The moment frosty air arrives, we crank up the heat to stay cozy indoors. But beware - while you may be toasty temperature-wise, that arid winter air brings a host of hidden health hazards. Illness rates predictably spike every winter as low humidity enables viruses to thrive and dry air irritates respiratory tissues. If your family battles constant coughs, congestion, and seasonal bugs every winter, it's time to take action against winter's secret weapon - low moisture.
Indoor humidity levels plummet right along with the outdoor thermometer in winter, often dipping below 20 or 30 percent. First, it helps transmit viruses, mold, dust mites, and other illness-causing germs that require moisture to survive and spread. Simultaneously, moisture-starved nasal membranes crack and bleed, welcoming infection.
Fortunately, defending your family against winter's dry assault is simple - add moisture! Using an in-home dehumidifier to boost air moisture between 40-50% makes a world of difference. Optimal humidity hydrates and repairs respiratory tissues, inhibits pathogens, eases allergies, and prevents mold growth on chilled surfaces. Read on to learn more about how proper dehumidification safeguards health, comfort, and indoor air quality all winter long.
Normally, a dehumidifier is used in spring and summer, but it can also be used in the winter as well. Here is a list of uses for a dehumidifier in the winter:
1. Balance humidity levels -Dehumidifiers can bring low indoor humidity up to the 40-50% recommended range to prevent illness and respiratory issues.
2. Feel warmer- Raising humidity makes the air feel warmer, so you can lower the thermostat and save on heating bills.
3. Prevent condensation and mold- Controlling moisture helps prevent cold window condensation and mold growth in humid basements or bathrooms.
4. Soothe dry skin - Added moisture hydrates dry winter skin to prevent painful cracking and bleeding.
5. Moisturize respiratory passages- Humidity hydrates nasal and lung passages to avoid winter nosebleeds, allergies, coughs, and illness.
6. Inhibit dust mites and bacteria - Germs and pathogens spread more slowly in optimum 40-50% humidity levels.
7. Protect wood furniture and floors- Added moisture prevents wood from drying out, shrinking, and cracking.
8. Lessen static electricity- Controlling humidity cuts down on static cling from clothing, linens, and carpets in the dry air.
9. Ease asthmatic symptoms- Added moisture calms winter-aggravated asthma by hydrating swollen respiratory airways.
10. Improve sleep comfort- Optimal humidity regulating temperature makes for better, healthier sleep all winter.
Protecting Your Family’s Health
The icy cold drafts that cause the outside temperature to drop also cause the indoor humidity levels to drop. Heating systems force moisture back out of your home as it struggles to keep a comfortable temperature. Because of the resulting dry environment, seasonal viruses and bacteria can more easily affect your family.
Illness rates clearly spike during the winter months: Prepare to line the wastebaskets with tissues and stock up on vitamin C.
1. The CDC estimates that up to 45 million Americans catch the flu during fall and winter.
2. Between 6 and 12 million people suffer from winter-onset asthma and allergy attacks.
3. Over 200 different viruses cause the common cold, which peaks in early winter.
4. Sinus infections, pneumonia, and bronchitis cases surged from November to March.
What is it about winter that makes falling ill a virtual guarantee? To start, viruses, mold, dust mites, and other germs propagate more easily in low-moisture environments. Studies show influenza viruses remain infectious longer when humidity drops below 40%.
Arid environments also cause your lungs, airways, and sinuses to dry out and crack. It is the injury to the respiratory tissues that opens the door to infection. According to one study, individuals with dry nasal membranes were over 20 times more likely to get a cold than those with hydrated nasal membranes.
So in short, winter's wrath damages our first line of immune defense and simultaneously enables viruses and bacteria to thrive. It's a double whammy that makes illness tough to avoid. But adding moisture is a proven way to help stack the winter health odds back in your favor.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Using a dehumidifier during the winter improves numerous aspects of indoor air quality. First, maintaining 40-50% humidity inhibits the spread of illness-causing mold, bacteria, and viruses that propagate fastest in dry air. Dust mites and other allergens also struggle to circulate without moisture to "ride" on.
A dehumidifier reduces musty, stagnant odors by removing dampness from problem areas like basements or bathrooms. Appliances emit some heat in the process, creating a subtle warming effect. Many dehumidifiers even feature air filters and ionizers to trap particulates like pet dander as they actively improve moisture levels. Investing in the right-sized dehumidifier tailored to your home’s needs gives your family clean, refreshing indoor air all winter for better health, comfort, and well-being.
Dehumidifiers work by pulling moisture from the air and collecting it in an internal tank or bucket. Most units allow you to set a target humidity level, then they automatically power on and off to maintain ideal conditions. Their small size makes them convenient for single rooms like bedrooms and family rooms to provide localized relief.
Reducing Condensation And Mold Growth
Basements tend to be damp, cool spaces that are prone to significant humidity issues when outdoor temperatures drop in the winter. Warmer, moisture-laden air circulating in the basement condenses on cold basement walls and windows, leading to dripping, mold growth, and even flooding. Running a dehumidifier helps pull excess moisture from the air before it condenses. Aim to keep relative humidity around 50% - any higher risks of condensation issues.
A medium-capacity, energy-efficient dehumidifier positioned in a central, open spot can treat 500-1,500 square feet. Having it drain via a hose directly into a floor drain helps avoid frequently emptying the bucket. Check that windows are tightly sealed and insulated, run the dehumidifier whenever temperatures dip below freezing, and your basement stays dry and comfortable all winter long. Consider a WiFi-enabled model to control humidity levels from your phone, wherever you are.
Don’t let the winter months turn your family into hacking, sniffling, and achy victims of the cold and flu season. Taking control of your indoor environment by adding supplemental humidity makes your home far less hospitable to viruses, mold, and illness-causing germs.
Follow this comprehensive winter health guide, invest in a dehumidifier, and get ready to emerge on the other side of the frigid months healthier and happier than ever!