Can you get sick from air conditioning?

“Can you get sick from the air conditioning? », asks Victoire, from Blois. With the heat waves affecting France, the air conditioning is often running at full speed in offices or stores. But can it make us sick? How to avoid the risks associated with air conditioning? Ouest-France answers you.

You can’t catch a cold because of the air conditioning

The term “catching cold” is misleading. The common cold is the result of an infection and therefore of contact with a virus. It is not related to temperature. If the virus is present around us, we risk getting sick, whether the space is air-conditioned or not. The virus is transmitted by droplets projected by the infected person, or by hand-to-hand contact or via contaminated objects. More than 200 viruses can cause a cold.

It is true however that the cold weakens our immune system. It can make us more vulnerable and therefore increase the risk of being contaminated by a virus.

Air conditioning is also unlikely to contribute to the spread of germs. “It is not a risk factor for viral infections”says Dr Matthieu Calafiore, general practitioner and lecturer at the University of Lille, interviewed by France Info . “This equipment includes filters which help to minimize the risks and the air is renewed regularly. »

Read also: SNCF. Does a train have to be air-conditioned? We answer you

Air conditioning can cause irritation

Air conditioning can sometimes cause what looks like a cold, but isn’t. “One of the principles of air conditioning is to cool the air and dry it out, explains Dr. Calafiore. This dries out the nasal mucous membranes which will be weakened and, in reaction, will moisten a little more, which can lead to rhinitis (runny nose). But this one is not linked to an infection”.

If the dryness affects the sinuses, it can cause pain similar to that of sinusitis. Again, it can also make us more vulnerable to germs and viruses.

Air conditioning can also cause dry eyes. “The surface of the eye is like the nasal mucosa: a layer of liquid helps to evacuate dust and microparticles”continues the doctor. “Without this filter, the eye is more sensitive and there is an increased risk of allergic conjunctivitis”.

To overcome these problems, air conditioners are most often equipped with an air humidification system.

How to avoid the risks associated with air conditioning?

Several good practices are recommended to avoid the risks associated with air conditioning. First of all, the temperature difference between inside and outside should not be too large. The best is to keep a difference of five to seven degrees maximum. “Humans have difficulty withstanding too sudden changes in temperature, that is to say more than 7°C”says Dr. Calafiore.

Air conditioning must also be maintained regularly, both in buildings and in vehicles. “It is particularly important to regularly replace the filters retaining particles and infectious agents and to check the absence of stagnant water in the cooling system”recalls the doctor.

Many bacteria can grow in stagnant water such as legionella, responsible for legionellosis. It is a pulmonary pathology causing respiratory distress. When air conditioning is properly maintained, however, the risk of contracting this disease is very low.

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