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 you can see and feel the benefits of humidification throughout your home.
A dry or persistent cough, despite the lack of other cold or flu symptoms, is often a tell-tale sign of low relative humidity. 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 can be symptoms of 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 passages.
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.
Benefits of Humidification - Save Money on Heating Bills
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 (and the less that will evaporate). 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. During the summer we would describe this as a "dry heat," but the reality is, we're really describing a situation of lower relative humidity.
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. The last piece of this puzzle deals with moisture itself. Humidity, and moisture in general, allows air to retain heat longer; when there is more moisture in the air, heat tends to dissipate less quickly, and warm temperatures in the home remain warm for longer.
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 the Acu-Rite 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.
Want to learn more about the benefits of humidification or the role humidity can play in allergies, asthma, and eczema? Check out any of these in-depth articles.