When winter comes, probably the first thing that comes to mind is keeping warm. But turning on the heat means drier air. And dry air can have a number of effects on the body. These can range from minor annoyances to potentially major issues.1 So how do you keep your body warm without drying out your system? Well, the best tool for maintaining humidity is a humidifier.
Here’s a closer look at what a humidifier can do, how to find one for your home, and how to properly maintain it.
How Winter Impacts Our Bodies
Our bodies are mostly water. Just as we need to drink water regularly to prevent dehydration, we also need water vapor in the air – humidity – to keep our bodies in check. If the air is too dry, our throat and nasal passages can dry out. Not only is this uncomfortable, it can also make it harder to fight off viruses and bacteria. In addition, dry air can affect the skin. When skin dries out due to a lack of humidity, you may wind up with chapped lips and dry, cracked skin.2,3
And during the winter, it’s especially easy to dry out the air in your home, Dry air can be a nuisance for most, but it can worsen certain conditions. Keeping the air humid may help ease:
- A chronic, runny nose
- Hay fever symptoms
- Asthma and allergy flare-ups
- Sinus congestion
- Dry throat4
So what’s the ideal humidity level for your home? EPA guidelines suggest keeping the home’s humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent.5
The Benefits of a Humidifier
Studies suggest that humidifiers can be a huge help for dry air-related issues, especially in the winter. One study showed that a part of the reason why influenza spreads so much in the winter is due to the lack of humidity in the air. Logic dictates that using a humidifier may play a role in mitigating that risk.6
A humidifier may offer several beauty benefits, as well. When skin is dry, wrinkles may appear more prominent. With proper hydration, inside and out, skin may appear plumper and more refreshed, with fewer noticeable wrinkles.7
Other potential benefits of a humidifier lowering static and actually making the home feel warmer. How does this happen? More moisture in the air gives an added feeling of warmth.8
What To Know Before You Shop
Two of the most common types of humidifiers are cool mist humidifiers and warm mist humidifiers. Warm mist humidifiers heat water before emitting a warm, soothing mist. Cool mist humidifiers emit moist, cool air.9
Things to consider when you buy a humidifier include the size of the room, as well as safety. For example, warm mist humidifiers typically work better for smaller spaces. Also, the steam they emit may cause burns, so handle with caution, and keep out of the way of pets. There are also additional features like timers or humidistats that may help if you only want to run your humidifier at certain times.
Another major thing to consider when shopping for a humidifier is how easy it is to clean. A dirty reservoir or filter can become a home for bacteria and mold – and can completely negate any benefits of a humidifier. That’s because contaminated mist or steam from a dirty humidifier could cause illness.10
For best results, be sure to clean your humidifier roughly every three days, and use distilled or demineralized water. Also, change the water in your humidifier regularly. And understand that even with great maintenance, you may have to replace your humidifier eventually. Over time, deposits can build up inside the humidifier that are nearly impossible to remove. This can lead to bacterial growth.
Humidifiers For Winter In Review
While humidity may conjure up images of muggy air and heat, it is important to have some moisture in the air. And when temperatures drop, dry air may take over. Humidifiers can be helpful, replacing some of that lost moisture and making rooms generally more comfortable. With less dry air, you’ll be able to breathe a little easier throughout the coldest months of the year.