Given the recent heatwave conditions, many of us have been reliant on air conditioners to provide some comfort in an otherwise very hot and sweaty day. However, while air conditioners can be great for cooling down our environments they can also be harsh on your ears, nose and throat. This is what you need to know about how air conditioning can affect your ear, nose and throat health.
Why do air conditioners affect our health?
The way that air conditioners work is to blow out cool - but dry - air. This can mean that if you’re in an air conditioned environment for some time your ears, nose and throat can suffer because there is a significant loss of humidity. This can dry out the mucus membrane in the middle ears and also the nasal passages. The job of the mucus membrane is to help filter out bacteria so that it doesn’t make it into the inner ears and other parts of the body. If it’s not functioning properly then bacteria can enter through the nose and end up in the deepest parts of the ear thanks to the network of tubes that connect the two.
What health problems can arise in an air conditioned environment
You may find that your ears start to hurt if you’re spending a lot of time in an air conditioned environment. Especially if you’re frequently moving from a very hot environment into a very cold, air conditioned environment you may find that you’re suffering from ear pain. This is usually the result of blocked eustachian tubes, possibly from excessive catarrh production as a result of getting a cold if the air conditioning is too low. Ear infections can also be common for those who spend a lot of time in an air conditioned environment, especially anyone who is already more susceptible such as the elderly or asthmatics. In a smaller number of cases, hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo may be the result.
How to sustain ear, nose and throat health in an air conditioned environment
- Keep the air conditioning above 22 C degrees, as any colder could affect your ears.
- Don’t sleep with an air conditioner on - your body temperature will naturally drop when you’re asleep anyway and this could leave you more open to problems with the aircon.
- To re-humidify dry air you can simply put containers of water in the room.
- Sit away from air conditioning - make sure that you’re not directly exposed to the air from an aircon unit so that your body isn’t undergoing such extreme changes as you move around.
- Make sure your ears are dry. Try to avoid being in an air conditioned space when you have wet ears as this can increase the potential for infections etc.
- Opt for regular nasal washes. These can help to keep your mucus membrane healthy and to avoid a build up of catarrh.
This time of year can be challenging for ear, nose and throat health but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you here.