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May 2010
How Cool Is Your AC?
Dr Alok Agrawal
Once a luxury, the air conditioner has now become more of a necessity. From homes to offices and malls to cars, the air conditioner has now become ubiquitous. So much so that we tend not to even consider the fact that excessive use of the air conditioner could have adverse effects on our health.

Adverse Effects Of Air Conditioning
People in air-conditioned environments are more susceptible to suffer from respiratory problems than those living in naturally ventilated houses. The most vulnerable are the very young – infants and children, pregnant women and the elderly. The latter are mainly those who are already suffering from some respiratory diseases and have weak immune systems. Frequent problems include
  • Common cold.
  • Sore throat.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • The problems associated with diseases such as arthritis, neuritis, sinusitis and asthma can get aggravated upon prolonged exposure to an air-conditioned atmosphere.
  • There can be long term skin and hair damage because the AC absorbs all the moisture in the room leaving a dry atmosphere within.
  • People using contact lenses need to take extra precautions as the drying effect of the AC exacerbates eye conditions.
  • Severe heat waves are now taking a higher death toll and it is partly attributed to the effect of ACs. The observation being that those who How Cool Is spend an excessive amount of time in an air-conditioned environment are not able to readily cope with hot summer temperatures.
  • Several health problems such as fatigue and nausea can be caused by the large variance between inside and outside temperatures.
  • Major lifestyle changes where people have restricted their physical activity are also a case associated with excessive use of ACs. The phenomenon can especially be observed among children these days, and is one of the reasons leading to obesity and other health problems.
The facts mentioned above cannot however discount the many benefits of an air conditioner. Some of which include enhanced comfort level, reduction of adverse effect of heat on intellectual and physical activity, better job performance, less sweating, reduction of insects and parasites, exclusion of external allergens (such as pollen) and improved air quality.

Measures To Limit Harmful Susceptibilities In AC Settings

  • Ventilate air-conditioned spaces regularly.
  • Ensure proper and regular maintenance of air conditioners..
  • Avoid very low temperatures. Keep the room temperature between 21º and 25º C.
  • Try to maintain an average humidity. It can be between 60 per cent and 70 per cent.
  • Try to minimise the use of an air conditioner at home, as it is difficult to do the same in offices and other public areas.
  • Apply moisturiser on the skin to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Do not use soap in areas that areprone to dryness.
  • Drink water regularly to keep yourself hydrated.

How Do You Recognize The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack?
A classic heart attack is characterized by a pain in the chest that might radiate down the left arm. However, a heart attack does not always cause a pain in the region of the heart, neither is a chest pain always a symptom of a heart attack. Rather, it most often appears as muscle pain, like that caused by a muscle pull in the back, arms, jaw or neck. A tightening sensation in the chest area, pain in the upper abdomen, nausea, shortness of breath and breaking out in cold sweats are other common heart attack symptoms to watch out for. Women have higher chances of experiencing nausea, vomiting, back pain or jaw pain and shortness of breath as compared to men.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Winter Heart Attacks?

  • Protecting yourself from heart attacks, both during the summer and winter, starts with leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle that includes consuming a healthy diet that is low in fat, sodium and sugar and having a regular exercise schedule.
  • During the winter months, covering yourself in layers of warm clothing to avoid constriction of blood vessels due to cold temperatures is advised.
  • If you workout in the morning, then make sure that you put in an adequate amount of time( at least 5 to 10 minutes) for warming up and cooling down in order to avoid putting sudden pressure on the heart and blood vessels.
  • When you are out walking or running in the cold, put a scarf over your nose and mouth to help warm up the air before you breathe it in.
  • Keeping a bowl of water in an airconditioned room reduces the drying effect.
  • It is advisable to carry a light jacket in summer and put it on while entering an air-conditioned area to protect the body from extreme temperature changes.
  • Try to come out often from airconditioned spaces while in office or any other place. Where sitting in such an environment is unavoidable, ensure that the temperature difference is not very large.


The harmful effects of air conditioning become more prominent when combined with excessive exposure to pollution, severe weather changes, poor diet, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Thereby, making it extremely important to have a proper diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Dr Alok Agrawal is Senior Consultant Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

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