The air we breathe and the environments we live in have an incredible influence on our day-to-day lives. Far beyond aesthetics and comfort, the quality and condition of the air inside our homes significantly affect our health. One of the most subtle and commonly overlooked factors in indoor air health is humidity. Whether too high or too low, humidity levels can affect everything from our respiratory systems to the structural integrity of our homes. To get a better understanding, here’s a comprehensive look at the relationship between indoor humidity levels and your health.

Understanding Humidity

Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor present in the air. Water vapor is the gaseous state of water and is invisible to the human eye. When discussing humidity levels, people often use terms like “relative humidity” or “absolute humidity.” Relative humidity indicates the water vapor as a percentage compared to the maximum it can hold at a certain temperature, reflecting the air’s saturation level. Absolute humidity, on the other hand, expresses the actual amount of water vapor present in a specific volume of air.

Your Body’s Response

Human bodies have a natural cooling system that relies on sweat evaporation to regulate temperature. Humidity throws a wrench into this system, affecting how you respond and feel in certain conditions. When the relative humidity is high, your sweat can’t evaporate as quickly, which can make you feel hotter and more uncomfortable. When the relative humidity is low, sweat evaporates too quickly, causing excessive dehydration.

Health Impacts of High Humidity

High humidity can negatively impact human health. The following are the most common issues it can cause.

Respiratory Issues

High humidity can worsen respiratory issues in several ways by creating a less-than-ideal environment for your lungs and promoting the growth of irritants. For starters, high humidity makes mucus thicker and stickier. This can slow down the movement of cilia, hindering their ability to clear mucus effectively. It is like trying to wade through thick mud compared to shallow water.

This thicker and stagnant mucus will then become a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Infections like bronchitis and pneumonia can worsen or develop from this. Allergy and asthma sufferers are also at a higher risk of symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath when humidity levels rise.

Skin Irritation

When the air is already saturated with moisture (high humidity), it becomes difficult for your sweat to evaporate. This trapped sweat creates a thin layer of moisture on the surface of your skin, making it sticky and clammy. You will constantly find yourself scratching and wiping away sweat.

Moreover, high humidity can disrupt the skin barrier by causing it to swell or soften. This will weaken its defense mechanisms, making your skin more susceptible to irritation from microbial growth and environmental irritants.

If you have conditions like Eczema and Psoriasis, high humidity can trigger flare-ups and make them more difficult to manage. Also, if you are prone to acne breakouts, high humidity can contribute to clogged pores and excess oil production, leading to more acne.

Low Energy and Lethargy

Your body depends on maintaining a stable internal temperature, with sweating playing a vital role in this mechanism. In hot conditions, sweat evaporates from your skin, producing a cooling effect.

In environments of high humidity, where the air is already saturated with moisture, the evaporation of sweat becomes challenging. This situation can result in a perceived increase in temperature, causing discomfort and draining your energy levels.

Moreover, since your body will be working harder to cool off, it can lead to fatigue and lethargy. If you live in a highly humid environment, you’ll notice your heart beating faster, and you’ll get tired faster than usual. This can make simple everyday tasks feel exhausting.

Mold Growth

Molds are fungi that thrive in warm and humid conditions. They reproduce by releasing spores into the air, which can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems when inhaled. In humid environments, molds can grow and spread easily, posing a risk to your health.

Health Impacts of Low Humidity

Just like high humidity, low humidity can also cause health problems. When the humidity is too low in your home, you can experience the following issues.

Respiratory Irritation

Low humidity impacts your mucus similarly to high humidity but with a different approach. Dry air can wick away moisture from your mucus, making it thicker and stickier. As a result, it won’t be effective at trapping irritants. This allows more dust, allergens, and even airborne pathogens to reach your lower airways, potentially triggering irritation and inflammation.

Dry air can also directly irritate the delicate tissues in your nose and throat. This can lead to symptoms like sore throat, dry cough, nasal congestion, and nosebleeds. In severe cases, low humidity can cause sinus issues and increase your risk of respiratory infections.

Dry Skin

Low humidity will dry out your skin. With the lack of moisture in the air, the natural oils and hydration of your skin can be depleted, leading to dryness, flakiness, and irritation. This can be especially problematic for people with pre-existing skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Dry eyes

Humidity plays a crucial role in maintaining eye health. When the air is dry, moisture from your eyes evaporates quickly, leaving them irritated. This can lead to symptoms like itching, burning, redness, and blurred vision. Over time, chronic low humidity can even cause damage to the surface of your eyes, increasing your risk of eye infections and corneal abrasions.

Maintaining Optimal Humidity Levels

The ideal indoor humidity level for health and comfort is between 30-50%. In winter, the air is naturally drier, so you may need to adjust the humidity in your home with the use of a humidifier to keep it within the ideal range. If you are buying one, consider those with a built-in humidistat so you can easily adjust and monitor the humidity levels.

House plants are also an effective way to increase humidity levels naturally. Plants release moisture through a process called transpiration, which can help add much-needed moisture to the air.

Additionally, you can scatter decorative bowls or vases filled with water around the house. Placing them near heat sources like radiators or sunny windows will speed up evaporation.

If your home humidity levels are high, you can use a dehumidifier to lower it. Dehumidifiers work by removing excess moisture from the air, reducing humidity levels, and preventing mold growth.

Air conditioners can also help regulate humidity levels. Modern ones have a dehumidifying function, which removes moisture from the air as it cools. You will have to make sure that your system is functioning at its peak. You may have to call F.F. Hitchcock Plumbing, Heating & Cooling in Cheshire, CT, to get your air conditioner serviced.

During the day, open your windows and let fresh air circulate. This can help regulate humidity levels naturally. However, it is essential to keep an eye on the outdoor weather conditions, as high humidity levels outside can also contribute to increased indoor humidity.

Finally, don’t forget to fix leaky pipes, faucets, and any areas where water might be accumulating. You can call us for professional plumbing help to fix any water leaks in your home. This will not only help maintain an ideal humidity level but also prevent potential water damage and mold growth.

Reach Out to Us Today for Any Help You May Need

If you live in Cheshire, CT, and the surrounding areas, call F.F. Hitchcock Plumbing, Heating & Cooling today for all your humidity issues. We perform indoor air quality testing to determine the humidity levels in your home and offer solutions to help keep them at an ideal level. Additionally, we also offer plumbing, HVAC, and home insulation services to help maintain a comfortable and healthy living environment for you and your family.

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