Is Your Environment Making You Sick? Part I

windy environment

Environmental irritants are a common source of illness. Whether you are living in a home with black mold, or sitting beneath a dirty air filter at work, your environment plays a role in your health. While we may know to limit our use of caustic cleaning materials and change our vacuum bags regularly, there are other ways your environment may be making you sick.

Indoor environments have their own weather systems. Because we live in the modern era, we can easily control the temperature of our home, office, and car. If we run hot, we will blast the air conditioner. If we are always frigid, we’ll carry a cardigan or a shawl with us everywhere we go, even into a grocery store in the summer.

Indoor weather patterns have a big impact on our health. Let’s take the example of the air conditioner being set to “high.” For some people, cool air is exactly what they need to recover from blistering temperatures outdoors. If the person works outside, they may crave the cool comfort of central air because it is the only respite they get from the heat each day. Totally normal, right?

Here is where air conditioning can become a problem. Sitting beneath an air conditioning duct or sleeping with a fan blowing directly on your skin creates a “windy” environment in your home and in your body. When humans are exposed to wind, this environmental factor can enter the skin and cause havoc. Bell’s palsy, a condition marked by a sudden drooping of the face, is a pathology of unknown origin in Western medicine. In Chinese medicine, we see this as wind entering the channels and disrupting the flow of qi and blood through the meridians.

This may seem hard to fathom, but your body is actually quite open. The pores of our skin are tiny portals to our inner environments, and wind is able to force its way through those doors, especially when it is propelled via a fan. Cold wind is particularly damaging to the body. For these reasons alone, consider circulating the air in your house or office in a way that does not force the wind directly toward your body, especially your face.

Next week we will look at the role microclimates play in our immune function.