How to protect ears, nose and throat from AC

Last update on Jul, 12, 2021

Can air conditioning affect your health?

As temperatures rise, and mainly during the summer season, air conditioning and air conditioners become the best friends of those who cannot tolerate and withstand high temperatures, helping to control the heat. However, it is important to remember that the effects of air conditioning and improper use of the conditioner can be counterproductive for our health, especially for the ears, nose and throat.

Air conditioning effects on ears

Air conditioners blow out fresh but dry air. The consequence is that the environments in which air conditioning is used for a long time become spaces devoid of humidity and this process makes both the nasal passages and the mucous membrane that lines the middle ear dry, making normal functioning difficult.

The nose is, together with the mouth, the place where air enters the body and with it bacteria, viruses and other substances. The nasal mucous membranes line the nasal passages and have the mission of filtering and cleaning the air that enters. It also ensures that the air arrives in the optimal conditions of humidity and temperature that the lungs need.

If, due to the lack of moisture in the air, the nasal mucous membranes and those lining the middle ear lose their moisture, they cannot do their job well and end up allowing bacteria to enter the inside the nose. The back of the nose communicates with the ear via the Eustachian tube. Therefore, it is easy for the bacteria that have entered to end up proliferating in the deepest area of ​​the ear.

Can dry ear of AC make your ear hurt?

Often prolonged exposure to air conditioning can lead to ear pain, due to a sharp change in temperature from a very hot environment to one with a much lower temperature. This problem is due to the blockage of the Eustachian tube between the nose and ear. In these situations, in fact, the pressure changes in and out of the Eustachian tube and if the air pressure becomes lower in the middle ear than in the auditory canal, the eardrum retracts inwards, causing pain.

Can air conditioning cause blocked ears?

As seen previously, prolonged exposure to air conditioning can cause the temperature to drop to lower levels than the ones human body usually needs. In this case, the air conditioner can cause a cold and the consequent obstruction of the Eustachian tube due to the excessive production of catarrh. The obstruction brings the classic sensation of blocked ears and muffled sound. In this case, possible solutions can be the intake of decongestant drugs, nasal sprays, nasal washes with saline solution or, in lighter cases of obstruction, the application of the Valsalva maneuver.

Air conditioning and otitis

One of the most annoying evolutions of a cold is the onset of otitis. It is common for cases of otitis to occur mainly in the summer months, this is because they are usually caused by the humidity that is generated in the ears after spending time at the sea, in the pool or while diving and not drying them well. This is referred to as external otitis or swimmer's ear, which usually affects children.

However, the proliferation of air conditioners and the increasing use of air conditioning are causing more and more cases of otitis in the summer in people of any age, especially in the case of prolonged exposure to air conditioning with ears still wet. The most obvious consequence of otitis media is pain, while temporary hearing loss is rarer, even if there is a sort of blockage due to inflammation in the area.

There are people who, by their nature, are more sensitive to the action of air conditioners. Allergy sufferers, asthmatics, or people with some type of lung disease can be affected more quickly than others.

Sudden hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo

In rarer cases, prolonged exposure to air conditioning can also cause sudden hearing loss due to inflammation of the inner ear. Hearing loss is usually not bilateral, but affects only one ear, more often the one most exposed to air conditioning. This hearing loss in some cases can also be accompanied by tinnitus, ringing in the ears and dizziness.

How to prevent AC from affecting your ears

  • To protect your ears, it is advisable not to put the air conditioning below 22ºC
  • It is also advised not to sleep with the air conditioning on as the body temperature drops when sleeping, which leaves the body in a vulnerable situation. 
  • To prevent the environment from drying out, it is a good option to place humidifiers or containers with water in the room. 
  • Do not position yourself directly under the air conditioning, so as to reduce the temperature change and not have a constant direct exposure, which can also create problems in the neck and cervical. 
  • Carry out nasal washes: As previously seen, the accumulation of catarrhin the Eustachian tube is the main cause of plugged ears, ear pain and ear infections, so keeping the airways clean with nasal washes is an important method of prevention. 
  • Keep your ears dry: prolonged exposure to air conditioning with wet or not totally dry ears exponentially increases problems such as ear infections, so it is essential to make sure you dry them properly and completely. 
  • Babies need special care in these situations as they do not regulate their body temperature in the first months of life and changes in temperature can affect them.
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