Keeping temperatures under control is also good for our health

Much has been said these days about President Draghi’s phrase: Do you prefer peace or air conditioners on all summer?. The government has decided to control temperatures to mitigate the risk of being deprived of Russian gas in the short term: the new measure prohibits, from May 1 this year and until March 31, 2023, all offices of the ‘Public administration (except hospitals) to bring air conditioners below 27 degrees and radiators above 19 degrees, with the possibility of overshoot in both cases for a maximum of two degrees.

Private homes, for now, are not bound by this obligation, although in Italy the average temperature inside homes is kept between 21 and 23 degrees during the coldest months. If all gas-heated houses in Europe reduced the temperature by 3 degrees, it would be possible to do without 11.6% of Russian gas imports. But there is also another very important issue to consider, in addition to the current supply problem: health! The excesses (heat in winter and cold in summer) to which we are accustomed are great enemies of health.

Closed environments in winter are characterized by too hot and dry air, while they should not have temperatures above 17/18, maintaining a humidity of at least 50-60% in the air. So, as a doctor, I would recommend Draghi to lower the limits even more! Excessive heat in environments where children and adults stay poses a problem for the first immune defences: the dry air dries out the mucous membranes that line the respiratory tract, on which our barriers against germs and viruses, as well as antibodies, are located. of surface. Damage to the mucous membranes inevitably leads to the destruction of these defenses, opens the way to viruses and germs and therefore facilitates illness. So as not to fall ill from the cold, despite popular beliefs and legendary frescoes! On the other hand, to maintain the salubrity of the rooms during the winter, the heating should only be left on for a few hours a day and the windows wide open regularly, both for the essential exchange of air and humidity and to let penetrate sunlight (the positive bactericidal action of which is hindered by glass).

Air conditioners, which have improved the lives of millions of people, especially the elderly, have also led to a considerable increase in energy consumption and pollution. And again, damage to health too: an air conditioner not only produces fresh air, but also dehumidifies the environment, thereby reducing humidity. Also in this case, the air is drier, to the point of reducing the hydration of the mucous membranes and causing that unpleasant sensation of dryness in the mouth and eyes. It is therefore also valid for air conditioners, as well as for heating, the effect of destroying the surface defenses that facilitate the entry of germs. In addition, if the systems are not properly maintained, molds, fungi, bacteria and viruses accumulate in the air conditioners, which are introduced into the rooms with the refrigerated air, thus increasing the pathogen load.

Hot and humid on the outside, cold and dry on the inside: it’s the perfect recipe for getting sick. Office colds, headaches, sore throats are on the rise and these are just a few of the illnesses linked to exposure to excessively chilled air.

Until 40 years ago there were not few houses in Italy without heating and air conditioners were a rarity: now, on the contrary, it seems extravagant not to have air conditioning. We quickly got used to this comfort, so much so that now we live with an almost constant temperature: in summer it drops to 25 degrees and in winter it rises to 23: we don’t even need to change seasons anymore, you can always wear the same short-sleeved shirt! But our body’s inability to live with the seasons represents a loss: our body has known the different seasons for millennia and has changed its habits depending on whether it is cold or hot (in relation to the type and consumption of food, to the type of physical activity, to Clothing). Now always the same season which is bad for health, for the management of energy resources, for pollution and, as Draghi tells us, even for peace!

April 15, 2022 | 09:19



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