The level of humidity in the air may not be something that you’ve thought about when it comes to your health, but it certainly plays a role in your total well-being.
The answer to the question, whether dry heat or humidity is better, is actually neither, as an extreme in either direction isn’t good for health. It can also depend on your current physical state and any particular health conditions you may or may not have.
For example, people with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and asthma may have difficulty breathing in high humidity. High indoor humidity can increase common indoor air pollutants like dust mites, bacteria and viruses, and may also be a source of mold which can irritate the throat and lungs in addition to worsening asthma symptoms.
But low humidity can also cause problems.
Heaters and cold temperatures during the winter months often lead to dry air with low humidity that can cause dry skin, itchy eyes and irritated sinuses. When exposed for long periods, it can dry out and inflame the mucous membrane lining in the respiratory system, which can lead to an increased risk of getting the flu, colds and other infections. Certain viruses can survive longer in low humidity, which further increases the risk of contracting an infection. A 2009 study from Princeton University found that flu viruses not only survive longer, they spread more easily in low humidity.
Low humidity is known to increase the evaporation of tears which can disrupt the moisture balance needed for a healthy eye surface, resulting in dry, irritated eyes. Combined with colder temperatures, it can cause skin damage like dry, scaly, itchy skin, sometimes referred to as winter itch. If it gets so dry that it cracks, this also increases your risk of becoming ill as it provides an entryway for potentially harmful pathogens.
Despite all of this, Dr. Joseph Mercola, renowned osteopathic physician and alternative medicine proponent, says that high humidity is just as dangerous as low humidity, and possibly even more so due to mold. Mold can cause or exacerbate respiratory problems as well as skin rashes, gastrointestinal issues, and other health conditions.
Ideal humidity is generally said to be between 40 and 60 percent, as most species of fungi cannot grow unless the relative humidity exceeds 60 percent. If it is higher, it can contribute to mold growth, dust mites and fungus, particularly harmful to those with allergies and asthma. Humidity lower than 35-40 percent may be equally as dangerous, leading to serious health issues.
Research has found that the majority of adverse health effects caused by relative humidity could be minimized by maintaining indoor levels that are between 40 and 60 percent.
If the air in your home is too dry, you may want to use a vaporizer or humidifier, but you’ll need to be careful to not make it too humid by also using a hygrometer which measures the amount of moisture in the air so you can adjust your humidifier accordingly. If the air is too moist, dehumidifiers or air conditioning can help resolve the problem.
– The Alternative Daily