It's common knowledge that having an air conditioner in good working order can help with respiratory conditions like asthma and certain allergies, as long as you keep the filter clean. But did you know there are other less obvious conditions that can also be helped by indoor air conditioning at home?
Patients with diabetes, heart disease, and even some mental illnesses all have a lower risk of various side effects and serious medical events if they have a working air conditioner at home. Check out how your air conditioner can help protect you if you have one of these health conditions.
During the summer, patients with Type 2 diabetes are at special risk for heat exhaustion and dehydration. It's such a problem that emergency room use by diabetics increases noticeably when the temperature on the thermometer rises to hotter than ordinary levels. It can be hard for the body of a diabetic to manage the heat effectively. Even patients drinking extra water in order to stay hydrated might have a problem, because if your blood sugar rises in response to the heat, you'll urinate more, making it harder to retain the fluid you need to stay cool.
That doesn't mean you can't go outside and garden in the summer time, but staying near home or another air conditioned building is a good idea during a heat wave – you need to be able to go indoors and cool down when you first begin to feel the effects of the heat. If you reach the point of feeling dizzy, faint, clammy, or headachy, you may already be suffering from heat exhaustion.
One more thing to remember is that insulin, glucose meters, and testing strips can all be damaged in extreme heat. You and your medical supplies are better off staying in the AC.
Excess heat can really take its toll on your heart. When the temperature of the air is higher than the temperature of the body, your heart has to beat faster and pump harder in order to move your blood. In addition, sweating strains the cardiovascular system by extracting minerals that your heart needs, like sodium and potassium, out through your pores along with your sweat.
While healthy people can adapt to this, people with weakened hearts or clogged arteries are more susceptible to complications from the heat. A working air conditioner can do a lot to relieve the extra heat burden experienced by those with heart disease. Studies have found that communities with more homes with air conditioning see less heart related hospitalizations than communities where fewer people have air conditioning.
Air conditioning may not have a direct effect on mental illness or the symptoms of mental illness, but it can help keep people who suffer from mental illness alive and healthy. Certain medications for mental illnesses increase the risk for heat stroke in the patients who take them. What's more, some mental illnesses themselves also increase the risk of heat stroke. In a 1999 Ohio heat wave, patients with mental illness accounted for almost half of the heat stroke related deaths.
Patients with mental illness and patients who take anti-psychotics and anticholinergics for mental illness are advised to be aware of the signs of heat stroke, including dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache, and rapid pulse. You should try to stay indoors in the air conditioning during times of high temperatures, or seek out public places that have air conditioning, in order to stay cool and avoid succumbing to heat stroke.
If you or someone in your household suffers from diabetes, heart disease, or mental illness, a working air conditioner can be a health booster and a lifesaver. Make sure to have your air conditioner repaired or serviced in the spring, before the summer heat waves hit, so that you can rely on it when you need it the most.