Beat The Heat: How Home Heating Affects Your Health

Winter Warmth

The weather is getting colder.  Now is the time for heavy blankets, fuzzy slippers & getting cozy!  It’s also about the time the heat gets turned on.  Whether you like your home super toasty or prefer to keep it low, it’s important to understand how your heater works and more importantly, how it is affecting your health.

There’s a delicate balance when it comes to heat in the winter months.  With high heat comes dry air, the main cause of negative health issues related to heat.  Attempts to offset dry air with the use of humidifiers and vaporizers are effective, but when done improperly can cause excessive moisture leading to a dangerous growth of mold.  Below, we break down how to handle these factors in your home this winter and how to treat the uncomfortable side effects of dry heat.


what is dry air?

Dry air occurs most commonly during the winter months when the heat is on.  Lack of moisture in the air causes uncomfortable and harmful side effects.  Aggravated allergies occur with the circulation of dust mites.  Dry, itchy eyes are common as tears evaporate, disrupting the moisture balance. Sinus and throat irritation are also common as the mucous membranes lining the respiratory tract which acts as a barrier, becomes dried out and inflamed.  This obstruction to the barrier increases the risk of flu, cold infections and other viruses.  The cold and flu viruses are believed to survive longer and spread easier in dry air, increasing your chances of getting sick.  Another sign is irritated skin, sometimes referred to as “winter itch”.  The lack of moisture dries out the skin, further aggravating issues like eczema.  Other signs of dry air include wallpaper peeling at edges, cracked wood floors and static electricity.
Sneeze

how to battle dry air:

The ideal level of humidity inside your home is said to be between 40-60%.  Any higher and you are almost guaranteed mold growth.  To reach a safe level of humidity there are several options.  To increase moisture in a single room or the entire home, humidifiers are most commonly used.  There are many types of humidifiers, so make sure to shop around and pick one that works best with your lifestyle.  There are also vaporizers which use steam or warm mist.  “Natural humidifiers” like boiling water, steam baths, placing bowls of water and house plants are also frequently used.

Photo cred Bart Everson-Flickr

caution:

Excessive humidity can lead to mold.  Mold is very dangerous and can cause minor to major respiratory problems, skin rashes, gastrointestinal issues and more.  Be aware of a musty smell, water stains, discolored specs on walls or carpets and bowed floorboards.

Perfecting this balance and taking the right precautions may seem tedious but are crucial to your health throughout the winter months.  Stay warm and keep you and your family safe and healthy!