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Got the Sniffles? How Heaters Can Affect Your HealthNovember 7th, 2014 by
It’s easy to romanticize winter when you’re in the comfort of your home. The storm may rage on the outside, but inside, the thermostat is set to a nice and toasty temperature. Even though you’re sheltered from the harshest winds and temperatures that winter can muster, the season can still wreak havoc on your body.
The Effects of Low Humidity and Dry Air
Humidity can have more of an effect on your comfort than temperature. A 70-degree day may be intolerable in the summer when humidity—the amount of water vapor in the air—is high. High humidity can quickly make a room feel stuffy and unbearable because the air is saturated with moisture. However, during low-humidity days in the winter, the same 70-degree day could feel cool and dry. Because winter humidity is so low, the air tries to draw moisture from any surrounding source, including your body. Typically, dry air will pull moisture from your skin, mouth, and nose, which is why some people experience dry and sometimes cracked or flaky skin during the winter.
Heaters can make indoor air even drier, and they can also add allergens to the air, making you feel worse. Allergens aren’t the main cause of your sniffles—bacteria and viruses can last longer in cooler, dry air; and to make matters worse, your nasal passages need mucous in order to catch germs before they have a chance to infect your body. Dry nostrils are missing this security barrier, which leaves you unprotected against bacteria, viruses, and allergens.
How to Fight Dry Indoor Air
To win the battle against dry indoor air, experts recommend using humidifiers to increase the amount of moisture in your home—aim for a humidity level between 30 and 50 percent. Humidity levels higher than 50 percent could cause fungus and mold issues, so be sure to keep your humidifier at the right level. It’s also important to keep your humidifier clean and free of dust and germs in order to avoid distributing them back into the air.
To decrease your dependence on heaters, make sure that your home is well insulated. If your home is properly sealed and insulated, you lower the chances of dry air entering your home. A well-insulated home will also be able to contain the warm air from your heater for a longer time, which should reduce the amount of time that you will need to keep your unit on, leaving you with a lower heating bill.
Limiting your heater usage and using a humidifier will not only help you have soft, moisturized skin, but they will also give your body the support it needs to continue the fight against allergens and germs. Putting this plan into action should help you have a healthy and happy winter season.
Sources: Mayo Clinic; WebMD.
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