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Dry Air as a Problem – Colds and Other Symptoms of Low Humidity

Dry Air as a Problem – Colds and Other Symptoms of Low Humidity

Dry throat, chapped skin, cough, increased susceptibility to colds... These are all possible symptoms of chronically dry air in the room. The reason: dry air promotes drying of the skin and mucous membranes and leads to an increased risk of infection. This is particularly a problem in winter, because low temperatures and also heating can exacerbate a significant drop in humidity in the room. Health and well-being suffer as a result.

Dry air - what does this mean?

The air we breathe contains not only oxygen, which is essential for survival, but also moisture in the form of water vapor. This is expressed as relative humidity. This depends on the temperature, because the warmer the air is, the more water vapor it absorbs. Depending on the room and the activity, a relative humidity of 40 to 60% is considered optimal. Air below 40% is often referred to as dry air.

Low humidity can manifest itself in many symptoms

Permanently dry air can really cause our skin to dry out. Not to the point where we "die of thirst", but to the point where health and well-being can be seriously impaired.

Low humidity is mainly a problem with heated air in winter!

The problem of too dry indoor air occurs mainly in winter. In the cold season, the heating is running at full speed, which can lead to quite dry indoor air. In addition, the cold outdoor air is already much drier than in the summer. This is partly because cold air can store less water vapor and partly because of the lack of vegetation, which, like humans, evaporates liquids through breathing.

Dry air – what is the cause of colds and flu?

For a long time, it was unclear why flu always breaks out in winter and why people are more susceptible to colds. Now we know that this is not due to an increase in the number of viruses in winter. Nor is it because it is cold and wet outside. Instead, it is mainly due to dry, heated air in warm rooms. Especially in office spaces, gyms and public transport, the air is often dry and unventilated. Combined with the gases exhaled by the crowd, this is an ideal breeding ground for viruses and bacteria.

Nasal mucosa needs moisture

The mucous membranes are part of the immune system. However, they need enough moisture. Dry mucous membranes are less able to fight off pathogens such as viruses and microorganisms when breathing. Normally, the many cilia and hairs on the mucous membranes are used to transport bacteria and harmful substances out of the body. But this only works if there is enough humidity and sufficient mucus secretion.

Viruses love dry environments

A 2009 study in the United States was able to identify a link between an increase in influenza cases and low humidity. Studies have shown that at low relative humidity, below 35%, the risk of contracting influenza A virus is about three times higher than at the optimal humidity of 50%. There are two reasons for this: firstly, influenza viruses can spread better in dry air, and secondly, they remain active in such an environment for longer than in humid air.

What to do if the humidity is low?

To avoid illness and discomfort, you should always make sure that the humidity in your room does not fall below 40% for a longer period of time. You can usually achieve this with proper ventilation and a humidifier, especially in winter. You also shouldn't overheat your room. Heating keeps the optimal room temperature in living rooms and studios between 20 and 22°C. If the absolute humidity remains the same, an increase in temperature leads to a decrease in relative humidity. The reason: overheated air can absorb more moisture and is therefore not saturated as quickly. Of course, there are times when you yourself can't do anything about dry air.
In such cases, drinking lots of water won't help much either. You can use a distilled humidifier. Choose a 3L or 10L distilled humidifier according to the size of the house. It kills bacteria and viruses in the water by boiling the water in the water tank to 100°. The warm mist water molecules have a small density and diffuse faster, farther and more evenly. The water vapor will drift to the corners of the room through the air flow without wetting the table and floor.
In addition, nasal ointments and eye drops can relieve irritated mucous membranes or eyes. To prevent the skin on your body and face from drying out, it is best to use oil-rich creams or nourishing oils, such as almond oil.

Dry air also affects furniture and pets

However, dry air is not only harmful to us humans. Pets, such as cats and dogs, and even various furniture are also affected by the permanently dry indoor climate. Whether it is high-quality solid wood furniture, valuable paintings or comfortable leather sofas, too little humidity will cause cracks and damage to the surface structure over time.


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