The level of humidity we are exposed to can have a direct effect on our health. And, these effects can occur from both lower- and higher-than-normal levels of humidity. According to experts, the ideal levels of humidity are between 40% and 60%. So, what happens to the body if humidity is not at an ideal level?
1. Low humidity increases the likelihood of respiratory tract infections.
Consistent exposure to low humidity can make the mucous membrane dry and also help viruses survive for a longer time than usual. So, if your flu doesn’t seem to be going away, the dry air in your home or workplace can be a reason for it. Low humidity can also cause nasal congestion because the dryness may increase irritation of the mucus membrane.
According to Science Daily, research shows that 70% to 77% of viruses can maintain their ability to cause infections when in a room that has a humidity equal to or less than 23%, why only 14% viruses can maintain their ability at 43% humidity.
Of the viruses that became inactive, majority of them did so in just 15 minutes of exposure to high humidity.
2. Low humidity damages the skin.
We are all familiar with the “winter itch” we feel at the change of the seasons. Colder temperatures decrease moisture in the skin, making it drier and itchy. This condition is further aggravated when we scratch the itchy skin. Dryness also causes the skin to crack.
Cracks usually occur when the dry skin is left untreated. In some cases, persistent dry skin can also lead to bleeding.
You can avoid the effects of low humidity on our health by taking some necessary precautions. Some basic home remedies include boiling water to increase the moisture content inside the house, covering your body properly to reduce the loss of moisture, rehydrating the body throughout the day by drinking plenty of fluids and by moisturizing the skin and lips. You might also have to tweak your skin care regimen according to the season.
Besides home-remedies, you can also replace the lost moisture by using a home humidifier. Several sizes (from portable to a whole-house system) are available today and your home warranty provider might also cover the cost of repairing or replacing your old one.
3. High humidity can cause exhaustion and dehydration
Exhaustion due to high humidity occurs when the high moisture content of the air affects your body’s ability to cool off. Our body produces sweat to maintain body temperature. In an environment that has high air moisture content, the sweat does not evaporate, so our body works harder to keep itself cool. This activity causes an increase in your core body temperature, which in turn can cause overheating.
There are many ways in which overheating can affect you. If you are not used to exercising in hot weather, the high humidity can cause your muscles to cramp.
It can even cause you to faint. You may also have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night since our body temperature influences our sleep quality. Exhaustion usually occurs after you have exposed yourself to a heatwave for an extended duration (a few days).
Overheating can lead to dehydration. As the name suggests, dehydration happens when we lose more fluid from our body than we put in it. It can happen to people of any age group. Children usually get dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea. In adults, some health condition or infection can cause the body to dehydrate. In a dehydrated body, the heart and blood vessels are under more strain than normal because the blood becomes thicker and more pressure is needed to keep it flowing through the veins.
4. High humidity can lead to a heat stroke.
The most extreme form of heat injury, a heat stroke happens when the core body temperature increases to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more. A person suffering from heat stroke may show signs of confusion, slurred speech, irritability, etc.
The symptoms can also vary depending on the reason for the stroke. In a case due to hot weather, the skin feels dry and hot, while in a case involving physical exertion, the skin may feel dry or a little moist. Heat strokes can damage multiple organs of the body, so they require immediate medical attention.
You can avoid the health effects of high humidity by taking a break and cooling off when you notice fatigue or any other signs of heat damage and by remaining sufficiently hydrated at all times. Indoors, you can use a home dehumidifier to remove the extra moisture from the air.
These devices are more effective than air conditioners because they are specifically designed to decrease humidity.