Air conditioning as an asthma trigger - Asthma UK communi...

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Air conditioning as an asthma trigger

Frued profile image

Hiya, I’ve been back working in the office and noticed the air conditioning is irritating my lungs and causing an ongoing cough. Has anyone else had similar experiences. Thanks in advance

16 Replies

Changes in air temperature, as well as cold air and hot air themselves are well known asthma triggers. However, cold air particularly can cause a reflex reaction, such as when one goes into cold winter air it take take your breath away. That's often not causing an asthmatic reaction (as non asthmatics get it too) but more of a reflex response. It's possible the air con might be doing this. It might not be that but it's worth considering. Of course it doesn't change the irritation, but it would change how it's treated. Trying simple breathing exercises might help, as might a warm drink to sip to ease the response.

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to twinkly29

Hi Twinkly 29, thanks for your input, it makes sense what you are saying. I’ve been advised I have adult on set asthma with minor emphysema since last March , so I’m still in the process of identifying irritants and potential triggers. Cold temperatures would be a trigger for me and I have tried some of your recommended to date. I’ve been advised the air conditioning have been cleaned recently, so I’ll keep on trying some variations to minimise the effect. Many thanks

Is the air con maintained/cleaned regularly? Only as I reacted badly to it in an old job as it was just circulating lots of dust around, so maybe worth considering.

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to Lotti_321-

Hiya, I’ve checked and I’ve been told it has been cleaned and serviced recently. I’ve been trying a few things to hopefully eliminate the irritation, hopefully it’ll be turned off coming into autumn lol, thanks for your comments

Dry air can be a trigger and a\c s do dry out the air.

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to Itswonderful

Hiya, you have a point, I’ve tried drinking plenty of fluids , even wearing a mask as a barrier. Will keeping trying various things

Itswonderful profile image
Itswonderful in reply to Frued

Perhaps speak to occupational health?

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to Itswonderful

Hiya, I’m due to have a meeting with them soon, I will bring it up , thanks

A/C that is not maintained can also breed bacteria or fungal spores which then get distributed (or so I've been told)

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to Gareth57

Hi Gareth57, I would agree, I’ve worked in ventilation as part of my previous job, and they require maintenance and cleaning regularly to avoid any bacteria etc , thanks for your thoughts

Oh gosh! I eventually became a health & safety rep at work in order to address the many problems with our air handling system (it heated as well as cooled).

But first, I sought an occupational health review via HR for myself and was lucky enough to see a doctor who understood the effects of low humidity on the respiratory system, especially for people with existing respiratory diseases. Someone had tipped me off that the problem could be low humidity so I made a diary of humidity readings for several weeks plus daily symptoms. It turned out that the average humidity was a dreadfully low 20%. The doctor made recommendations for reasonable adjustments, including a room of my own with my own room AC control plus a humidifier. It certainly helped my asthma no end. Ideally, humidity has a good range of 30 to 50%. There's quite a bit online about humidity, temperature and respiratory diseases.

The rep thing grew out of that experience as other people were really suffering too but without an underlying health problem it was difficult for them to tackle the general issues with the AC.

If your employer doesn't have access to occupational health services then you can seek a free government service called Access to Work.

gov.uk/access-to-work

NB you can buy a hygrometer from Amazon for around £10 if you think humidity may be the issue and if you want to gather your own evidence.

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to Poobah

Hi Poobah, that’s very interesting. I’m due to have an appointment with occupational health soon and this is something worth exploring. Sounds like you have got it sorted for work through OH. There’s the option to have a room on my own most of the time. Was there a particular humidifier that worked for you . Thanks for your input

Poobah profile image
Poobah in reply to Frued

The OH practitioner recommended one. Always best to get OH advice as they can assess your specific office and your needs. Good luck with OH.

to test whether it is the dry air causing problems, or if it's the allergens being stirred around causing problems, one can put on a respirator for a few hrs. If it's the dry air, the respirator won't make a difference. If it's the allergens, it will. If it does, installing a filter should help. If it's office work, it could be the allergens in the carpets etc being moved around with the air flow from the AC, not the AC per se.

Even if the Estates claim that the unit has been recently cleaned and serviced, it does not mean much, as they may have done it inadequately (to tick a box, like at my work place).

I brought my own AC to work, since our Estates' one was inadequate as an AC, and poorly maintained due to dust etc.

Frued profile image
Frued in reply to runcyclexcski

Thanks for your thoughts, I’ll definitely need to establish if it’s one or the other

Yes, it certainly affects my asthma terribly. Won't use it at all. P

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