Table of contents:
Video: High Or Low Humidity: What Influence On Health?
With the arrival of autumn, temperatures begin to drop moderately and this has an impact on the humidity level of the air. Indeed, most people are sensitive to these changes and this presents many risks to their health. The ideal water content in the air is between 30-60%, so anything beyond that can make you a little uncomfortable. Environmental humidity alters the body's perception of heat - the higher it is, the more extreme it feels. In addition, it can also be wet when it is cold. The combination of cool temperatures and water-saturated air often worsens certain chronic health conditions like allergies and joint diseases like osteoarthritis and arthritis.
How harmful can humidity be to your health?
In fact, it is very important to know exactly what can happen if the air in a home is too humid or not humid enough.
In short, humidity is a measure of the amount of water in the air in a given environment. The air contains humidity in varying degrees depending on the temperature. The higher it is, the more liquid the air can hold. Many things can contribute to this: our own perspiration, showering, washing and drying, etc. Usually, problems arise when the humidity level drops below 25% or exceeds 55%. Since we humans can spend up to 90% of our time indoors, keeping an eye on this indicator is absolutely essential.
What happens when the humidity is high?
1. More toxic gases are released into indoor air
The increase in humidity also increases the concentration of flying organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. These are almost ubiquitous in our daily life via chemicals used to treat common household items. They exist in paints, carpets, composite wood, upholstery, air fresheners, etc. For example, your baby's crib could be a hotbed of VOCs and toxins from the pressed wood it was built with, the glue it is held with, and the paints it is decorated with. When the humidity is higher, these dangerous particles are released in greater quantities from these different sources.
2. The body's ability to sweat is affected
The body's ability to cool itself is severely compromised by high humidity. It hinders the skin to effectively evaporate sweat. Hot, humid days mean that the sweat barely dries up and the body continues to heat up. This is why our mental health is also concerned. A 2016 Australian study found that the more humid a hot environment, the more likely people were to suffer distress from feeling like they were swimming in unbearable, sweltering heat.
3. The heart is under more stress
Going outside and sweating in a very humid environment can be a real workout for your heart. Not only does humidity make the temperature higher than what thermometers record, it forces the body to work hard to stay cool. Choking tends to increase blood flow and breathing as the body tries to lower its core temperature and stay comfortable.
4. It can make asthma worse or relieve it in some cases
While people with asthma know that breathing cold, dry air can inflame their airways, it turns out that warm, moist air can do much the same. However, the opposite can happen. For example, putting a towel over your head during a homemade inhalation is a traditional way to get rid of a cold. This is because the moisture loosens the mucus.
5. Spread of bacteria and viruses
The health risks of high humidity go beyond what is inside the body. Pathogens like bacteria and viruses like to hang out in damp areas which provide them with ideal conditions to survive and reproduce. Unfortunately, this situation promotes bacterial and viral respiratory infections in the inhabitants of the affected area. This is especially true if someone is sick because the bacteria and viruses released during sneezing and coughing will be able to resist more easily and find a new host.
High humidity levels are a risk factor for people with allergies because fluid that has fallen into the airways can exacerbate symptoms. In addition to airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses that can cause infections, the high water content in the air also means the presence of fungi. These have the ability to cause a hypersensitivity reaction that may require emergency medical attention, as well as mold growth in living areas.
7. Dermatitis and eczema
Eczema and other forms of dermatitis are often caused by changes in temperature and humidity. When sweat stays on your skin it can lead to blockage of the sweat glands and a rash.
On the other hand, extremely low humidity conditions can also worsen skin irritation. Often times, eczema flares up in winter when moving between overheated buildings and the cold outside.
8. Dehydration of the body
Constantly sweating in humid weather can be very uncomfortable, but it can also mean that you are dehydrated. In this way, you lose electrolytes such as sodium and chloride that the body needs to function. It is therefore very important to drink enough water to avoid fainting, nighttime muscle cramps and overheating.
9. Heat stress
At worst, soaking the air with water can cause a condition known as heat stress in which the body stops cooling at all. When the body temperature rises above 40 ° C one begins to feel exhausted and the heart may race. Left untreated, heat stress can turn into heat stroke and you can suffer serious damage to your internal organs.
Dust mites like moderate temperatures and high humidity (usually above 70%). They are found in bedding, floors, window coverings and furniture. Their poop is the main culprit for some allergies.
11. Poor quality of sleep
Too high or too low a humidity level can interfere with your night's rest. In the first case, the water vapor stays on your skin, making you clammy. However, as soon as you remove the covers, that same water vapor will quickly cool you down and let you grab the cover again. This will prevent you from staying in a fully relaxed phase and will generally lower the quality of your sleep.
In the second case, your throat and nose will be dry, causing you to wake up or sleep less soundly due to the irritation.
Low humidity and its effects on health and well-being
1. It can cause breathing problems
The flu, coughs and colds can indeed be caused by low humidity. Dry air irritates the sinuses and throat as the mucous membrane dries up. These conditions are also very favorable for the survival and transmission of harmful viruses from person to person.
Nasal congestion during the cold months is usually attributed to a small amount of water in the air. In normal humidity, the sensors in the nose send a cooling sensation to move air freely through the nasal cavity. When the ambient air is dry, these sensors become irritated, making the sinus dry. This situation can lead to bleeding from the nose.
2. Dry eyes
In fact, low humidity can dry out your eyes by increasing the evaporation of tears. This disrupts their natural balance necessary for proper functioning. At 22 ° C and air water saturation levels between 15-25%, a sudden drop in the quality of eye mucus occurs. At the same time, the healthy tear film is essential for the optical capacities of the eyes, their nutrition and the antimicrobial defense mechanisms of the cornea.
Dry air can also affect your performance and productivity. If the humidity is too low, your natural reaction is to blink more frequently. This increased blinking interferes with visual tasks such as reading or office work.
3. Skin infections
In truth, your skin also suffers from dry air, especially in winter. This condition, a form of eczema commonly referred to as a winter itch, is caused by the lack of moisture in your skin. Dry air not only makes the epidermis dry, but it also draws moisture from the inside, generating small cracks. The latter cause discomfort and create potential pathways for bacterial infection.
Some tips for keeping humidity in your home under control
- Maintaining a healthy humidity balance in your home is relatively easy to do. First, bring in some fresh air - the better the circulation, the more normal the temperature will be and the less harmful toxins will remain inside.
- Using a dehumidifier also helps support a pleasant environment free from condensation and mold.
- Ionic purifiers can be incredibly effective at removing indoor air pollution, including VOCs.
- Air conditioners can reduce absolute humidity when cooling and relative humidity when heating.
- Most forms of heating decrease relative humidity, but it is advisable to avoid smokeless gas heating and open fireplaces.
- Wall insulation helps keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Humidifiers may be suitable for very dry climates.
- If the indoor air is really too dry, you can boil water on your stove or place water bowls in various places around your home.
- Finally, if you want to control the relative humidity in your home, a hygrometer will do the trick. It is a fairly inexpensive instrument that is sometimes incorporated into thermometers or clocks.