We all know that during the summer heat, we usually have high humidity which makes the air feel hotter than it really is. On those humid summer days, when the air is already saturated with water, your sweat evaporates more slowly. Your body can’t cool itself as fast as it usually can. That’s why it feels so much hotter with high humidity.
Guess what happens in the winter? The exact opposite! When the air is dryer, as it typically is this time of year, the air feels cooler. The dry air more easily takes moisture from your body and you cool faster. The dryer air is also really hard on your mouth, throat and sinuses.
Adults breathe approximately 23,000 times per day. Sinuses that are dry are 50% more likely to attract sinusitis-causing bacteria than moist sinuses.
Dry air has seven principal eﬀects on our bodies:
1) Respiratory problems (i.e. asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and nosebleeds)
2) Dehydration: increased respiration due to dry air diminishes bodily ﬂuids
3) Less Vitamin A in the body: your immune system works overtime to make up for the changes in the body after being exposed to dry air
4) Watery and itchy eyes and throat
5) Dry skin, chapped lips and eczema
6) Dry nostrils, cracked nasal membranes, damaged cilia, poorly functioning mucus membranes and chronic sinusitis
7) Chronic joint and muscle pain, hoarse throat and tender eyes
Dry air aﬀects your sinuses because it damages the cilia that ﬁlter out the bacteria and debris in the mucus membrane lining your nasal and sinus cavities. The air can also become especially dry if you are exposed to wood burning stoves or forced-air heating.
Over the last 6 weeks, I’ve tried an experiment…..on myself.
45% Humidity is Best
We don’t have a furnace humidiﬁer so I used a small reﬁllable ﬂoor model in our bedroom. In past winters, I’d wake up with phlegm in my throat and sinuses, and often have a mild sniﬄe for a fair bit of the winter. I’d clear it out in the morning, but it would linger some through the day. This year, I’ve had only one morning over those 6 weeks where I recall waking up with that phlegm. I realize the humidity may not be the only factor, but I’m certain it’s been a signiﬁcant reason I’ve had clearer throat and nasal passages.
The ideal relative humidity for health and comfort is 40–50% but 45% humidity is best!