What are the impacts of humidity on our bodies?

Published: Oct. 17, 2018 at 5:19 PM CDT
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Before I get into the effects of humidity on our bodies, I’ll first discuss the terms of absolute, specific and relative humidity.

Absolute humidity is the measure of the actual amount of water vapor (moisture) in the air, regardless of the air’s temperature. When you have higher amounts of water vapor, the higher the value of absolute humidity. Specific humidity refers to the weight (amount) of water vapor contained in a unit weight (amount) of air. These terms of absolute and specific humidity are basically quite similar in concept. Relative humidity also measures water vapor, but relative to the temperature of the air. This is also a measure of the actual amount of water vapor in the air compared to the total amount of vapor that can exist in the air at its current temperature. If there is warm air, it can possess more water vapor (moisture) than cold air, so with the same amount of absolute/specific humidity, air will have an overall HIGHER amount of relative humidity if the overlying air is cooler, and a LOWER relative humidity if the air is warmer.

Now let’s discuss the effects that humidity has on our bodies. Even though humidity doesn’t actually affect the temperature in our environments, it can still convince our bodies that temperatures are actually higher than they really truly are. This leads to moisture remaining on our skin in circumstances when the relative humidity levels are higher, causing it to not disappear nearly as easily as we want it to. Our bodies then cause us to break a sweat even more in an overall attempt to naturally fight off this sensation. This results in us feeling warmer, sometimes where it feels like overheating, which can result in really serious health issues. (Example: heat stroke or exhaustion)

Next, we have asthma and allergy symptoms. When lower humidity levels in our environment decline to substandard levels, they can cause our nasal passages to become drier. People who are dealing with allergies can be highly susceptible to feeling a lot of discomfort, irritation, and even sinus infections in low humidity conditions.

Meanwhile, when you are in a high humidity environment like Louisiana, these types of conditions can encourage the development of things like mold, mildew, dust mites and some other allergens that can, unfortunately, impact our overall health and wellness. In a high humidity environment, it can be hard to breathe as well, which can result in an asthma attack. You can maintain proper humidity control by ensuring our nasal passages possess sufficient moisture, which acts as a barrier of sorts against allergic and asthmatic symptoms.

When you have drier conditions, or lower humidity levels, these conditions can lead to skin irritation, cracked lips, rashes, flaking, roughness and eye irritation. Eye irritations can develop into serious infections if not treated or rectified in time with proper, clean moisturizing. Overall, proper humidity control, set at 40 to 60 percent relative humidity, can assist in minimizing these ill effects, protecting our skin, hair, and eyes.

We then move onto reduced mental stimulation and overall focus when it comes to how humidity affects our bodies. When the relative humidity levels are imbalanced, there can be more strain on our bodies, which would require them to work harder to function as they normally would do. When this occurs, it means that our minds are required to work harder and as a result, and it can on occasion prove to be more difficult to focus and remain mentally invested. Places like educational facilities, hospitals and offices do require proper humidity control in addition to protecting those inhabitants from any health issues.

We then move onto the susceptibility to electrostatic discharge. When you are dealing with lower humidity levels, conductive surfaces retain more static electricity. This results in becoming recipients of surges when interacting with surfaces that are harboring pent-up energy. Having proper humidity control can reduce the amount of static electricity retained, which often eliminates the risk of electrostatic discharge. If you can maintain anywhere from 40 to 60 percent relative humidity, that is sufficient enough to reduce the risk of ESD potentialities. Prevention from electrostatic discharge goes a long way towards protecting people, property and productivity.

Now we move onto airborne infection potentialities. When our conditions in our environment feature overly low or high humidification it can cause airborne bacteria and particles to more easily reach us. These can result in greater risks for developing lung infections and illnesses such as influenza, which can lead to more actively absorbing bacteria in poorly humidified conditions. When you have proper humidity control, the amount of time these particles and bacteria can spend airborne is drastically reduced, causing them to fall and then eventually settle more quickly.

Due to this, their reach is reduced and it is relatively easier to control the spread of infection. Having airborne infection control is important in environments where the chemicals, particles, and/or bacteria are introduced to the airstream, in these facilities of hospitals, paint spray booths, sanding decks and those elementary schools. Our bodies are susceptible to even just the slightest atmospheric change in our environments, along with the risks and direct effects that are caused by an imbalanced range of those relative humidity levels. These can lead to a range of infections, issues to skin irritation, overall health and wellness issues, reduced stimulation and productivity, along with a host of other problems which include reduced protection against electrostatic discharges. When you have proper airborne infection control, electrostatic discharge prevention, and air moisture regulation, we can then lead a more comfortable and healthy live.

As the humidity rises, so does our sweating levels. When you are dealing with high humidity, it makes the air temperature feel hotter than it actually is and your body responds as though the overall temperature increased. Unfortunately, excessive humidity can hamper sweat evaporation, so the moisture can remain on your skin and even make you feel warmer than it is in reality. Getting yourself a whole-home dehumidifier can help towards combating this problem. Having a dehumidifier helps reduce the moisture levels in the air so you can feel more comfortable in your house. Running your air conditioner can also help to reduce those humidity levels. The air conditioner’s evaporator coils the condense water vapor and drains the moisture out of your house that way you don’t have to deal with it. During those hot summer months, sometimes you still need a dehumidifier as well.

High humidity can also lead to potentially serious health consequences from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Especially during the summer months, don’t exercise too much outdoors, because it can lead to overheating of your body. This can then lead to the following issues: exhaustion, headaches, fever, chills and disorientation. Staying indoors during the hot months of the year and using the dehumidifier along with the air conditioner from your house can make you feel more comfortable overall. It wouldn’t hurt to adopt an indoor exercise regimen, such as doing yoga or running on a treadmill. To conclude, always drink water and stay hydrated to help towards dealing with the humidity, specifically a high humidity climate like Louisiana.