Can Air Conditioners Cause Headaches?

Written by: Aaron Patterson
October 12, 2023
Can Air Conditioners Cause Headaches?

Air conditioning is a modern-day luxury that many of us can't imagine living without, especially during the hot summer months. However, have you ever wondered if your air conditioner could be the cause of your headaches? 

Let's delve into this topic and understand the connection between air conditioning and headaches.

Can Air Conditioners Cause Headaches?

The short answer is yes. For some individuals, air conditioning can indeed trigger headaches. While air conditioning is essential in many parts of the country during the summer, it comes with its set of drawbacks. Several factors associated with air conditioning can contribute to discomfort, including dehydration, noise, and the circulation of chemicals and allergens.

Types Of Headaches Triggered By Air Conditioning

While not everyone may experience headaches due to air conditioning, for those who do, it's crucial to identify the type and potential triggers. By understanding the different kinds of headaches associated with AC use, one can take preventive measures and ensure comfort.

Splitting Headaches

One of the primary reasons for headaches due to air conditioning is dehydration. As an air conditioner cools the air, it also draws out moisture and humidity. This drier air can lead to dehydration, especially if one isn't consuming enough water. Dehydration can subsequently result in splitting headaches. A potential solution to this problem is to run a humidifier alongside the air conditioner and ensure adequate water intake throughout the day.

Frequent Headaches

If you find yourself getting headaches frequently when the air conditioner is running, it could be due to the temperature setting. When exposed to very cold temperatures, the blood vessels in the brain can contract, leading to headaches. A simple remedy could be to adjust the temperature settings, raising it a few notches to see if it alleviates the symptoms.

Severe Headaches

Several factors can lead to severe headaches:

  • Excessive Noise: If your air conditioning unit is particularly loud or emits sounds at a frequency that is bothersome, it can result in severe headaches. In such cases, adjusting the unit or considering a replacement might be necessary.

  • Chemicals And Allergens: Air conditioning units can circulate more than just cold air. If the vents of a forced-air system are not clean, it could distribute dust, pollen, and other allergens throughout your living space. Moreover, if you use strong cleaning chemicals in your home or office without proper ventilation, the air conditioner can recirculate these irritants, leading to headaches. Addressing this issue might require a thorough cleaning of the HVAC system and ensuring proper ventilation in the indoor space.

For those experiencing migraines or recurrent severe headaches, it's essential to consult a physician. If you believe that your air conditioner is the root cause of your headaches, consider having a technician conduct maintenance, cleaning, and repairs to see if it brings relief.

Reasons Why Air Conditioners Give You A Headache

Air conditioners, while providing relief from the sweltering heat, can sometimes be the cause of discomfort, particularly headaches. Let's explore some of the reasons behind this phenomenon:

Cold Temperatures

One of the primary reasons air conditioners can induce headaches is due to the cold temperatures they produce. According to experts, cold temperatures stimulate the trigeminal nerve, leading to the constriction of blood vessels in the brain, which can result in a headache. This effect is somewhat similar to the sensation of a "brain freeze" one might experience after consuming something very cold too quickly.

What to do: If you suspect that the cold temperature from your air conditioner is causing your headache, consider adjusting the thermostat. Raising the temperature a few notches might alleviate the symptoms.

Humidity Levels

Air conditioners not only cool the air but also reduce its humidity levels. While a certain reduction in humidity can be beneficial, especially in very humid climates, overly dry air can lead to dehydration. Even mild dehydration can trigger mild to moderate headaches.

What to do: Ensure you stay hydrated, especially on days when the air conditioner is running frequently. Drinking ample water can help counteract the dehydrating effects of the AC. Additionally, consider installing a humidifier alongside your air conditioner to maintain an appropriate indoor humidity level.

Dry Skin

The reduced humidity levels caused by air conditioners can also lead to dry skin. While dry skin itself might not directly cause headaches, the discomfort and itchiness can contribute to stress and tension, potentially leading to headaches.

What to do: Regularly moisturize your skin and consider using a room humidifier to combat the drying effects of the air conditioner.

Nasal Passages And Brain Contractions

The cold air from the air conditioner can affect your nasal passages. Breathing in cold, dry air can dry out the sinus cavities, leading to discomfort and potentially headaches. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, the cold can cause the blood vessels in the brain to contract, leading to headaches.


What to do: Adjusting the temperature settings of your air conditioner and ensuring you stay hydrated can help. If you experience persistent sinus-related discomfort, consider consulting a healthcare professional for guidance.

In addition to the above reasons, it's worth noting that air conditioners can also spread mold, which can be a headache trigger for some individuals. Mold thrives in dark, wet, and warm conditions, and the indoor unit of an air conditioner can sometimes provide the perfect environment for mold growth. Regular maintenance and the use of UV germicidal lamps can help prevent mold growth in air conditioning units.

Prevention Of AC-Induced Headaches

While air conditioners can sometimes be the cause of headaches, there are several preventive measures you can take to mitigate these effects. Here are some strategies to consider:

Drink Plenty Of Water

Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches. As air conditioners operate, they not only cool the air but also reduce its humidity levels. This can lead to a drier environment, potentially causing dehydration if one isn't consuming enough fluids. Mild to moderate dehydration can result in headaches.

What to do: Ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when the air conditioner is running frequently. Staying hydrated can counteract the dehydrating effects of the AC and help prevent headaches.

Limit Your Time In An Air-Conditioned Room

Constant exposure to cold temperatures from an air conditioner can lead to headaches due to the constriction of blood vessels in the brain. If you find yourself spending extended periods in an air-conditioned environment, it might be beneficial to take breaks.

What to do: Consider taking short breaks outside or in non-air-conditioned spaces. This can help your body adjust and reduce the risk of headaches. Additionally, avoid setting the temperature too low; maintaining a moderate temperature can help prevent headaches and ensure the AC doesn't work harder than necessary.

Use An Air Filter In The A/C Unit

Air quality plays a crucial role in our overall health. If your air conditioning system isn't equipped with proper filters or if the filters are dirty, it can circulate allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander throughout your living space. These allergens can trigger headaches in some individuals.

What to do: Install quality air filters in your air conditioning system and ensure they are changed regularly. Clean filters can effectively trap allergens and prevent them from circulating in your home. Additionally, consider scheduling an air duct cleaning every few years to ensure clean air circulation. This process removes accumulated dirt and allergens from the ducts, further improving indoor air quality.

Other preventive measures include using a humidifier to maintain appropriate humidity levels, avoiding excessively cold settings on the AC, scheduling regular AC maintenance to address potential issues, and considering the use of indoor air purifiers to further enhance air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can air conditioner give you headache? Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions about this.

Can air conditioning cause migraines?

While not everyone may experience migraines due to air conditioning, certain factors like cold temperatures, dehydration, and allergens can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.

How can I prevent dehydration caused by air conditioning?

Ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when the air conditioner is running frequently. Using a humidifier alongside the AC can also help maintain appropriate indoor humidity levels.

Is it harmful to sleep with the air conditioner on all night?

While it's generally safe to sleep with the AC on, it's essential to ensure the temperature isn't set too low and that the room has adequate humidity to prevent dehydration and other discomforts.

How often should I clean or replace the filters in my AC unit?

It's recommended to check and clean the filters monthly and replace them every 3-6 months, depending on usage and the environment.

Can mold in my air conditioner cause headaches?

Yes, mold in air conditioning units can release spores into the air, which can trigger headaches and other allergic reactions in some individuals.

Should I consult a doctor if I frequently get headaches when my AC is on?

Yes, if you experience recurrent headaches and believe your air conditioner might be the cause, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional to rule out other potential causes and get appropriate advice.

Understanding Air Conditioner Headaches

While air conditioners provide much-needed relief from the heat, they can also be a source of discomfort for some. They can also sometimes be the cause of headaches; however, with the right preventive measures, you can enjoy the cooling benefits of your AC without the associated discomfort. 

Find out how long air conditioners last by checking out our detailed guide. Visit HVAC Of America and explore our resources to learn more about HVAC systems.

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