'Air con flu' really is a thing – here's how it could make you ill on holiday

It may be bliss returning to an air-conditioned room after a day of lounging in the sun and working on that tan, but it apparently has some downsides, too.

You may be familiar with that ‘stuffy’ feeling of being congested and a bit ‘bleh’ during or after your holiday. In fact, it’s pretty damn common.

The culprit? It could all be down to the glorified air conditioning unit in your hotel room.

Yes, ‘Air Con Flu’, ‘Magaluf Flu’ and ‘Ayia Napa Flu’, they’re all one and the same.

Senior clinical pharmacist Nyrah Saleem tells Metro.co.uk that the units can harbour nasty bacteria.

She says: ‘Generally, a well-maintained air conditioning unit will not make you sick.

‘However, an AC Unit which is not maintained in terms of water build up could potentially increase the risk of infections if it harvests viruses and bacteria.

‘Especially if mould or microbes grow within the AC unit.’

This means that the refreshing cool air we are so grateful for is also full of irritants.

Nyrah adds: ‘Mould exposure can irritate your ears, eyes, nose and throat leading to symptoms such as a dry mouth, sneezing or a sore throat.

‘Patients with conditions such as eczema or asthma may be more prone to irritation.’

If you own the air conditioning unit then it’s a good idea to get is serviced at least once a year by a professional says Nyrah.

But when on holiday, the easiest solution might be an anti-allergy tablet, such as Cetirizine Hydrochloride, which you can buy over the counter.

Air conditioning units could even lead to contracting Legionnaires’ Disease in certain circumstances, says Nyrah.

‘Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia (a lung infection) caused by Legionella bacteria,’ she adds.

‘Legionella is usually found naturally in freshwater such a lakes and rivers however it can also thrive in man-made water systems, including hot tubs and air conditioning system and it’s usually spread by inhaling infecting water droplets.

‘An infection could lead to symptoms such as a fever, chest pains and a cough.’

This should be a concern if the AC unit uses water as part of it’s cooling process. If the water isn’t treated regularly it could lead to bacterial growth, according to Nyrah.

We go on holiday to have a break from life, relax and get well – so we don’t want to be coming home feeling worse than before we left.

But with the way AC units are maintained that may not be as easy as we thought.

Why does the aircon on holiday make you sick… #fyp #fypシ #magaluf #ayianapa #aircon

TikToker Ben Matthew Saunders, who lives in popular holiday destination Mallorca, says the hotel air conditioning units there rarely get cleaned properly, leading to a build-up of grime, mould and many other gross things.

His TikTok has garnered nearly 17,000 views and in it he says: ‘They’ve probably not been serviced properly for the last 10 years.

‘So then you’ve got this mould blowing out while you’re lying there for eight hours with your mouth open.’

Nyrah’s tips for staying well on holiday with air conditioning:

1. Choose reputable accommodations: Prioritise staying in well-maintained and reputable hotels, resorts, that prioritise cleanliness and proper maintenance practices. Check their hygiene ratings or inquire about the maintenance practices  

2. Keep windows closed: To minimise the entry of outdoor contaminants, keep the windows closed while the air conditioning system is in use. This can help maintain a controlled indoor environment and reduce the spread of allergens or pollutants 

4. Request room cleaning and air filter replacement: If your accommodation provides room cleaning services, request that they pay attention to the air conditioning unit and clean it properly. If you are concerned about the indoor air quality, you could always invest into a portable air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to take with you on your travels 

5. Monitor your health: Be mindful of any symptoms you may experience during your stay. If you notice respiratory issues, allergies, or other health problems that seem to be exacerbated when the air conditioning is running, consider notifying the hotel management and seeking medical advice.

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