If you spend hours every week in an air conditioned office or classroom, you may be at a higher risk of developing dry eye disease. The same is true if you use air conditioning at home or frequently spend time in cafes, malls, hotels, and other locations that rely on air conditioning systems to maintain a steady temperature.

Dry eye disease or dry eye syndrome occurs when there is an imbalance in the oily or watery layers that make up the tear film, or when your tear glands don’t produce enough tears. The tear film lubricates and protects the surface of your eyes throughout the day, including at night while you sleep.

Air Conditioning and Dry Eyes

Air conditioning cools the air and, by doing so, removes moisture from it. The cooler the air in an office or classroom, the less vapor it contains.

Your eyes need moisture to remain hydrated. Without this moisture, they may start to feel dry, gritty, and uncomfortable. In other words, air conditioning systems can disrupt the watery component of your tear film.

It’s important to note that air conditioning units don’t have to blow air directly into your eyes for your tear film to be affected. Simply spending time in an air-conditioned room can have bad effects on your eyes.

person working in an air conditioned office sitting with back to viewer

A 2020 study investigated the effects of air conditioning on healthy young adults between 20 and 30 years of age. Researchers found that only 1 hour in an air conditioned room significantly increased tear evaporation.

A previous study on “office eye syndrome” found that frequent dry eye complaints increased by up to 48% among hospital staff working in air-conditioned rooms.

Air conditioning can be one of the primary dry eye disease causes. It can also be one of multiple dry eyes causes alongside extended screen time, nutritional deficiencies, wearing contact lenses, age, and gender (women are more prone to develop dry eyes than men).

Air conditioning can also exacerbate existing dry eyes. For example, you may develop dry eyes because you have to work on a computer for hours every day and don’t have enough time to cook meals containing all the nutrients that your eyes need to stay healthy.

How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy in an Air Conditioned Room

To reduce the risk of dry eye in an office or another indoor space, it’s important to control the temperature and humidity if possible. A 2023 study on the environment and dry eyes suggests that the temperature should be set between 20-25°C and the humidity levels between 30-50%.

An air filtration system should also be in place to reduce pollutants and improve air quality. What’s more, air filters need to be replaced regularly.

male hand holding air conditioning remote control in one hand pointed toward air conditioning unit with 21 degrees C temperature setting

If dry eyes is a problem in your office, you may want to discuss adjusting these settings with your office manager. Research shows that dry eyes can reduce work productivity, so everyone has to gain from a constructive discussion on this topic.

Here are a few other things you can do to reduce the risk of dry eye disease in an office or classroom. Even if you already have developed dry eyes, these suggestions may help improve dry eye symptoms.

Avoid Air Blowing Directly Toward Your Face

Having a vent or fan blow air into your face can feel great on a hot day. But it can make dry eye symptoms worse in no time.

Change your position at the desk, move the desk, or redirect the vent if possible. Working too close to an air conditioning vent can be bad not only for your eyes but for your airways, ears, and even your skin.

Start Using a Desktop Humidifier or Vaporizer

As we’ve seen, air conditioning dries up the air in a room. A humidifier can increase the moisture level in the air. Some advanced air conditioning systems have integrated humidifiers. But even so, you may want to consider using a personal humidifier if possible.

This can come in the form of a small, portable device that you fill with water and plug into your computer’s USB port. It works by vaporizing the water to create more humidity around you. An aromatherapy device works in the same way, but you may want to avoid using essential oils as they may irritate your eyes.

Wear Eyeglasses

Contact lenses promote dry eyes by sticking to the surface of your eyes and reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches it – your eyes need oxygen to produce tears.

Glasses have the added benefit that they can reduce the amount of air from air conditioned systems that reaches your eyes.

woman with eyeglasses and dark blue shirt smiling while working alongside coworker with longer brown hair while looking into a screen next to which are a few flowers

If you don’t need to correct your vision, you can use eyeglasses with a clear lens or try computer glasses with a blue light filter.

Tip: If you must wear contacts, make sure to choose the right contact lenses for dry eyes.

Keep Yourself Hydrated

Water is one of the essential components of the tear film. Your eyes need to stay hydrated work well -- dehydration can cause dry eyes.

In an air conditioned office, it may be challenging to drink enough liquids, especially if you forget yourself in your work. And when you do, you’re likely to reach out for a cup of coffee or tea, both of which contain caffeine that dehydrates you.

Make it a habit to drink water regularly. Bring water with you if you have to and bring a glass too. Leave them where you can see them so that they will act as prompts for you to drink water more often.

Take an Eye Health Supplement

A natural eye health supplement like SightC or Blueberry Gummies supports eye health in the digital age. Providing antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, and vitamins and minerals, these plant-based, diabetes-friendly supplements nourish your eyes with nutrients that may be lacking from your diet.

Now available as part of the Mild Dry Eye Relief Bundle, these supplements nourish your eyes and support the functioning of your tear glands. At the same time, they help soothe existing dry eye symptoms.


What’s more, they are easy to take – drop them in a bag or backpack and take them with your at the office.

Learn more about the Mild Dry Eye Relief Bundle.

Things to Remember

Air conditioning can trigger dry eyes or make dry eye symptoms worse. But there are several things you can do to mitigate its effects on your eyes.

  • Reposition your desk away from air conditioning vents.
  • Use a personal humidifier.
  • Switch from contacts to eyeglasses or simply wear clear-lens glasses.
  • Drink water regularly.
  • Take an eye health supplement.
In the end, air conditioning doesn’t have to be a bad thing. With the tips above, you can enjoy the benefits of air conditioning while also protecting your eyes.

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