How the "Wind" from Your Air Conditioner Can Make You Sick: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

by DAO Labs |

How the "Wind" from Your Air Conditioner Can Make You Sick: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

With temperatures across the US soaring, air conditioners, fans and anything to help cool the air become a refuge from the scorching temperatures. That said, many people can experience discomfort and “cold season-type symptoms" after prolonged exposure to air conditioning.  Or what about when going from the hot outdoors to a room with the AC at full blast (or vice versa!).  It's a shot to your system, and your Qi. 

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint, the concept of "wind" provides a unique explanation for why the "wind" from your air conditioner and the quick changes in temperatures can make you feel off. 

The Concept of Wind in Traditional Chinese Medicine

We’ve written extensively about the concept of “wind” in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory (here's an excellent overview written by Acupuncturist Hannah Fries, LAc), and why the concept is so important during the cold months of winter, but also in this case, during the scorching summer months as well. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, "wind" is more than just moving air.  It is considered one of the “Six External Pathogenic Factors”, which also include cold, heat, dampness, dryness, and yes, summer heat.  Wind is often the first factor to invade the body, and it carries outside pathogens with it. 

Wind is described as being mobile, changeable, and capable of penetrating the body's defenses. 

When wind invades the body, it can lead to various symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, stiff neck, and respiratory issues.

Air Conditioners as a Source of Pathogenic Wind

Air conditioners can create an environment that mimics the characteristics of pathogenic wind in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory.  Why?:

  1. Rapid Temperature Changes: Air conditioners can cause sudden and drastic changes in temperature. In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, sudden changes in temperature can weaken the body's defenses, making it more susceptible to wind invasion. This is particularly true when moving between the hot outdoor environment and the cool indoor air.
  2. "Dryness": Air conditioning units often remove moisture from the air, creating a dry environment. This dryness can affect the respiratory system, leading to symptoms like dry throat, cough, and nasal congestion. In Chinese Medicine, "dryness" is a condition that can exacerbate the effects of wind, making the body more vulnerable to cold season symptoms. 
  3. Direct Exposure: Sitting directly in the path of the cool air from an air conditioner can lead to what Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine describes as "Wind-Cold" invasion. This occurs when wind penetrates the body and combines with cold, causing symptoms such as stiff neck, headaches, and chills. The direct blast of cold air can disrupt the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood, leading to blockages and discomfort.
Symptoms of Wind Invasion

When the body is exposed to pathogenic wind from air conditioners, several symptoms may arise, which can include:

  • Headaches: Sudden changes in temperature and direct exposure to cold air can lead to headaches, as the wind affects the flow of Qi in the head.
  • Respiratory Issues: Dry and cool air can create imbalance in the respiratory system, causing symptoms like cough, sore throat, and nasal congestion.
  • Muscle Stiffness: Exposure to cold wind can cause muscles to contract, leading to stiffness and pain, particularly in the neck and shoulders.
  • Skin Conditions: “Wind” can also affect the skin, leading to dryness, itchiness, and in some cases, rashes.
Preventive Measures in Chinese Medicine

To mitigate the negative effects of air conditioning from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, consider the following preventive measures:

  1. AC in Moderation: Avoid setting the air conditioner to very low temperatures. Gradual cooling is better than sudden temperature drops.
  2. Humidity Control: Use a humidifier to maintain adequate moisture levels in the air, which helps to prevent dryness-related issues.
  3. Protective Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing to protect your body from direct exposure to cold air, especially around the neck and shoulders (here's an article on why to cover your neck).
  4. Regular Movement: Avoid sitting in one place for too long, especially directly under the air conditioning unit. Regular movement helps maintain the flow of Qi and blood.
  5. Herbal Remedies and Acupuncture: We recommend both the Cold Season Bundle if you feel as though the "wind" has disrupted the natural balance of your body, along with Immunity Support for keeping healthy when those around you are not (think airplanes for summer travel or hot subway cars when people have rushed in from the heat). 
The “Cold Season” Bundle: Bounce Back and Breathe Clear

While air conditioning provides comfort during hot weather, it can also introduce pathogenic wind into our living spaces, leading to various health issues from a Chinese Medicine standpoint.  

That's there the two formulas in our "Cold Season Bundle" help.  Bounce Back helps with symptoms such as fevers, chills, sore throats and aches, while Breathe Clear is used in conjunction for coughs and lung support.  

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Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on 

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