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The surprising health benefits of air conditioning

Written by Gabriel Tan

Air conditioning (AC) has become an integral part of modern living, especially in Australia where the climate can be extremely hot. While many rely on AC for comfort and relief from the heat, it’s important to also understand how it affects our health.

So, let’s explore both the positive and negative health effects of air conditioning. By being informed about these impacts, we can make better decisions on how to use AC responsibly and ensure a healthier living environment.

The positive health effects of air conditioning

Prevent Illness

Air conditioning plays a crucial role in preventing heat-related illnesses, particularly during the scorching Australian summers. High temperatures can lead to serious health issues like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. AC helps to maintain a cool indoor environment, reducing the risk of these potentially life-threatening conditions and ensuring comfort and safety for individuals, especially the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Improved air quality

Another significant benefit of air conditioning is its ability to improve indoor air quality. Modern AC systems are equipped with filters that can remove pollutants, allergens, and dust from the air.

This filtration process helps to reduce the presence of harmful particles, contributing to better respiratory health. For individuals suffering from allergies or asthma, a well-maintained AC system can provide much-needed relief by minimising exposure to triggers.

Enhanced sleep quality

Additionally, air conditioning can enhance sleep quality, which is essential for overall health and wellbeing. A cool and comfortable sleeping environment helps to regulate body temperature and promote deeper, more restful sleep.

By maintaining an optimal indoor temperature, AC can prevent sleep disturbances caused by excessive heat, allowing for better rest and recovery. This is particularly important in maintaining energy levels and overall productivity during the day.

Quality sleep helps in the repair of muscle tissues, synthesis of hormones, and overall cognitive function. When we sleep well, our mood, memory, and concentration improve significantly.

A well-regulated sleep environment can also help in managing chronic conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Cooler temperatures facilitate the body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

As such, using air conditioning to maintain a consistent, comfortable temperature not only enhances sleep quality but also supports overall physical and mental health, leading to a more balanced and productive life.

Negative health effects of air conditioning

Dry skin and mucous membranes

Despite its benefits, air conditioning can also have several negative health effects, particularly when used excessively or improperly maintained. One common issue is dry skin and mucous membranes.

Prolonged exposure to AC can reduce indoor humidity levels, leading to dryness in the skin, eyes, and throat. This dryness can cause discomfort, irritation, and even exacerbate conditions like eczema and dermatitis.

Respiratory problems

Another concern is the potential for respiratory problems. While AC systems can filter out pollutants, they can also circulate indoor pollutants if not properly maintained. Dust, mould, and bacteria can accumulate in the filters and ducts, leading to respiratory issues such as asthma, allergies, and other respiratory infections.

Regular maintenance and cleaning of AC units are essential to prevent these problems and ensure good air quality.

Spread of disease

The spread of infectious diseases is also a risk associated with air conditioning. In enclosed spaces, AC systems can contribute to the spread of viruses and bacteria, particularly in offices and other public buildings.

If one person is ill, the air circulation can disperse pathogens throughout the environment, increasing the risk of infections among occupants. This underscores the importance of good hygiene practices and adequate ventilation in addition to air conditioning.

Thermal stress

Lastly, frequent exposure to varying temperatures can lead to thermal stress. Moving from hot outdoor environments to cold, air-conditioned spaces can be stressful for the body, leading to discomfort and potential health issues.

This constant temperature fluctuation can impact the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature, leading to symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and in severe cases, thermal shock. Setting AC units to a moderate temperature can help mitigate this effect and provide a more comfortable and stable indoor environment.

Tips for mitigating negative health effects of AC

Regular maintenance and cleaning

To mitigate the negative health effects of air conditioning, experts from  Melbourne-based Metropolitan Airconditioning pointed out that it’s crucial to prioritise regular maintenance and cleaning.

Ensuring that AC units are serviced frequently helps prevent the accumulation of dust, mould, and bacteria, which can circulate harmful particles and contribute to respiratory problems. Regularly changing or cleaning filters can significantly improve indoor air quality and reduce health risks.


Using humidifiers is another effective way to counteract the drying effects of air conditioning. By adding moisture to the air, humidifiers can help maintain a healthy humidity level indoors, which can help prevent dry skin, eyes, and throat. This can create a more comfortable living environment and reduce irritation caused by excessively dry air. Additionally, placing bowls of water or indoor plants can also help increase humidity levels naturally.

Proper ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential to ensure fresh air circulation and minimise indoor air pollution. Opening windows periodically, especially when the AC is off, allows for the exchange of stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. This practice can help dilute indoor pollutants and improve overall air quality.

Additionally, integrating ventilation systems with AC units can enhance airflow and ensure a consistent supply of fresh air.

Setting optimal temperatures

Setting optimal temperatures is crucial to avoid the thermal stress caused by frequent temperature changes. Keeping the AC at a moderate, comfortable level can prevent the body from experiencing extreme cold after being in hot outdoor environments.

Ideally, the temperature should be set between 24 to 26 degrees Celsius, which is comfortable for most people and reduces the strain on the body. By being mindful of these practices, it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of air conditioning while minimising its potential health drawbacks.

Enjoy air conditioning without worry

Understanding the health effects of air conditioning is essential for making informed decisions about its use. While AC provides significant benefits such as preventing heat-related illnesses, improving air quality, and enhancing sleep, it also poses risks like dry skin, respiratory issues, and thermal stress.

By following simple tips such as regular maintenance, using humidifiers, ensuring proper ventilation, and setting optimal temperatures, you can enjoy the advantages of air conditioning while mitigating its negative impacts. Responsible use of AC will help create a healthier, more comfortable living environment for everyone.

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About the author

Gabriel Tan