The official first day of Winter this year is December 22, 2011. Winter may not be here yet, but many people have already turned on their heaters. A side effect of using heating is a drop in the relative humidity in your home. That drop in humidity is actually a good thing as far as dust mite populations are concerned. Dust mites like humidity and dust mites need humidity. There is a direct relationship between dust mites and humidity.
Exactly what is relative humidity? It is the ratio of the amount of moisture in the air compared to the amount of moisture that the air can hold at that temperature (dew point). Once the air is saturated, dew forms.
Once relative humidity drops, you get more static electricity (because the decrease in moisture means an increase in friction) and lots of people find that their nasal membranes and throat feel dry and they have difficulty in breathing. Low humidity can also cause skin to dry and the scalp to flake. Because dust mites need moisture from the environment to survive, their populations decrease as the humidity decreases. That is one good thing about dry air.
To combat the dry air caused by heating, many people run humidifiers. These appliances are designed to put moisture back in the air. This adds moisture to the nasal passages, decreases dry skin and scalp, decreases static electricity and makes the air easier to breathe. It also provides moisture for the dust mites to continue to live and breed. Dust mites and humidity go hand in hand.
So, if you have dust mite allergies and want to add humidity what should you do?
To begin with, never add more moisture than is necessary to bring comfort. A relative humidity of 30% to 40% is what you want. If you start getting condensation forming on your windows, try to dial the humidity back. Speaking of “dialing it back” don’t buy a humidifier that doesn’t allow you to set the humidity level you want. A quality humidifier will have a humidistat, which allows you to set the humidity at your desired level. If your humidifier doesn’t have this feature, invest a few dollars in a hygrometer. This measures the humidity levels.
We like evaporative humidifiers because they don’t produce white dust, won’t scald a child if they get too close to the unit, and don’t have the problem of scale build up that occurs with warm mist humidifiers. There are units that are designed to do multiple rooms and units designed for one room.
No matter the type of humidifier you use, keep the humidity level as low as comfortable so that you don’t make those dust mites too comfortable!
Til Next Time!
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