As we are getting close to Winter, dry air may cause a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms to our skin. When forced-air heating is running and causes the humidity levels to dip down to between 20-30%, or the weather is particularly dry, your skin starts to lose its moisture. This can lead to your skin feeling tight, dry, itchy and flaky.

Humidifiers are devices that emit water vapor or steam to increase moisture levels in the air (humidity). Dermatologists explain why the machine can be helpful, particularly as the seasons change.

As the weather gets colder, the ambient air becomes drier. This can have negative consequences for those with dry skin and atopic dermatitis [aka eczema],” Paula Bourelly, Dermatologist says. “Humidifying the air can help skin retain water.” Some devices do double duty as air purifiers, which has added benefits: “Air purifiers can help remove allergens from the air,” Dr. Bourelly says.

When exposed to indoor air that has too little moisture, it’s possible for your vocal cords to become dry and scratchy. If these conditions persist and your throat continues to feel irritated for long durations, it’s possible that you may become hoarse and lose your voice. This is especially true if you were recently exposed to the flu or a virus.

Humidifiers have also been shown to be an effective tool in the fight against croup, a childhood virus that causes inflammation in the upper airways and leads to a barking type of cough and hoarseness. Using a humidifier can also help you avoid getting the flu in the first place. A study by the National Academy of Sciences found a strong correlation between dry conditions and the transmission and survival of the influenza virus. 

Researchers found that when the amount of absolute humidity in the air was too low, the flu virus was able to survive longer and be spread easier amongst everyone. By using a humidifier in your home during flu season, you are more likely to create an environment that is less favorable for influenza to survive, thus decreasing your chances of catching it.

If you have a cold or the flu, a humidifier can help ease many of the unpleasant symptoms that come along with being sick. These symptoms may include breathing difficulties, a stuffed-up nose and a dry, painful throat. 

Humidifiers help keep the cilium in your nose healthy and effective. These microscopic cellular strands are located inside your nasal cavity and act as your first line of defense against many illnesses. 

As you breathe, the cilia and mucus inside your nose help trap some of the pollutants floating around in the air. This may include dust, dander, mold, and all sorts of other particulates that you don’t want to enter into your lungs. When the air you breathe is dry, the cilia is unable to do their job as effectively as it should.

Dry sinuses, bloody noses and cracked lips — humidifiers can help soothe these familiar problems caused by dry indoor air. In addition, cool-mist humidifiers may help ease symptoms of a cold or other respiratory condition.

 Although useful, humidifiers can actually make you sick if they aren’t maintained properly or if humidity levels stay too high. If you use humidifiers, be sure to monitor humidity levels and keep your humidifier clean. Dirty humidifiers can breed mold or bacteria. If you have allergies or asthma, talk to your doctor before using a humidifier.

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The amount of humidity varies depending on the season, weather and where you live. Generally, humidity levels are higher in the summer and lower during winter months. Ideally, humidity in your home should be between 30% and 50%. Humidity that’s too low or too high can cause problems. 

The best way to test humidity levels in your house is with a hygrometer. This device, which looks like a thermometer, measures the amount of moisture in the air.


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