Can You Get Sick from Being in a Really Cold, Air-Conditioned Room?

November 16, 2015

Ever been in an air conditioned room that was freezing? Maybe you’re reading this now sitting at your desk and shivering in the corner with three jackets on. Is it possible that simply being exposed to cold can make you sick?


Being cold, by itself, cannot make you sick. You have to be exposed to viruses in order to get sick.

However, your air conditioner can make you sick (even if your home isn’t freezing). Here’s how...

How your AC can make you sick

An unmaintained air conditioner serves as a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Mold can make you sick, aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms, and cause headaches.

Here’s how it happens:

1. Mold spores get into your home

Mold already lives in most homes. Check out the EPA’s interactive mold house to see where mold is probably living in your home.

Your ductwork is also a common entry point for mold. Many homes have leaky air ducts that pull in mold (and other junk) from damp places like your attic, basement or crawlspace.

2. Your AC collects mold spores

Your air conditioner sucks air from your home and blows it over the cold evaporator coils inside the AC unit. As these coils cool the air, they also collect moisture (the same way a cold glass of water collects moisture).

The microscopic mold spores and dirt in the air in your home sticks to the moist coils.


3. Your air conditioner breeds more mold and mildew

Mold and mildew need three things in order to grow:

  • Moisture
  • Food
  • Warmth (temperatures above 70°F)

The evaporator coils inside your indoor AC unit provide an environment with all of 3 these. Dirt and moisture are collected on the coils along with the mold. And the attic or closet your unit is inside of is plenty warm.

So, over time, your evaporator coil can become covered in mold and other bacterial growth. And then...

4. Mold is blown into your home

Whenever your air conditioner turns on it blows air over the bacteria-covered evaporator coil. This spreads mold spores and bacteria throughout your home where your family breathes in the contaminants.

5. Repeat

How to keep your AC from making you sick

To stop this cycle, you need to do several things:

  • Clean up any mold and remove the sources of moisture—Learn more in this Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home from the EPA.
  • Maintain your AC—A good maintenance visit or tune up should include cleaning of your inside unit’s evaporator coils. This will help remove any buildup on the coils.
  • Seal your air ducts—Sealing the air leaks in your ducts will prevent your AC from pulling more nasty stuff from your attic, helping keep your AC coils clean.
  • Install a whole-home air cleaner—Air cleaners are very fine filters that remove even the smallest contaminants from the air without harming your air conditioner from reduced airflow.

Advanced Air serves the air conditioning needs of all Southwest Florida, including Naples, Fort Myers and Port Charlotte. Contact us for more info.