Is It a Cold, or Something Else?
How Dry Winter Air Wreaks Havoc on Our Respiratory Systems
When winter comes, the common cold usually isn’t too
far behind. But is that cough, sore throat, or stuffed up nose really a cold? Symptoms that mimic a cold could actually be the result of low humidity in your home. We need our furnaces to keep
our homes warm during winter, but when they churn out air that’s too dry, they can actually cause a whole host of respiratory problems.
Why Is Air in My Home So Dry?
Dry air is a common issue in homes during the colder months. Cold air seeping into our homes in wintertime already lacks moisture, but heating our homes to a livable temperature can remove the rest of the humidity from the air. Excessively dry air can cause irritation in the membranes of the nose, throat, and lungs, causing them to become irritated and produce symptoms very similar to a cold.
The humidity levels can drop as low as 10% in wintertime. On top of that, when you turn up the thermostat, your furnace can kick out dust and allergens that can further irritate your airways. This is a particular concern for people who already suffer from allergies or asthma.
How Do I Know if My Home Is Too Dry?
When our respiratory systems become too irritated, sore throats, morning coughs, and stuffy noses can occur. While a lot of furnaces have built-in humidifying systems, when the air outside is super cold, heating your home to a comfortable temperature can overwhelm the ability of your furnace to maintain a proper level of humidity in the home.
Symptoms of overly dry air tend to occur primarily in the morning, especially if you have your furnace on all night. You wake up with a plugged up nose, a dry and scratchy throat and you’ll find it difficult to breathe. The symptoms tend to get better as the day goes on. If this goes on too long, it can lead to secondary respiratory infections and can make you more vulnerable to actual colds or influenza. Static shock is a big indicator of dry air as well.
What Can I Do if My Home Is Too Dry?
Luckily, the problem can be prevented by installing and maintaining a whole house humidifier to add moisture back into the air while you sleep at night. The goal is to try to keep the humidity in your home somewhere between 30% and 50% with 40% being the ideal. Any higher than that and you run the risk of developing mold or fungi and any lower and the air will still be too dry.
Related Read: Does My House Need a Whole House Humidifier?
To keep the humidity level in your home at a comfortable level, you can also invest in a small instrument called a hygrometer which measures the moisture level in your home, a humidistat that is installed with your humidifier so that you can control the humidity, or call in a professional to determine your indoor air quality.