Americans who have foresaken their normally toasty household temperatures for the chilly discomfort of 65 degrees may take some solace in this: it's probably good for you.

That's the word from the American Medical Association, which has long campaigned against "overheating" in the typical American home.

Dr. William Barcley, a physician who edits the association's journal, said yesterday that people who have lowered temperatures in their homes and offices in response to the natural gas shortage "are probably healthier than those who continue to push their thermostats upt o 72 degrees."

Barcley said that higher temperatures remove moisture from the air, aggravating bronchial and other respiratory diseases, and they "can contribute to dry throat and nose, coughs, and dry itchy skin."

Lower indoor temperatures reduce the shock to the respiratory system that comes with stepping from a warn house to the outdoor chill, Barcley adds.

Contagious disease experts at the National Institutes of Health agreed.

"Reducing the heat even to 60 degrees inside won't do any harm to your health," said John Biamphin of NH, "and it may be even healthier as far as respiratory diseases are concerned."

Blamphin explained that "since viruses grow better at warm temperatures, there's evidence that cooler conditions retard the transmission of disease."

In one NIH, study, Blamphin said, a group of healthy persons were stripped to their underwear and kept shiveirng in temperatures below 40 degrees for several hours. They showed no greater susceptibility to colds or other respiratory diseases than another group in normal clothing in a normally heated room.