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Can Air Conditioning Cause a Sore Throat?

The Link Between Your HVAC System and Respiratory Health

Nowadays, we are more conscious than ever about our health, especially when it comes to our breathing patterns. While our knowledge of the novel COVID-19 virus is still being developed, according to a review of 13 studies published in the Journal of Infection, shortness of breath poses a greater risk of severe and critical disease outcomes if one contracts COVID-19. It seems like people are taking more critical steps than ever to improve the way they breathe, and we don’t blame them.

At Meyer’s Companies, Inc., we are strong advocates of the abilities of our HVAC systems to not only improve our quality of life, but to improve the health of our lives as well. Keeping your home at a consistent temperature can reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue and improve immune system function, which is essential to fighting COVID-19. HVAC systems can also keep you healthy by helping keep pollutants out of the house, regulating humidity, and reducing fumes and odors. However, in order to experience these benefits, and to avoid negative side effects like feelings of a sore throat, it is important that your HVAC system is being utilized correctly.

Oftentimes, it is not the HVAC system itself, but the environment it is in that can cause harm. For example, if your home is already full of mold or bacteria, the air conditioner can actually work to help dry out the harmful substances, but it can also allow these substances to circulate if there is an excessive amount. In order to reap the full respiratory benefits of an HVAC system, it is necessary to do your due diligence to prevent the spread of mold and mildew in your home, especially if your residents suffer from allergies. We recommend taking the following precautions to stop the growth of mold in your home:

  • Control moisture in the home by keeping the humidity level below 60%. Investing in a dehumidifier is one simple way to do this. A hygrometer is the most traditional way to measure humidity in a home, but many modern smartphones now have apps with the same capability. 
  • If there is a spill, leak, or excess of moisture in any way, clean up the wet spots as soon as possible. It does not take long for mold to grow and flourish in these wet spots. If you are dealing with a plumbing leak, our team can help fix this problem and prevent the spread of mold.
  • Along these same lines, it is recommended to have your plumbing inspected once every two years. During these appointments, we will test the components of your plumbing system for leaks, drainage issues, corrosion, cracks, and clogs. All of these issues can lead to leaks and mold buildup in your home, so it is necessary to stop the problem in its tracks before it grows.
  • Improve the airflow in your home. Although it might feel strange at first if you are not accustomed to it, opening windows and encouraging slight ventilation can go a long way in taking a nasty mold situation off your hands. Opening your windows will allow excess moisture to flow outside rather than staying on your walls, floors, and ceiling. Mold thrives in this moisture, and if moisture is not prevalent inside your home, it will make a much more hostile environment for growth. Creating a hostile environment for mold will help create a welcoming, healthier environment for your family and guests!
  • If you have a basement, monitor the ventilation in the area. Basements are particularly prone to condensation because moisture comes into contact with the cool walls and floors. When the walls cool the warm air, it creates moisture in the same way that a beer condensates on a hot day. You can monitor this situation by setting up a fountain drain, installing a humidifier, insulating the walls, and using a thermal plane.

How to Use Your HVAC System in a Healthy Way

The rooms in your home are not the only places where mold and bacteria can flourish, making it harder for you to breathe. If your HVAC system is not properly maintained, mold and bacteria can build up in the ducts and throughout the whole system. As a general rule of thumb, your HVAC system should be professionally checked at least once a year. If you have a heat pump system that you use year-round, this should be serviced every six months. During an HVAC inspection, we will test the basic functions of the machine and test for indoor air quality. We can also take note of other problems going on with the HVAC systems, like dirty air ducts.

Without proper air duct cleaning, your air ducts can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. As you can imagine, if your ducts are moldy, the HVAC system is going to circulate mold throughout your home or building, which can make you sick, cause you to experience cold-like symptoms, and make it more difficult to breathe. In homes with dirty air ducts, allergies, coughing, sneezing, and headaches are common. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends air duct cleaning every three to five years in order to protect the health of your home’s residents and to help your HVAC system keep you healthy.

As you can see, when it comes to your health and your HVAC systems, it is a team effort. If you put in the basic work to keep your HVAC system functioning properly, it will do the same for you and your health. However, there is such a thing as too much air conditioning, and this can cause feelings of sickness as well. In general, overly cold homes are not the safest environments for our health. If you have pre-existing health conditions, you are likely more vulnerable to the negative effects of the cold temperatures.

Respiratory conditions like asthma can be triggered by the cold, especially if the cold temperature comes with mold and moisture issues. Other health conditions linked to cold temperatures include high blood pressure due to artery construction, common colds, heart attacks, and pneumonia. Furthermore, some viruses thrive in cold environments. Blood flow is necessary to support the white blood cells that protect our body from sickness, and extremely cold temperatures decrease this blood flow.

The good news is that modern HVAC and heating systems allow you to control the temperature in your home. This is its primary function and one of the biggest benefits. These health issues can be mitigated by simply setting your thermostat at a temperature that is optimal for your health and will not exacerbate cold-like symptoms. In general, the average acceptable temperature range in a home is between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The most ideal and comfortable temperature for you will depend on a variety of factors, including the season, location of the home, and the type of individuals who are in the home. Because we are talking about our health, let’s focus on the age of the individuals in your home and the ideal temperature for them:

  • Temperature for babies – Because a hot environment will make a baby more vulnerable to SIDS, according to the National Institutes of Health, it is important to be especially mindful of the temperature in the home when you have a baby. In general, a room with a temperature of 65 to 68 degrees is the healthiest temperature for a baby.
  • Temperature for the elderly – As we have become vastly aware of due to COVID-19, elderly individuals are more vulnerable to sicknesses in general. They are also more vulnerable to suffering temperature-related complications. The most important factor when it comes to managing the temperature for the elderly is consistency, as older individuals tend to be more sensitive to erratic temperature changes. When we use the term elderly, we are referring to individuals above the age of 65, and they should be in a home with a temperature between 68 and 74 degrees. Not allowing the home to reach below 65 degrees will decrease the risk of respiratory diseases and hypothermia in these individuals.

When used and maintained properly, your HVAC system can provide many health benefits. For HVAC system maintenance, duct cleaning, leak fixes, and other home services that can help keep your air conditioner healthy, call Meyer’s Companies, Inc. at (219) 240-0610 or contact us online.