If you’re going to the hospital, for your own medical reasons or just to visit a loved one, you’d better bundle up.  It’s nothing new and you’ve probably noticed it plenty of times before.  Once you step foot into a hospital, even if it’s a hundred degrees outside, you’re going to be cold…really cold!  But, why?

There are three main reasons hospitals are kept freezing cold, none of which are for the comfort of the patients or the visitors…obviously.

Bacteria Buster

Bacteria thrives wherever there is warmth which is the chief reason the temperature in hospitals is kept cold.  HVAC service providers are even in on the chill factor.  It’s defined in the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) code book that hospital temperatures are to be kept between 68 and 75 degrees and the operating rooms are set even colder.  (I-P_A19_Ch09.fm (ashrae.org))  

While the concept works along the same lines as keeping food refrigerated to prevent bacteria from growing on it does, not everyone is sold on the idea.  According to the medical website, VeryWellHealth, the opposite is true (Why Operating Rooms Are So Cold (verywellhealth.com)).  They claim that one of the most important factors in preventing infection is adequate blood flow along with the proper supply of oxygen to the body’s tissues – neither of which happen in cold environments. 

Condensation Control

One fact that is rarely argued is that condensation buildup on hospital surfaces is bad news.  When warm temperatures and humidity bring on condensation, both bacteria and viruses grow.  They then spread from one surface to the next and one person to the next, presenting the possibility of an entire cross contaminated hospital. (Design guidelines for moisture control in hospitals – Construction and Design (healthcarefacilitiestoday.com))  

In addition, mold has a tendency to grow in humid conditions too which can wreak havoc on a heathy person, much less someone whose immunity is low already.  

Since air conditioning is known for taking humidity out of the air, it’s common practice to turn it up, full blast because if a little bit is good, a whole lot is better.  Right?

Comfort of Caregivers

Perhaps the real reason hospitals are kept so cold is for those who spend endless hours there tending to the needs of others.  From surgeons who operate under a lot of stress, not to mention the hot bright lights, to nurses to dash to and fro from one patient to another, air conditioning keeps them comfortable.  And, after all, when it all boils down to it, don’t we all want those who are caring for patients to be comfortable too?

While you may not be a fan of freezing in the hospital, regardless of it you are a patient or a visitor, it’s unlikely the temperature is settings are going to be changed anytime soon.  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) works in conjunction with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to regulate and maintain everything about hospitals…including how cold they are kept.  (Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities: Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC))