If you experience a cold chill when you walk into a shopping mall or office building, you're probably not imagining it - and, superstitions aside, it actually could be an ill omen. As The National reports on its news pages tomorrow, an informal survey of air-conditioning levels in public spaces in the Emirates has revealed some premises have temperatures as low as 17.5°C, and many of them fall below the recommended energy-efficient and comfort level of 24°C.
The list of medical conditions linked to sudden changes in temperature is long and more than a little worrying. It includes eye infections, dry skin, runny noses, sore throats, muscle aches and colds - all of which doctors attribute to lives spent moving in and out of air-conditioned spaces. Low indoor temperatures have also been associated with asthma attacks and other severe respiratory conditions, and are said to exacerbate coronary heart diseases and vascular brain diseases in patients with pre-existing conditions.
Dr Tarek Abdul Hadi Azeem from Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi told The National that he always advised patients to turn off their air conditioners whenever possible to avoid being exposed to cold temperatures. Another doctor, who preferred to remain anonymous, noted that the temperature at her own hospital was often set as low as 19°C, which was not just unhealthy for patients but for the doctors and other medical personnel treating them.
If all that is reason enough to stop and think before you adjust the air con level in your home or workplace, then consider that there's a bigger issue that affects not just people's health, but the future of the nation and indeed the entire world.
Officials from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) say that if every customer turned up their air con units from 20°C to the recommended 24°C, it would save enough energy to satisfy the needs of another 11,000 apartments. Alternatively, it could prevent the emission of 160,000 tonnes of harmful greenhouse gas, which is linked to climate change.
Dubai has a plan to reduce demand by 30 per cent by 2030, and many other jurisdictions worldwide have similar targets. We can all do our bit by ensuring that we use air conditioning only when we need it, and by setting it at a level that is both comfortable for us and sustainable for the planet.