Reporting Jason DeRusha
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Walk around Minnesota and you’ll hear that low, purring hum of the air conditioning. However, you may also hear the sound of sneezing and coughing — the sound of the summer cold. So, does all our exposure to air conditioning cause summer colds?
On Twitter, Leah Michele wrote, “I just got over my summer cold & am convinced it is from spending the weekend in the AC!!”
Jenny You also tweeted that “AC is giving me the sniffles I think.”
In general, can air conditioning get you sick?
“Well, that’s a potential problem,” said Dr. Mark Seaburg, an internal medicine specialist at Park Nicollet’s Minneapolis clinic.
With window unit air conditioners, standing water can pool inside, and certain bacteria can get there and replicate. While the bacteria blowing around your home can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia, it won’t lead to a cold.
So, is air conditioning even a factor in the summer cold?
“Not really. Summer colds are caused by viruses just like winter,” said Seaburg, “coming out of hot into a cold building, that’s not a reason to get sick.”
Colds aren’t caused by the cold weather, either. Two-hundred different viruses can cause what we call the “cold.”
Air conditioners do remove humidity from the air. Some researchers think that may remove the layer of mucus in your nose, which provides protection from viruses.
But the reality is: you’re three times more likely to catch a cold in the winter.
“Kids are in school more in the winter. So they’re congregating around each other and spreading those viruses around. They’re bringing them home. Their parents get sick. Their parents bring those viruses to work. That’s why were more prone to get sick in the winter,” said Seaburg.
In the summer, we’re outside more and not as close to each other, so we’re less likely to share our germs.
Air conditioning causing or contributing to colds is just an old-wives tale, according to Seaburg.
“I’m afraid we can’t blame it for our summer colds,” he said.