Most of us blame respiratory issues and a sore throat on the change in weather. As the temperature drops, cue the watery eyes and tissues. However, what if it is something a little closer to home?
That is right. Your home or office’s heating, cooling, and ventilation system could be the culprit behind a lot of these unwanted symptoms. From breathing problems to headaches and beyond, here is Warner Service’s breakdown of how your HVAC system is making you sick -- and what you can do to stop it:
Breathing problems. If the air conditioner is not cleaned properly or regularly, it becomes a breeding ground for a multitude of bacteria and fungi. Dirty HVAC units can also harbor black mold as moisture builds up in the coil and ducts from the condensation that occurs as cold air passes through. When any of these microorganisms go airborne, it can cause Legionairres’ Disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia that causes high fever, coughing, muscle aches, chills, and more.
Solution: Schedule regular maintenance check-ups for your home’s HVAC unit, and change the air filter monthly, especially if you live in a home with excess hair, pet dander, and smoke.
Headaches. It might not only be your home’s HVAC system that is making you feel drowsy. A 2004 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology by Mark Mendell stated that people who worked in office buildings with central air were more likely to show symptoms of illness, including headaches and fatigue, than those who did not work in buildings with central air. This phenomena is sometimes referred to as “sick building syndrome.”
Solution: Turn up the thermostat to avoid shivering (and save hundreds) and take regular breaks to step outside. This will equilibrate your body’s temperature.
Itchy, watery eyes. Most of the time, itchy, watery eyes are due to allergies. This is especially common with the change in seasons. However, the HVAC in your home could also play a big role in triggering this symptom. If there are holes in the ductwork, it can suck unfiltered air and redistribute it throughout the house.
Solution: Improve indoor air quality by calling a maintenance expert to check for leaks and gaps in the ductwork. This step should be done yearly.
Runny nose. Because many HVAC units do not come with a humidifying function, it causes the air to be cold and dry. This often leads to the body’s natural response to unnatural coldness, which are basic flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose.
Solution: Turn down the air conditioning, and purchase a humidifier to moisten the air. This will lead to less runny noses and watery eyes.
Skin irritation. The more time you spend in an air-conditioned environment, the drier and itchier your skin could become. This is due to lack of ventilation, such as openable windows, and poor thermal control. Skin irritation and cracks due to close proximity to the HVAC can worsen symptoms for those who have rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis.
Solution: According to Mother Nature Network, you should drink at least 8 cups of water per day, and moisturize your skin while in a cool environment. Also, add a humidifier to the room, and shift it to between 35 and 55 percent.
Whether it is mold or unnatural coldness, the HVAC system in your home or office can lead to a few serious symptoms like respiratory issues; drying, cracking skin; a runny nose; itchy, watery eyes; headaches; and fatigue. To combat seasonal illness, use Warner Service’s quick solutions, or download our Guide to Fighting Allergens and Pathogens.
You can also get our list on How To Improve Indoor Air Quality: