Keeping Your Airways Healthy During Winter

Dry air in overheated indoor spaces present an important stress factor for our airways as it dries out our mucous membranes and such inhibits our immune response. This causes an increase in airway infections, dry and itchy nose and nose bleeds. The best way to avoid dry mucous membranes is to improve the air quality in rooms by achieving optimal humidity levels.

Did you know that …

  • the healthiest indoor climate is at a relative humidity level of 50% and 20°C room temperature.
  • humidity levels indoor should never be lower than 30%.
  • humidity levels of 80& and above over a prolonged time always lead to mould/mildew.
  • the easiest (and cheapest) way to regulate humidity levels is airing?

The most important prerequisite is to measure humidity levels. Go that extra step and invest a few franks in a “hygrometer”, your health is worth it. That is the only way to find out, which measures you need to take to achieve optimal humidity levels in your home and in your work place, because humidity levels can be too high or too low.

Correct airing means:

  • Opening windows completely, not just tilting them
  • Airing across an entire living and working space (open windows at the opposite end, to allow for complete air exchange)
  • Airing in the early morning hours during the warm summer months
  • Not airing during rainy days if airing is needed to lower humidity levels (mouldy bathrooms, basements, etc.)

As airing is used to exchange “used air” and replace it with oxygen rich air from outside. This means airing has different goals during the winter and the summer months, effective airing must be adjusted to the seasons.

Airing during the winter months

During the cold winter months, it is important to keep living spaces at a comfortable level, even when not in the house or office during the day. Cold walls take a long time to warm up and thus counteract creating a comfortable room climate.

Typically, air in living and office spaces during the heating period is too dry. Increased airing could be counterproductive as it might bring in cold outdoor air which is a bad humidity carrier.

Easy ways to increase humidity levels in the winter are

  • Keep living room and work spaces room temperate at 20 °C
  • Allow water to evaporate by drying laundry in living spaces
  • Use the high humidity levels after bathing or showering and open the bathroom door and not the windows, so that humidity and more into other rooms
  • If you have old-fashioned radiators, hang a container on the radiators, so that the water can evaporate (keep in mind that the water in the container must be exchanged and cleaned regularly to avoid germ growth, the same problem as with electrical humidifiers)
  • Buy plants to increase humidity levels. Only plants that need a lot of water are able to release vapour, like umbrella palm, or other papyrus plants. Spider plants are also helpful.

During the winter, airing should be shorter than during the summer to prevent a drop in room temperature. The most effective approach is

  • to open windows completely
  • to air for five to maximum 10 minutes, then close windows
  • to open windows on the opposite side of a room, a home or an office to achieve ideal air circulation
  • to do this process, in German called “Stosslüften” 3 to 5 times daily, ideally the first time early in the morning and the last time just before going to bed.

And now enjoy the weather outside, regardless of whether it’s rain or shine. Spending plenty of time outdoors is one of the simplest ways to keep your airways healthy – all year round.