We often associate winter with dehydrated skin and chapped lips, but there are more health consequences of the season’s frigid temps. Believe it or not, winter dryness can affect everything from your teeth to your throat and even contribute to the onset of the flu virus. Yuck.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution to these cold weather woes. Using a humidifier at home can help combat winter’s negative impact by adding moisture to your living environment.
Humidifiers release water vapor into the air, increasing the moisture levels of the surrounding environment. The devices generally come in two types, warm and cool.
After consulting with a doctor, dentist, dermatologist and aesthetician, we found that humidity deserves way more credit for positively influencing your health. From opening your nasal passages to relieving dry, itchy skin, check out what the experts have to say about how the devices impact your whole body.
Your Teeth And Mouth
According to celebrity dentist Dr. Sherri Worth, humidifiers help support saliva production, a process that preserves the health of the oral cavity, gums and throat. Staying hydrated also prevents mouth-related soreness: “When the gums and throat become dry, simple things like swallowing can be painful.”
A hydrated mouth is a happy mouth as far as Dr. Worth is concerned. When your environment is properly humidified, your mouth is able to retain moisture.
Adding moisture to your environment also keeps bacteria build-up at bay and fights dry mouth, a condition that makes you mouth feel constantly parched. A humidifier can help undo the damage of this uncomfortable ailment that can be brought on by stress, medications and diet.
Your Throat And Nasal Passages
“Humidification provides a number of health and comfort benefits such as temporarily relieving chest congestion, soothing a sore throat and helping to alleviate dry, itchy skin,” says Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at The Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai.
These benefits are especially noticeable at night. Most commonly, humidifiers are used at nighttime for added comfort and improved sleep, notes Dr. Trachtenberg. The devices have also been linked to a decrease in snoring, which is good news for both those personally suffering from the breathing obstruction and the partners who lose shut-eye over their loud bedmates.
Dry climate-related allergies can also contribute to frequent nighttime snoring. If you struggle with allergy-caused nasal congestion, try sleeping with a humidifier for a week or so to see if you notice a difference in how you breathe.
Perhaps the most interesting topic mentioned by Dr. Trachtenberg is the relationship between humidifiers and the flu. According to a study published in Environmental Health, humidifiers can help create an environment in which the flu virus cannot thrive: “Homes kept at 40-60 percent relative humidity…are likely to have fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces like sink faucets, door handles, and countertops compared to lower relative humidity levels,” says Dr. Trachtenberg.
“In the cold and bitter winter months, skin is unable to hold onto moisture in the same way it can during warmer seasons,” says Dr. Emily Wise, medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatologist of Krauss Dermatology, a private practice in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
“Both lower humidity in the cold outdoor air and dry heat inside our homes lead to an increase of water loss from the skin,” Dr. Wise adds, which, in turn, leaves us feeling itchy and dry. Humidifiers can help replenish this moisture loss and even soothe harsh skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
Skin dryness doesn’t just stem from icy temperatures. Blasting the heat can also cause itchy, flaky skin, too.
Eliana Restrepo, Skin Therapist at Erno Laszlo, adds that the device’s humidification of the air helps the skin “breathe better” by opening up the pores. This is related to a common step in the facial practice when aestheticians use steamers to deeply cleanse the complexion. Better skin with the push of a button? We’ll take it.