Heat wave and air conditioning: how to prevent respiratory diseases

Sleeping with an inappropriate temperature for the body causes breast alterations. “An adult needs to sleep between 7 and 9 hours to have quality of life

Some people are especially sensitive to the effects of air conditioning, Although the conditions can also surprise those who do not usually suffer from them, especially in these days when a persistent heat wave affects the center of the country. Beyond power outages, those who can use these devices for many hours.

Lack of maintenance in the filters, inadequate ventilation or sudden changes in temperature are the problems that cause respiratory conditions and can lead to colds, laryngitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis, joy attacks, bronchospasm in asthmatic people and even pneumonia. It can also favor COVID-19 infections.

With the heat wave, the use of air conditioning extends to almost all areas, houses, offices, supermarkets, means of transport. But the search to acclimatize the environment and not suffer from high temperatures can have health consequences.

“Air conditioners cool the air, remove moisture, and tend to collect dust or other organic substances on the filters. All this favors irritation, inflammation or infection of the respiratory tract “explained the doctor Ana Putruele, head of the Pneumonology Division of the Hospital de Clínicas and I add: “The most serious problems they are related to the germs accumulated in the dirty filters of the air conditioning when there is not a proper maintenance ”.

Among these germs, the best known is the Legionellapneumophila bacteria, responsible for pneumonia that can be serious. Other major air pollutants are mushrooms Aspergillus niger Y Aspergillus fumigatus, that they cause rhinitis, asthma, pneumonia or hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

“In addition, there are other common conditions caused by prolonged use of these devices: colds, laryngitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis, joy crises, bronchospasm in asthmatic people and episodes of worsening COPD in more complex cases “, said the specialist.

Air conditioning and sleep disturbances

“The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 24 and 25 degrees, temperature that is comfortable for the body. When one sleeps with higher temperatures, our body tends to have awakenings due to discomfort or sweating. These factors contribute to shallow and poor quality sleep. Because it is important that in summer the room is sufficiently cooled. The goal is to achieve a temperature of 24/25 degrees. You also have to be careful with putting the air conditioning in a lower temperature, because it can be counterproductive since we can feel cold and wake up several times in the middle of the night “, He said Facundo Nogueira, pulmonologist and head of the Sleep Laboratory of the Hospital de Clínicas.

Keep filters clean to avoid accumulation of allergenic particles such as pollen, mites or house dust (Gettyimages)
Keep filters clean to avoid accumulation of allergenic particles such as pollen, mites or house dust (Gettyimages)

“An adult needs to sleep between 7 and 9 hours to have an adequate quality of life, a restful sleep, Sleeping less than 7 hours increases the risk of suffering from diseases such as heart problems or metabolic problems and also increases mortality globally. It also increases your risk for high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and heart problems.In children and adolescents, they need to sleep more hours per night ”, Nogueira added.

Dr. Putruele, for her part, commented that “Because air conditioners dry out the nasal passages, they can cause irritation to the mucous membranes. In the absence of this protection we become more vulnerable to the attack of some viruses”, Assured the specialist and adds “The use of air conditioning favors the permanence of people in closed environments, with less ventilation, thus facilitating the transmission and contagion of germs.”

Regarding the use of air conditioning at bedtime, specialists recommend keep the temperature regulated between 24 and 27ºC using the function night mode, so as not to overcool the environment during the night. “It is not advisable to turn the air conditioning on and off constantly, the temperature must remain stable.” LThe same recommendations apply to the equipment installed in the children’s room, but they must be stricter, keeping the remote control out of the reach of children, the specialists said.

“During the first year of life, the airways are very narrow and susceptible to changes in the environment, and any infection or irritation can make it difficult to breathe normally. To avoid dryness in the environment, they should be ventilate rooms frequently where the child will be, at least one hour a day. In this way, we will also take advantage of taking breaks since it is not advisable to keep the air conditioning running continuously. Must clean equipment filters frequently and guarantee its hygiene, since the pollen, dust, mites, and fungi. It is very important that the air jet is not focused directly on the little ones ”, they explain.

Air conditioning and COVID-19

“The air conditioning circulates the air, but not all models work in the same way since there are different types of airs. The best to avoid contagion of COVID-19 are those that work with the system of Hepa filters What are they high-efficiency filters commonly seen on airplanes. For people who generally have air conditioner models without this filter, which We recommend the operation of the device but also the opening of a window. In any case, it is essential to clean the filters since this is a factor that favors COVID-19 infections. It is the thickest particles that have the greatest impact on contagions (cough, cold and sneezing) so it is important to clean the filters but also to keep opening windows. We recommend caution in the use of air conditioning, but we do not deny its use ”said Putruele.

The environment must be conditioned with a temperature between 24 and 27 ° C.  Airflow must not be direct on people
The environment must be conditioned with a temperature between 24 and 27 ° C. Airflow must not be direct on people

Recommendations in the use of air conditioning:

-Condition the environment with a temperature between 24 y 27 ° C. The flow of air should not be direct About people.

-Always keep the humidity of the environment, using the ventilation function.

-Keep them clean filters to prevent the accumulation of allergenic particles such as pollen, mites or household dust.

-Use of fans as a comfort option. The movement of air and the evaporation of moisture from our skin produce sensations of a drop in temperature between 3 and 5º C.

Avoid sudden changes in temperature. Regulate the entry and exit from heat to cold and from cold to heat.

-Keep hydrated.

-Be careful with children and the elderly because their temperature is below normal, and it can cause them to cool down.

-Keep in mind that when one rests, You can sleep with your mouth open, and if you do so with the air conditioning on, you may suffer from irritation of the airways, even more so in people with low defenses, specialists warned.


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