Dry air sucks the moisture out of your body, creating conditions for discomfort and illness. Humidifiers regulate indoor humidity levels by adding moisture back into the breathable air. But how do you know if you need one? There are few telltale signs that dry air could be a problem. If any of the following issues plague you or your home year-round (or during the cold, winter months), a humidifier could help.
High Static Electricity
Static electricity comes from free electrons that collect on your body as you walk on rugs or carpets.1 When you touch an object or person, the electrons leave your body through a static discharge, and you get a shock. In dry climates and even in wet climates during the winter months, the lack of moisture in the air causes more static electricity than usual. Sometimes, those surprising little shocks can happen every time you touch another person, which gets old pretty quickly.
In general, static electricity isn’t more than an annoyance. However, some sensitive electronic equipment, like the kind found in a professional laboratory, can get damaged or malfunction due to a static discharge. Home electronics are usually safe. That doesn’t mean you want static electricity lighting up your life too often. You can reduce those irritating shocks and the off-hand chance of damage to your electronics by increasing the humidity in your home.
Frequent Nose Bleeds
Dry air causes brittle, irritated nasal passages that create the perfect conditions for frequent nosebleeds.23 For most people, nosebleeds are inconvenient, at most. They tend to strike when you least expect it or when you’re sleeping. Once they become chronic, the simple act of blowing your nose is enough to get one started.
A humidifier can help maintain a healthy 30 to 50 percent indoor humidity level, the levels recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).4 At those levels, the nasal passages are more likely to stay hydrated, reducing the dryness and general irritation that causes nosebleeds.
Flaring Asthma or Allergies
Image courtesy of Pixabay
The same dry air that contributes to frequent nosebleeds can also irritate conditions like asthma or allergies. Irritated, dry nasal passages are more susceptible to the effects of cold, dry air. Asthma, in particular, can get worse because of weather changes.5
Cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air, making it naturally drier. When someone with asthma breathes in cold air, it more quickly evaporates the mucous that protects the lungs.6 As that mucousy, fluid-like layer dries out, the lungs become irritated and may swell, creating conditions that contribute to frequent asthma attacks.
Dry, irritated lungs are also more susceptible to the effects of allergens, like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. For both asthma and allergies, appropriately humidified air within that 30 to 50 percent humidity target can reduce symptoms and help people breathe easier.
Is sinus congestion plaguing you day and night? Dry air could be a contributing factor that’s easily remedied with a humidifier. Sinus congestion could be associated with allergies, but it can also come from chronic sinus infections or head colds. Humid air keeps the body’s mucous membranes moist and well-functioning, allowing the body’s defenses to work as designed.
However, it’s important to keep humidity levels within that healthy 30 to 50 percent range. Levels over 60 percent can cause sinus congestion instead of reducing it. A humidifier can definitely help but only if it is used correctly.
Chronic Dry, Itchy, or Scratchy Throat
Dry air could be behind a throat that feels dry and scratchy when allergies and illness aren’t to blame.7 Like the nasal and air passages, the protective mucous in your throat can evaporate in cool, dry conditions. The irritation and inflammation can make you feel like you’re getting sick when it’s really an issue of hydration and humidity levels. Even if your throat discomfort comes from allergies or dehydration, a humidifier can help reduce discomfort and keep you healthy.
Help Yourself with a Humidifier
Image courtesy of Pixabay
For those with severe allergies or asthma, a whole-house humidifier can provide an all-encompassing humidity solution. These humidifiers either tap directly into the HVAC system or are large enough to modify the humidity in an entire house.
A single-room humidifier might be the right solution for those who fall on the mild end of the symptom spectrum or who suffer from dry skin and throats. These humidifiers control the humidity in certain square footage, usually 600 to 800 square feet or less. Some of these models can be moved from room to room as needed. They’re a good solution for bedrooms or main living areas.
Let’s be clear—a humidifier won’t solve all of your health problems. However, dry air can do a number on your body, from your skin to breathing. Humidifiers give you a way to control indoor environmental conditions when the outside temperature and humidity fluctuate.
Healing Daily uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
- How does static electricity work? Loc.gov. Published November 19, 2019. Accessed May 19, 2021.
- Tabassom A and Cho JJ. Epistaxis. StatPearls. Updated August 8, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2021.
- Wolkoff P. The mystery of dry indoor air—an overview. Environmental International. 2018; 121(2): pp. 1058-1065. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.10.053.
- A brief guide to mold, moisture and your home. epa.gov. Updated November 23, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2021.
- Koskela, HO. Cold air-provoked respiratory symptoms: the mechanisms and management. International Journal of Circumpolar Health. 2007; 66(2): pp. 91-100. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v66i2.18237.
- The respiratory system – part 3: lungs, pleura and respiratory defense mechanisms. Nursingtimes.net Published June 6, 2006. Accessed May 20, 2021.
- Wolkoff P. The mystery of dry indoor air – An overview. Environment International. 2018; 121(2), pp. 1058-1065. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2018.10.053