Fall and winter can be particularly hard times for those with asthma, eczema and even allergies. While outdoor allergens
tend to lessen, reactions to indoor allergens often ramps up as more time is spend inside and relative humidity in the home
sinks. Increased dust, dried out sinus passages, dry, itchy skin, and coughing all are symptoms of low humidity in the home. This, coupled
with more time indoors can spell trouble for many, but this is also where home humidification can make a big difference on your health.
When moisture levels dip asthma symptoms can worsen. Often this is typified by a dry or
persistent cough, despite the lack of other
cold or flu symptoms. For those dealing with eczema, it can mean dry skin and flare ups as well as bouts of itching and general discomfort.
For anyone living in the home it can mean waking up in the morning with dried, cracked or painful sinuses, patchy skin, and chapped lips. All of
these things can be caused by low relative humidity levels. Restoring humidity to healthy levels can return alleviate many of these symptoms, and
a room humidifier is one of the easiest and most effective ways to accomplish this.
A room humidifier offers targeting relief by putting either cool or warm mist moisture back into the indoor air. Most often used in bedrooms, and
living rooms, humidifiers can be regulated and set to put just the right amount of soothing moisture back without increasing the risk of dust mites
or mold growth.
Winter is an especially
bad time for dry air, and home heating systems, especially forced-air
systems, can dramatically reduce indoor relative humidity. The Mayo Clinic suggests several steps for
combating the effects of dry air:
- Room humidifiers
provide a great environmental solution to the problem of dry air. Check out the next section of this article
to see how humidifiers work in your home.
- Drink more fluids. Water, juice, low-fat milk, and other
caffeine-free drinks all help your body to counteract the effect of dry
surroundings. Soups and broths are also a good choice, and they will help
keep you warm.
- Shorter showers and baths in warm rather than hot water are easier on
your skin. Mild soap is best. Showering less frequently will also help
guard against excessively dry skin.
- Moisturizing after showers or baths also goes a long way to help
prevent dry skin. Apply Vanicream lotion while your
skin is still slightly damp to help your body
absorb the moisturizer and increase its effectiveness. Use lip balm to
prevent or soothe chapped lips.
- Nasal irrigation, which
is safe to perform regularly, helps to combat dry nasal
Dry air doesn't only affect the people who live in the home. It can also damage furniture, wood floors, and paint in your home. A
humidifier not only helps those in your home breathe better, but it also
helps maintain the air in your home at a comfortable level for everything
inside it. Furthermore, air that's too dry makes the temperature feel
colder than it actually is. Humidification works in conjunction with
heating devices to keep you snug and warm during the winter and they save you
money on your heating bills.
Save Money on Heating Bills with Humidification
Keeping your home's humidity at ideal levels will also help you feel warmer. Low humidity makes the air feel colder because the warmer
the air is, the more water it can hold; put another way, the more water in the air, the warmer the air feels. This phenomenon can be
understood by considering how high levels of humidity in the summer make it feel hotter than it actually is: when the air is
saturated with moisture, the sweat on our bodies does not evaporate, making us sticky and uncomfortable. But winter's low humidity
has the opposite effect - dry air causes our body's natural moisture to evaporate from our skin quicker, and we feel cooler.
By making sure that humidity levels are high enough, we slow down our body's natural cooling mechanism, which we obviously don't need
in the cold winter time. The upshot of all this is that a humidifier can save you a lot on your heating bills. Naturally, if you
feel warmer even if the temperature remains the same, you won't be tempted to turn up the heat. Additionally, when there is more moisture in the
air, heat tends to dissipate less quickly.
How Much Humidification Is Too Much?
Besides making sure that the moisture from your humidifier is pure and
clean, it's also important to maintain a proper level of humidity in your
home. While dry air is definitely uncomfortable and can lead to
discomfort, too much moisture in the air leads to another set of
problems: mold and dust mites thrive in overly moist environments, so
improperly maintained levels of humidity could cause further irritation
to allergy and asthma sufferers.
To keep your home environment comfortably humid without encouraging
dust mite and mold growth, experts recommend indoor humidity levels
between 40% and 50% for allergy sufferers. Some humidifiers, like the Air-O-Swiss 7135
Ultrasonic Antimicrobial Humidifier, come with a built-in hygrometer
or humidity gauge. If you have another type of unit, a humidity gauge like
Digital Humidity Gauge helps keep humidity levels within range. This
humidity gauge also features a clock, light, and digital thermometer, and
is useful in determining which areas of the home need humidification
during dry seasons and dehumidification during wet seasons. The Germ Guardian
Ultrasonic Digital Humidifier has a digitally adjustable spray function and
timer that allow you to adjust the percentage of vapor.
Humidity levels in the home are an important component of relieving
allergy and asthma systems through environmental control. Especially
during the winter, when dry air tends to be more of a problem, asthma and
allergy sufferers can greatly benefit from environmental control of
indoor humidity levels. Humidifiers make this possible.
Originally published in the
January 2008 issue of
Allergy Consumer Report
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