I can't stand how hard it is to regulate the temperature in my apartment: In the summer, it's unbearably hot, so I blast the A/C for months — despite all the rumors I hear about constant air conditioning not being good for you in some way. In the winter, the radiator heat is unbearable, until I open a window. Is either practice going to make me sick?
"So much of that is folklore," says Andrew Blitzer, otolaryngologist and director of the New York Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, as far as air conditioning goes.
A good air conditioner "isn't just air cooling — it's conditioning the air so you don't inhale the crap you don't want to inhale," while also taking out discomfort-causing humidity. In studies that have compared buildings with A/C throughout to those without A/C, Blitzer says, no increased sickness was found in the A/C-filled buildings.
That said, Blitzer emphasizes the importance of keeping your A/C filter clean (i.e., actually cleaning or changing it when that little "change filter" light comes on). "If a system isn't clean, molds and spores can grow," and then circulate in the air, disturbing allergy-sufferers — and perhaps contributing to the "A/C makes you sick" myth.
As for opening the window in the winter, it's unfortunately not the greatest idea — you're letting all the impurities in the air (the ones air conditioning so helpfully filters out in the summer, like spores, molds, and other such fun stuff) right into your passageways. If you've got sinus issues and the radiator-inflicted dryness is getting at you, try an easier to clean cool-mist humidifier to ease your pain.
Got a health question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll find a doctor to answer it.