AC users more prone to respiratory problems: study

They had symptoms such as cough, wheezing, breathlessness.

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Though it might be tempting to use the air-conditioner (AC) to beat the summer heat, think twice before reaching for that switch.

A study published in the medical journal of Pune’s DY Patil Medical College compared 66 young adults who used AC regularly with 70 who did not. After performing pulmonary function tests, the conclusion was that AC users are more prone to respiratory disorders in form of mild airflow obstruction. The study showed how the incidence of respiratory symptoms such as cough, wheezing and breathlessness were higher among AC users.

The study, conducted by a team of doctors, including SM Hulke, A Thakare, P Patil, SA Shete, YP Vaidya, is titled ‘Pulmonary functions in air conditioner users’ and published on March 14.

Researchers clarified that the study was conducted on staffers of the medical college by taking their history, physical examination and lung function tests during home visits. While the subjects were divided into two groups of AC users and AC non-users, care was taken by researchers to avoid people with past history of respiratory illness.

They said there were few studies showing the effect of AC on pulmonary functions. The study was undertaken to see alteration in pulmonary function test (PFT) with the use of AC in healthy non-smoking young adults.

Most lung function parameters were significantly reduced by the use of AC, observed the study. For example, forced vital capacity (useful to show strength of respiratory muscle) was significantly reduced in case of frequent AC users.

“Thus, respiratory dysfunction observed in the AC users is more like the obstructive pattern,” researchers said.

“The present study also found significant decrease in the sensitive index, which is an indicator of small airway disease where most of the chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases start,” researchers added.

The study advised people to restrict their use of air-conditioners as AC users are at greater risk of respiratory problems. “Air conditioning is not only destructive to the environment,

but also harmful to health. Hyperventilation in cold air induces broncho-constriction, which may be as a result of repetitive dehydration of small airway when large volume of cold air in inhaled. One of the exacerbating factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the cold air. The risk of air conditioners (ACs) as potential sources of contaminated aerosols is known for a long time,” observed the researchers.


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