Hot weather
Stepping into the cool confines of an air-conditioned area straight from the heat can lead to major health issues. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: With soaring summer temperatures and humidity levels rising as high as 90 per cent, it’s little surprise that most residents find comfort in using air-conditioning during this weather season. Doctors, however, warn that stepping into cool AC areas straight from the heat can lead to health issues such as catching the flu or developing sore muscles.

“The cold temperatures doesn’t cause a virus on its own, rather it sets up the environmental conditions that makes it easier for a virus to breed,” explained Dr Samina Ahmad, who works as a family medicine consultant at HealthPlus Family Health Centres.

Dr Samina Ahmad

“Our eyes and noses are lined by a protective mucus barrier. This is nature’s way of making sure that whatever virus comes in, stays trapped. In an air conditioned environment, the air has a drying effect and this makes our eyes and noses dry as well, increasing the likelihood for someone to fall sick,” she added.

“When a person steps from a warm place into a cooler place, their eyes and nose are hit with a blast of cold air that dries the protective mucus,” she said. Dr Ahmad said it was important for people to give their body time to adjust to the cooler temperatures. “People need to acclimatise their body and make sure they don’t step into the cold air straight away; allow the body to get used to the drop in temperature.

“It’s important to remember that viruses find it easier to attack people who have a weakened immune system, so when somebody goes from a very hot place to a much cooler indoor setting, this causes physical stress for the body, which can lower its immunity,” she added.

Along with the possibility of getting sick, Dr Ahmad said that stepping into AC areas could also lead to muscle soreness and aches. “Muscle aches on the neck and arms are possible. The body will eventually cool off on its own, so it’s not a good idea to stand in front of or near the AC to get that blast of cool air, especially if that is the first thing you do once you step indoors,” she added.

Dr Ragab Allam

Dr Ragab Allam, a specialist in cardiovascular disease at Bareen International Hospital, said that room temperature should be set at 24 degrees Celsius after the person has stepped inside and taken a short rest of 15 minutes.

“Sudden exposure to a very cold area isn’t good, a person shouldn’t just go from standing outside in 40 degrees Celsius weather to 24 degrees at once," Dr Allam.

"My recommendation is that when you step inside your home from the hot outdoors, drink some water and rest for 10 to 15 minutes at a temperature setting of around 30 degrees Celsius. Only after that should the AC setting be turned down to 24 degrees Celsius. Do not go below this temperature, its the ideal number,” Dr Allam added.