Most people are aware of the discomfort caused by low humidity in their homes. Everyone has experienced the dreaded static shock from touching something. You may also experience dry nasal passages, itchy skin, scratchy eyes, sore throat and even headaches. However, few realize the health dangers of low humidity in their homes. Several studies show that proper humidity levels, at work and at home, benefit our health.

Viral Viability and Infection Influenced by Humidity.

Low humidity increases vulnerability to viruses. Dry nasal passages can result in bloody noses and increase the opportunity for a virus infection. Proper levels of nasal mucus is one part of your body’s natural defense against germs and viruses. Optimum humidity levels reduce your risk of suffering from dry nasal passages, bloody noses and viral infections. 

Other studies have shown that increasing humidity to 40-60% can help reduce a virus’s survival rate and its ability to infect someone. These humidity rates have a negative effect on many different types of viruses. Even humidity rates higher than 60% have shown this effect. However, higher humidity rates should be avoided. Humidity higher than 60% has been shown to encourage mold growth, which is also detrimental to your health.

Dry Skin Isn’t Just Annoying

No one likes itchy flaky skin. Dry skin leads to chapping and cracking, especially in our hands and lips. Many of us attempt to ward it off with moisturizers, but it only helps a little.  Spending significant time in higher humidity has an impact on the moisture level of your skin, which contributes to your skin’s elasticity. Your skin’s elasticity and ability to act as a protective barrier helps ward off allergens and irritants. Elastic skin is also less likely to chap, crack or become infected. For the elderly, who already have a loss of elasticity in their skin, maintaining proper humidity levels in the home is necessary. 

Low Humidity Contributes to Dehydration

Dehydration is often a concern for the elderly, and low humidity can contribute to dehydration. In a low humidity environment, you actually lose water through your skin. You can compensate by ensuring that you are drinking extra fluids in a dry environment or ensure the relative humidity of your home is between 40-60%.

Low Humidity Affects Stress Levels and Sleep

Low humidity levels have also been shown to increase stress levels and cause poor sleep outcomes. A recent study showed that stress increased by 25% in a group of workers who were exposed to low humidity levels, as compared to workers who spent their time in humidity levels between 30-60%. Those in the low humidity group also experienced poor sleep during this study.

How to Achieve Optimum Humidity Levels

Maintaining the optimum humidity level in your home, ranging from 40-60%, is a simple task. The first step is to purchase a humidity monitor and measure the current humidity levels in your home. Humidity levels usually vary by room. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to have higher humidity levels than bedrooms or living rooms. To ensure that you understand the humidity levels throughout your home consider purchasing a humidity monitor for each room.

Once you are aware of the humidity levels in your home, you can then install a humidifier solution to increase the humidity. A humidifier can be installed by a professional as part of your heating system or you can purchase one or more standalone humidifiers.

In cases where humidity levels vary greatly by room, strategically placing multiple humidifiers in your home might be more effective than a whole-house system. Individual humidifiers allow you to achieve optimum levels in each room.

One common mistake is purchasing a humidifier that is too small for your needs. Most humidifiers are rated by the square footage they can cover, such as 750 square feet or 1500 square feet. A frequent complaint in humidifier reviews is that it doesn’t sufficiently raise the humidity in the room. Now that may be the manufacturer overstating the capability of the machine, as implied by the reviews. However, many people simply underestimate the size of their rooms. In any case, consider buying a humidifier that exceeds the actual square footage of the room(s) you want it to humidify.

Remember, maintaining the optimum humidity level in your home has numerous health benefits. It’s also good for your plants and your furniture, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Start by monitoring the humidity in your home with a humidity monitor.  Then invest in a whole house or individual humidifiers to maintain the humidity in each room between 40-60%. With these tools, you will be well on your way to a comfortable and healthy living environment.