Humidity is an often overlooked aspect of comfort in your home. Not only can high or low humidity levels make it uncomfortable to sleep or spend time indoors, but they can also affect your health in more ways than you might expect.
The Basics of Humidity
Humidity is the measure of how much moisture is in the air. It’s usually expressed as a percentage, and it can range from 0% to 100%. This percentage represents the amount of moisture compared to the maximum amount that the air can hold at its current temperature. The higher the temperature, the more air can hold moisture.
The ideal humidity level for a home is between 30% and 60%. This is a broad range, and more stringent standards suggest keeping your home between 40% and 50% humidity. Truthfully, the ideal level is based on comfort preferences and any specific medical conditions that you may have.
Health Effects of High Humidity
While humidity levels can be problematic for your health both above and below the ideal range, high humidity is typically associated with more serious health risks. This is particularly true for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions.
As humidity levels rise, your home will feel warmer than it is because the increased moisture in the air is acting as an insulator. Even if your air conditioning is running, you might have trouble staying cool in a home with high humidity.
This forces your body to work harder to maintain a stable internal temperature, resulting in changes to your blood circulation and respiration. You may also sweat more, causing you to become dehydrated more easily. In extreme cases, particularly in elderly people or infants, this can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Exacerbation of Asthma and Allergies
Common allergens such as mold and dust mites thrive in humid environments. Dust mites, in particular, use moisture in the air to survive, and they can multiply quickly in a home with high humidity. When the humidity in a home is higher than 50%, the proliferation of dust mites is especially rampant.
Exposure to these allergens can trigger an attack and worsen symptoms for people with asthma. Allergy sufferers may also experience increased symptoms due to the higher concentration of mold and dust mites. Even people who don’t suffer from asthma or allergies can still feel the effects of these allergens in a humid home when their concentrations are high enough.
Health Effects of Low Humidity
Balance is key when it comes to humidity. Low humidity levels can also have negative effects on your health, so you mustn’t ignore this aspect of your home’s environment.
Dry Skin and Respiratory Tracts
The mucous membranes in your nose and other parts of your respiratory tract need adequate humidity to remain lubricated. When the air is too dry, mucous membranes can become irritated or swollen, and this can make it difficult to breathe. This is especially true for people with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and acute conditions, such as the common cold.
Low humidity can also lead to dry skin, which can cause itching and flaking. If your skin is too dry, it will not be able to perform its natural functions of keeping harmful bacteria out and moisture in. This can be particularly troublesome for people with chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
Increased Risk of Illness
Many viruses and bacteria can survive in the air for longer periods of time when humidity levels are low. These pathogens can spread more easily since they stay in the air for longer, and it is easier for them to enter your body through dry mucous membranes.
Low humidity also disrupts the function of cilia, the tiny hairs that line your respiratory tract, which makes it harder for your body to flush out any pathogens that may have already entered your system. This results in an increased risk of illness if you are exposed to a virus or bacteria.
Maintaining a Healthy Humidity Level in Your Home
Maintaining the right humidity level in your home is a vital part of keeping you and your family healthy. Investing in a humidifier or dehumidifier can help keep the air in your home within the ideal range, but you might also need to enlist the help of an HVAC professional.
When you turn to Service Plus Heating & Cooling for help with your home’s humidity levels, our team of experts will be able to identify the best solution and make any necessary adjustments to keep you safe and comfortable. Contact us today to discuss your needs and see first-hand why homeowners in Aurora, IL, have trusted us for over a decade with all their heating, cooling, and indoor air quality needs.