A Cup of Coffee – Is air conditioning safe?

Welcome back! Last week, we talked about dehydration, a timely topic, right? If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

It’s that time again. The heat is unbearable, and we switch on the air conditioning. Would you like to know more about what air conditioning does to our bodies (not that I’m going to turn it off, mind you)? It’s always good to have more knowledge, right? Let’s chat…

What does it do to indoor air?

Have you ever worked in an air-conditioned building that had poor ventilation? Buildings like this are often said to have “sick building syndrome.” If you and your coworkers have symptoms that include headaches, dry cough, dizziness and nausea, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and sensitivity to odors, your building may be to blame. You can lower this risk with regular filter changes, opening windows, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Drink more water…

Feeling parched? Air conditioners tend to pull moisture out of a room in order to bring down the humidity and cool it off. This may pull water from your skin, drying it out. Be sure and drink more water if you are feeling itchy or are exposed to a lot of air conditioning.

Our poor eyes!

Air conditioning can create a lack of humidity which can dry your eyes. They may feel irritated and itchy and may even be vision blurry. Try some over-the-counter fake tears, and if that doesn’t help, consult your eye doctor.

Ok, here’s one good thing.

Guess what?! Spending time in cold weather may help you lose weight. According to The Mayo Clinic, brown fat, also called brown adipose tissue, is a special type of body fat that is turned on (activated) when you get cold. Brown fat produces heat to help maintain your body temperature in cold conditions.

Brown fat contains many more mitochondria than white fat. These mitochondria are the “engines” in brown fat that burn calories to produce heat.

Harvard study suggests a/c makes you smarter

For this new study, researchers tracked 44 students in their late teens and early 20s living in dorm rooms. Twenty-four of the students lived in adjacent six-story buildings that were built in the early 1990s and had central AC. The remaining 20 students lived in low-rise buildings constructed between 1930 and 1950 that did not have AC. Researchers outfitted each student’s room with a device that measured temperature, carbon dioxide levels, humidity, and noise levels, and tracked their physical activity and sleep patterns with wearable devices.

“The study was conducted over 12 consecutive days in the summer of 2016. The first five days consisted of seasonable temperatures, followed by a five-day-long heat wave, and then a two-day cooldown. Each day the students took two cognition tests on their smartphones right after waking up. The first test required students to correctly identify the color of displayed words and was used to evaluate cognitive speed and inhibitory control—or the ability to focus on relevant stimuli when irrelevant stimuli are also present. The second test consisted of basic arithmetic questions and was used to assess cognitive speed and working memory.

“The findings showed that during the heat wave, students in the buildings without AC performed worse on the tests than students in the air-conditioned dormitories and experienced decreases across five measures of cognitive function, including reaction times and working memory. During the heat wave, students in buildings without AC experienced 13.4% longer reaction times on color-word tests, and 13.3% lower addition/subtraction test scores compared with students with air-conditioned rooms. Combined, these data show that students in rooms with AC were not just faster in their responses, but also more accurate.”

My throat is scratchy…is your throat scratchy?

Studies show that people who work in air-conditioned buildings have more respiratory problems (irritated nasal passages, trouble breathing) than people who work in buildings with natural ventilation.

Oh, my throbbing head…do I have the Rona?

No, not this time! If your HVAC systems are dirty or not well-maintained, you’re more likely to have headaches or even migraines. Dirty air = bad outcomes. Makes good sense.

A/C can prevent heat stroke

When the heat starts to affect us, you may experience some sweat, maybe some lethargy, and perhaps a bit of dizziness.

According to an article by OPB, the reason why this happens is pretty much thanks to our body’s (for lack of a better metaphor) internal air-conditioning unit.

“We notice sweating happening as our body is trying to get rid of that excess heat,” said Rebecca Tuttle. She’s an emergency physician at the Portland VA and an adjunct assistant professor at OHSU.

The human body is around 60 percent water and it’s spread out in different areas. When it’s hot, the body begins tapping different water reserves from places like the bloodstream, fat, muscles, and kidneys to maintain our normal bodily functions.

As the body continues to get warmer, the heart pumps faster, bringing blood closer to the surface of the skin. The capillaries dilate, your skin turns pinker, and the beloved sweating process begins.

Sweat seeps through our pores and evaporates, taking heat away from our bodies. This is when you might notice your mouth getting dry.

That’s actually your body telling you all that sweating is making your blood pressure drop and you need more water.

But for children under 4, that internal AC unit isn’t fully developed, and for people older than 65 things like medications or illness could make it work worse than it should.

Symptoms like muscle cramps and nausea signal you’re getting into dangerous territory. These are early warning signs of heat exhaustion or heat stress.

And for about 50 percent of those cases, if a person stops sweating that’s a sign they’re entering heatstroke.

That’s when your body gets hotter than 104 degrees. It starts shutting down and sees damage to vital organs like the kidneys and brain.

The way to stay cool in hot weather is a bit intuitive. Give that AC unit a bit of coolant with some water or a sports drink with electrolytes. If you’re hot, help your body save some of those reserves by relaxing in shade or going to a cool place like a movie theater.

Achoo!

Keep your A/C clean to help tame allergies. An HVAC system can quickly become a home for microbial allergens. Be sure you have your system inspected regularly and keep it well-maintained so you don’t add to your allergy issues.

ZZZZZZZ…

Experts say sleeping in a room that’s between 60-67 degrees is ideal. This is because your body cools down as part of a natural sleep cycle, so a cool room helps that happen. A/C is the tool you need to get your sleep space to the right temp.

On a serious note

Air conditioning can be lifesaving when temperatures soar. Once your body temperature goes above 102 degrees, you’re at risk of heat exhaustion — nausea, cramps, dizziness, feeling faint — and if you continue to heat up, you could get heat stroke.

Keep a special eye on the little ones and the elderly, or those with medical conditions that could mean they are at a higher risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Stay cool, my friends!

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As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.

That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.

Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!

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