Can Air Conditioning Make You Sick?

During periods of high AC use, you may experience allergy-like symptoms due to the intense circulation of mildew, dust, and mold particles.
Written by Andrew Biro
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jun 01, 2022
If you’ve ever experienced congestion, allergy, or cold-like symptoms during the summer when the AC is running frequently, you may have been suffering from the phenomenon commonly referred to as “air conditioning sickness.”
Now, this isn’t to say that there is anything inherently wrong with air conditioners themselves—and it isn’t the AC unit that is the actual cause of sickness. If pockets of mildew and mold already exist in your home, prolonged use of the air conditioning causes them to continuously move through the air, which can make you sick.
Proper home maintenance is an important part of being a homeowner and can help keep you safe and healthy—that’s why home and
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Can air conditioning actually make you sick?

Yes and no. Your air conditioning itself isn’t capable of making you sick, but the particles and pathogens it circulates can, especially if you have the AC running at a very low temperature for long periods of time. 
If they are not cleaned regularly, air filters can become clogged and no longer filter out dust, mold, and mildew particulates properly, all of which may cause breathing and respiratory issues when present in high quantities.
Air conditioning also necessitates an intense dehumidification process in order to keep the room cold, which can quickly dry your skin, eyes, and mucous membranes out, resulting in symptoms that mirror the common cold.
Similarly, the cool and dry conditions produced by your AC’s dehumidification process create the perfect breeding grounds for many of the viruses that cause the common cold, especially if you run the air conditioning for long periods of time.

Symptoms to look out for

If you spend a lot of time indoors during the summer in heavily air-conditioned spaces, you need to be aware of what the symptoms of air conditioning sickness are in order to prevent yourself from feeling sick all the time.
Common symptoms of air conditioning sickness include:
  • Cold and/or allergy-like symptoms: this set of symptoms includes coughing, sneezing, sore throat, etc. and may be caused by high concentrations of dust or mold particles
  • Dry eyes: constant exposure to cool, dehumidified air can speed up the evaporation process happening in your eyes, leaving them irritated and dry.
  • Trouble breathing/respiratory issues: this is most often caused by dirty or clogged air filters that have become so saturated with particulates that they start to release them rather than filter them out.
  • Dehydration: keeping a building cool requires dehumidification, which severely reduces the amount of moisture present in the room, increasing your body’s evaporation process.
  • Headaches and/or dizziness: lightheadedness can result from prolonged exposure to a low-humidity environment and often follows dehydration.
  • Itchy or flaky skin: when the AC runs for a long period of time, the humidity in a room drops drastically, increasing the rate of evaporation happening on your skin, drying it out.
  • Constant tiredness: when your body rests in a cold space, it is constantly burning energy in order to maintain normal body temperature, which can result in notable fatigue.

Prevention methods

There are several steps you can take to prevent air conditioning sickness before it happens, with the most important being the regular and thorough cleaning of your home. Do not allow dust to accumulate, and check often for conditions that may lead to the growth of mold and mildew (e.g., moisture buildup).
It is also a good idea to have your AC or HVAC unit regularly inspected and serviced to make sure that it is working properly. To avoid the further spread of allergens, it is recommended that you change the filter and have the system cleaned every few months.
If this doesn’t work and you are still experiencing cold or allergy-like symptoms, you may need to set the AC at a higher temperature—the difference between the inside and outside temperature should not be drastic, and there is no reason to be shivering in your own home. 
Lastly, make sure to drink plenty of water—cold air dries out your skin and nasal passages and can cause congestion or headaches if you aren’t staying hydrated.
Key Takeaway If you think you may be experiencing air conditioning sickness, set your AC to a higher temperature, address any moisture that may be present in your home, and drink more water. The best way to prevent air conditioning sickness is to regularly clean and check your home for mold and mildew while regularly changing your AC filters.

Does home insurance cover AC issues?

Technically yes, but not in all cases. Much like the rest of the systems that keep your home running, an AC or HVAC unit is covered by your homeowners insurance only if it suffers damages caused by a named peril
This means that if your AC is damaged in a fire, by a power surge, or another listed peril, you won’t have to pay for repairs completely out of pocket.
Your homeowners insurance will not, however, cover AC issues stemming from normal wear and tear, age, or owner neglect, so make sure you keep to a regular maintenance schedule to keep your air conditioning unit working as intended.

How to save money on homeowners insurance

In the event your AC or HVAC system is damaged by an external factor, you’ll want to make sure it’s covered under the right homeowners insurance policy. Licensed home and
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