaned, when the air filters do not get changed, or when air contaminants from the home get circulated through the system.
The longer your air conditioning collects contaminants, debris, and pollutants, the lower quality of air you are going to get in your home, and this increases your risk of lung-related issues. Contaminants can be present in your air ducts, your air filters, and your system itself, so if you wish to improve air quality, you may want to consider investing in an HVAC service that evaluates your system’s condition.
Sitting in air-conditioned spaces for too long can also have negative effects on those with existing respiratory diseases such as asthma. Aside from the contaminants in the air, air conditioning is cool, and it makes the air dry, which can trigger asthma symptoms.
Cold is among the triggers for asthma symptoms, and sitting in air conditioning for too long can have adverse effects. For example, prolonged exposure can get those with asthma coughing, wheezing, and having shortness of breath that might have otherwise been avoided in different conditions. This can worsen the individual’s asthma situation and eventually result in lung infections if not addressed.
Though rare, prolonged exposure to air conditioning can also generate certain infections and respiratory issues, especially in conditions where the air is heavily contaminated. Certain bacteria may take up residence in your air conditioning system, eventually multiplying and getting released into the air. Even though these things are rare, those with existing conditions are at greater risk. You can eliminate the risk by keeping your air conditioning unit clean and well maintained.
Your air conditioners also create condensation that gathers in a drain pan, and if your drainage system is not effective, water can stick around and eventually start growing different molds and microorganisms. When these spread throughout the home, they can be inhaled and cause some serious problems.
General Breathing Problems
Air conditioning creates dryness that can affect your skin, your eyes, and your breathing, among other things. If you truly spend an excessive amount of time in the air conditioning, it may also create an intolerance to heat that reduces your ability to breathe when you transition to extremely warm areas. Otherwise, most of the lung-related issues associated with air conditioning revolve around cleanliness.
Generally speaking, low-quality air is unpleasant to breathe in, and it is also harmful. However, you may not even notice that the air you are breathing is bad, especially if you are used to it. In this case, you may think that your breathing is normal, but it may only be worsening over time.
How to Protect Yourself from Lung Issues
There are a couple of ways that you can keep yourself protected from lung-related issues associated with over exposure to air conditioning. One of the most important being limiting your time spent in an air conditioning space or, at least, raising the temperature in the home so things are not as cold. Other things that you can do include the following:
- Take steps to improve air quality in the home
- Make sure your AC units are clean and free of mold, mildew, water, and other contaminants
- Keep a clean air filter
- Get an air purifier
- Use air conditioning with moderation
There are also air purification systems that can be installed directly on your air conditioning unit, making it easier to maintain clean air and reduce the risk of lung-related issues associated with breathing in contaminants.