Stay cool and healthy with our air conditioning fitness tips
One of the major health risks we face day to day in Dubai is posed by A/C units. According to recent studies, the risks are real: it has been found that those working in air-conditioned environments take far more sick days and are more likely to have hospital stays.
Why? Well, the parts of A/C units that stay consistently moist – cooling coils and drip pans – are nurturing environments for micro-organisms, including the pesky ones that cause flu and the common cold. More seriously, A/C can also lead to asthma attacks in sufferers, and can cause the very serious Legionnaire’s disease. The death of one man and illness of two others from the disease landed one Dubai hotel in court recently due to the fact that all three were staying there just before they fell ill.
That said, if we didn’t have A/C during the summer, the health effects would be far worse – think dehydration, exhaustion, hyperplexia, heat cramps and long-term stress on the kidneys, heart and central nervous system. So, unless you want to be a sweaty mess, A/C is a necessary and very welcome evil. Here’s how to minimise the damage.
Avoid direct blasts
Cold air blowing on skin causes muscles to contract, leading to spasms and stiffness – a common cause of neck pain. Meanwhile, cold air blowing on your eyes can also cause problems: Dr Chris Canning, medical director at Moorfields Eye Hospital (www.moorfields.ae) explains that it reduces water content in your eye and increases the evaporation of the tear film, leaving the eye unprotected and easily irritated.
Cold air is also considered damaging in traditional Chinese medicine, according to Synergy Integrated Medical Centre nutritionist Dr Parviz Rashvand (www.synergyctrdubai.com). ‘In TCM’s philosophy, being exposed to a direct A/C blow, even just for a short time, can disturb the energy circulation in the body and therefore the defence system.’ So make sure to direct blasts away from you, even in your car.
Maintain your unit
Rob Courtnell, who runs Howdra (www.howdra.ae), a family-run maintenance company, suggests having your A/C units cleaned three times a year. ‘When we service an A/C unit, we clean all the filters and grills – dirty filters can cause asthma. We also clean the drip trays because they often contain a green slime and stagnant water that can lead to Legionnaire’s disease. We pop an antibacterial tablet in the tray that takes four months to dissolve.’
Clean units also mean fewer germs flying around, explains Rob. ‘Basically the A/C re-circulates the air in the room. If your filters aren’t clean, they’re not going to do their job properly and trap the germs.’ He says each unit takes about an hour to service, costing from Dhs300-Dhs350 per unit. He adds that people who live in large apartment buildings must remember to get their units cleaned; many wrongly presume that their building management take care of it.
Drink plenty of water to ensure you stay hydrated. If your A/C unit dries out the air too much, invest in a humidifier to put some much-needed moisture back into the atmosphere.
Opt for bearable, not Arctic
Keep the temperature set above 21°C, especially when you first get into a room after having been outside. ‘The biggest problem here is the desire to cool the body immediately to combat the heat,’ explains Dr Parviz. ‘It’s important to understand that the body goes through shock when the temperature is changed suddenly and dramatically.’ So head inside, rehydrate with room-temperature water and turn the A/C on at a low level so your body cools gradually.
Unfortunately, many of us have no control over the quality of our office’s A/C systems (or of our colleagues immune systems). Keep your defences charging over summer with vitamin C, garlic and multivitamins.