While we all enjoy (some) of what winter can bring, some of it we can do without! I’m not talking about the icy roads and slick walks. I’m referring to the inside of our homes. Turning up the furnace feels heavenly after being outside in the frosty air, or perhaps cranking up the wood stove …. ahhhh! BUT, what’s it doing to your skin and respiratory system? Is it such a big deal? Well, let me ask you this, do your hands look like they do in the summer with the moisture in the air at that time? Or are they chapped? That’s just One example of what low humidity levels can do to you. What about a cold? Do you get them more in the winter or when it’s warmer? Sometimes we get sicker in the winter because we are more susceptible. The warm air dries out our respiratory tract, making it easier for germs and viruses to attack the mucosa of our sinuses and windpipe.
So for many people, they invest in a humidifier. What are some of the benefits besides what are noted above? Well…
- Humidification reduces discomfort, tiredness and sickness. Breathing dry air makes the uptake of oxygen and its transfer to the blood system more difficult. Tiredness, headache and difficulty in concentrating are symptoms of a reduced oxygen supply.
- Humidification can help your baby feel and sleep better, because dry air causes discomfort even for the smallest of us. Properly humidified air will reduce the amount of dust in the air and the drying of air passages, which could impact breathing and sleep.
- (Did you know this?) It reduces damage to wooden objects. Because they have a dull surface in dry room air, they will dry out and eventually cracks will appear. Even musical instruments will go out of tune if kept in a room with very low moisture content.
- You can save money on your heating bills. The more water that is in the air, the warmer the air feels. 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.
So how much is too much?
While dry air has it’s disadvantages, too much moisture in the air swings us into another dimension: mold and dust mites thrive in overly moist environments, causing just as much irritation to asthma sufferers as the dry air. To keep your environment comfortable, experts recommend indoor humidity levels between 40%-50% for allergy sufferers. To get that, some folks choose to invest in a whole-house humidifier. These can come with a built-in hygrometer or moisture gauge, and it will keep the levels within the proper range. Others choose to buy a smaller model from a box store with it’s own moisture gauge. Hutchinson, Great Bend, Wichita, Junction City or Manhattan will have stores that offer either the smaller, room sized machines. Remember though that this just humidifies a small area of the home, so if you have several bedrooms occupied, it would be best to have several machines running throughout the home. Because of the dryness overall, it would be difficult to put so much moisture into the air that you developed a mold issue. Usually that happens when you have a water loss – and it isn’t noticed for several days. You can however have so much in the air that your windows begin to run with water and it collects in the wells. If that happens, turn the humidifier or the pot on the stove down! However you choose to do it, give your body and skin a break by providing the moisture it needs. Our bodies are mainly water, so putting some into the air during these dry times can help it function at it’s best!