Can your air conditioner make you sick? The signs to look out for

Posted at 8:34 AM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 18:52:05-04

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — There's nothing like walking into a cool house on a hot summer day.

But Richard Joyce, who owns Richardson's Heating & Cooling in Garfield Heights says before you put that air conditioner in the window, you need to give it a good look over.

"The main thing you need to look for is look inside of the louvers and see if you see any black mold spots. If you see any black mold spots, you're going to want to remove those,” Joyce said.

Louvers are the vents on the front of the unit where cold air blows out. Black mold can grow there and inside of the unit from the moisture inside and that can have some serious consequences for your health.

"The biggest risk is going to be for patients with a compromised immune system. So those are the patients that can get more severe infection from mold exposure and more severe pneumonia,” Dr. Emily Pennington, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Cleveland Clinic, said.

Others who don't have a sensitivity to mold won't notice any symptoms at all, but for most of us, Pennington says they'll show up like your seasonal allergies.

"Some throat irritation, some nasal congestion, maybe some eye irritation, coughing or wheezing,” Pennington said.

Fixing the source of the problem is the best treatment. That means making sure your a/c is tilted slightly back so water can drain off.

"If water gets inside of the A/C, you already have water condensation coming in from the humidity being taken out of your house, but if too much water accumulates, you pose a threat for mold,” Joyce said.

It's also a good idea to give the louvers and filter inside a good scrubbing.

"You can use anything, a non-toxic solution, dish soap, just regular water,” Joyce said.

At the end of the day, if there's just too much mold – throw it away.