Written by Bukola Adebayo - Nigeria
Mr. Tunde Adeniyi is the Chief Executive Officer of his company of 20 employees. They all know the ground rules. The air conditioner in his office and other rooms must always be on full blast. It is the same understanding he has with his wife and kids in the house.
In fact, if you want to be shown the way out of his cool office permanently, then you can just violate this order.
If you are like Adeniyi, you are addicted to air conditioning. The not so good news is that you may have to watch it, as experts warn that staying too long in a cold, air-conditioned environment may make you or those subjected to this temperature sick.
Air conditioning is becoming increasingly popular. They are on full blast in many homes and automobiles. It is also the first thing that greets you in the office, even before your co-workers says hello. In a tropical climate like ours, it is a cool alternative to fresh air.
Most people who have air conditioners are sufficiently informed about how it affects their health. But physicians say many diseases are caused by a weather that is too cold.
Three major side effects of this habit are rheumatism, arthritis and chronic joint pain.
A physician at the Public Health Department of University of Wisconsin, United States of America, Dr. Tinsely Davis, notes that sitting for long in an air conditioned room or an environment that is cold could lead to joint and muscle pains, which may result in rheumatic pain in the neck, back or legs in future.
She says, "Typical chronic rheumatic pains in joints or muscles become more intense if people stay a long time in a room with air conditioning. Therefore, if you get the chills quickly, you may want to avoid, as much as possible, being exposed to such cold temperature."
Davis adds that the respiratory system suffers greatly when the body is exposed to cold air conditioning for a long period. According to her, regular exposure to air conditioner can even lead to cardiac arrest, pneumonia and in severe cases, death from hypothermia.
According to her, the cool temperature from air conditioning helps the bacteria and virus that cause pneumonia, laryngitis and pharyngitis to thrive.
Davis states, "The risk of respiratory irritation is quite high when the air conditioner is too cold and it becomes easy to catch these bacterial or viral infections that cause problems in the lungs, throat, nose or ear.
"It firsts starts with trivial illnesses like cold, catarrh and cough; and gradually, it becomes more serious to neuralgia (pain) in the head or torso, toothaches, headaches and sinus; then paralysis of the eyelids, mouth and nerves or cardiac failure."
Women may also have to limit the amount of hours they spend in an air conditioned environment.
Ergonomics professor at Cornell University, USA, Alan Hedge, says studies have shown and research has proved that women, by nature, catch the chills and logically, are more predisposed to cold-related diseases.
He explains that the muscles of the body generate about a third of its heat, and women tend to have less muscle mass than men, so they are the first to complain about cold weather.
The professor says further that since men are likely to be active than women, they have the advantage of generating more body heat to fight cold weather.
Hedge says, "Women, you don't have to wait till your husband or male co-workers are cold before you tone down the temperature of the A/C. Men are more muscular than women, so they have the protection against cold weather than you do."
Now that you know, you may want to take informed decision about the temperature in your home or office by wearing thicker clothes that cover your legs and ankles where you have less muscle concentration.
Employers and those who design workplaces may be interested in knowing that exposure to cold weather from air conditioners also affects productivity.
According to Hedge, a study conducted by his team of researchers showed that employees who are cold tend to work less efficiently.
Hedge and his team of scientists measured computer keystrokes performed by office workers at their actual workstations in temperatures ranging from 68-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
"At moderate temperature, they are typing twice as much in a minute as at a cooler temperature. The colder workers also made a greater percentage of mistakes," he states.
The professor concludes from this study that a temperature between 72 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for workers' productivity and notes it could go higher, depending on the temperature outside the office environment.
Hedge says, "In general, the complaint, apart from increase in salary, is that the office is too cold for comfort. My recommendation is to listen to those voices that tell you to keep warm and your brain that tells you when it's time to turn off that air conditioner!"
To get the right temperature for yourself, experts advise that one should adjust the air conditioner to suit the body's temperature. That is why it is an air conditioner not a cooler in the first place. It comes with functions that can either make it cool or hot. Use it wisely!
As cool as having it in a room may be, the truth is, air conditioner can affect your health if not used appropriately. To avoid unpleasant problems, therefore, experts say one must maintain a constant climate and correctly adjust the room temperature and humidity to suit the body temperature.