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How dry, winter air affects the body

As the temperature drops during the winter months, so does the humidity. The maximum amount of moisture that can be in the air depends on temperature. As the air warms, it can have more amounts of moisture but as it cools, it holds less.

Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air compared to what the maximum amount of moisture in the air could be. It’s relative to the air temperature. For instance, if the outside temperature is 8 degrees with a dew point of -1, the relative humidity outside is 66%. If you take that same air and transport it into a house and heat it to 68 degrees, the relative humidity drastically drops to 6%. So as we crank up the heat inside, we are also drying out the air, unless moisture is added.

Low humidity has many effects on the human body. It can cause dry skin, chapped lips, itchy eyes, bloody nose and irritation of the throat and sinus. Also, over time, exposure to low humidity can dry out and inflame the mucous membrane lining your respiratory tract. When this natural barrier is no longer working properly, it increases your risk of colds, the flu, and other infections. Studies have proven that low humidity helps the flu virus survive longer while simultaneously increasing its ability to spread from one person to the next.

To increase humidity in your home, you can use humidifiers but be sure to clean them as recommended and change the water daily. Also, it’s very important you don’t make humidity levels too high, as the high humidity will cause mold to grow, which could cause health problems.

You could also boil a large pot of water on the stove to add moisture to the air. Other things you can do to get relief from the dry air are take a steam bath by taking a hot shower, or filling your sink with hot water, then placing a towel over your head as you lean over the sink. You could also try breathing in the steam from a hot cup of herbal tea. Also, remember to use plenty of skin lotion and lip balm to avoid dry, cracked skin.

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