In most areas, seasons change every few months. The advent of spring is one season many people anticipate enjoying. Grass gets green, flowers bloom, temperatures rise, and there are more hours of sunlight. Then again, seasonal allergies can also flare up. As humidity levels rise, they impact allergies too. The effects are compound in nature. Humidity levels don’t just impact people with allergies, they also influence the allergens themselves. Complicating things further is the fact that humidity impacts allergies in different ways depending on whether or not the humidity levels at the time are high or low.
Allergies and High Humidity
Air with excess moisture is a breeding ground for many different allergens, all at the same time. These include bacteria, dust mites, mold, and mildew. Any of these irritants can get into your home via doors, windows, or even your home’s ventilation system. If the conditions are right, such as the air having lots of moisture, they might multiply into entire colonies of allergens. That’s something that can happen in just the span of a few hours. In particular, dust mites can be a nuisance in a humid area. The primary allergen of concern here is actually the feces of dust mites. When there’s high humidity, the dust mites around a person will feed on softened skin cells that human bodies slough off as a natural process. In doing so, dust mites absorb moisture into their bodies, resulting in more waste and breeding. Fortunately, dust mite populations grow a lot slower when indoor humidity levels are under 50%.
Allergies and Low Humidity
Dry air can irritate your sinuses and throat. The result is symptoms that feel like they are allergies. Rather, it’s likely to be what medical professionals call non-allergic rhinitis. You might be sneezing and feeling congested, but conventional allergy treatments might not be useful since there aren’t actually allergies in play. If antihistamines aren’t effective, you might want to try decongestants and nasal irrigation. As always, consult your physician for their specific diagnosis and advice.
If you or anyone you live with suffers from allergic dermatitis, then your skin might be dry, itchy, and otherwise bothersome when you are exposed to low humidity levels. Outdoor humidity levels can get low during periods of cool weather and especially during winter. However, interior humidity levels can also get very low at the same time. Dry air, indoors or out, can make the mucous membranes inside your nasal passages start drying out. That prevents or hinders them from doing their job, which is trapping not just allergens but also viruses and bacteria that were in the air you breathed. As a result, you might be at higher risk of getting a cold, the flu, and other respiratory ailments.
What Should Your Indoor Humidity Level Be?
There’s not really anything you can do about the humidity levels or weather outdoors except decide how much time you spend out there. What you can do, however, is manage the humidity level inside your home. However, it might take some experimentation to find the ideal humidity level for yourself and anyone you’re living with. There are two general rules of thumb that you should follow in terms of a lower limit and the upper ceiling where you might be comfortable.
You can use your air conditioner to remove humidity from the air. If the temperatures are too cool for running the AC, then try a dehumidifier to pull moisture from the air. Depending on the model, it might drain moisture from your home automatically, but you might have to manually empty the collection basin. You want to try and always keep your home’s humidity level under 60% because that’s where most people start getting uncomfortable. Staying under 50% is even better since it can inhibit the growth of mold, dust mites, cockroaches, and other things you don’t want in your home.
Alternatively, you want to keep the minimum humidity levels above 25% to 30%. Anything lower than that is going to increase everyone’s susceptibility to respiratory issues. Also, mold, bacteria, and dust mites can present a different problem when the air is too dry. They won’t grow as much or at all. However, they will dry out and possibly become airborne. At that point, anyone living in your home might start inhaling them. A home humidifier can add moisture to the winter air.
If you’re not sure how to measure the humidity in your home, then a hygrometer is the way to go. Much like a thermometer measures the temperature, a hygrometer tells you the humidity in a percentage from 0 to 100%. You can buy them as standalone units, but there are also many wall clocks that feature a combination of thermometers and hygrometers. One of those can give you plenty of pertinent information at a glance. Hygrometers come in both digital and analog output, depending on your preferences.
Knowing When Weather Might Trigger Allergies
How your symptoms connect to the weather around you is based largely on what you’re specifically allergic to. There can be allergy triggers all year long, but different seasons might impact different groups of people. Spring can often be a flashpoint for allergens when plants start releasing their pollens. Rainy and humid days of any season can mean moisture that causes mold and dust mite growth. Then again, damp and humid days might mean serious relief from pollen that gets weighed down at ground level.
Late fall, early spring, and all of the winter might mean cold air. If you have allergic asthma, then outdoor exercise might trigger you to have a coughing fit. Any dry and windy day might blow pollen into the surrounding air, and that triggers hay fever. Pet dander might also be an issue at the times of the year when you and your pets spend the most time indoors.
Summer can be an allergy season, too. Humidity can be very high outdoors in these months, and heat can mean air pollution. Smog and ozone are always potential triggers. Grass pollen is also an issue, and weeds, such as ragweed, can be potential issues later in the summer.
Creating Your Comfort Zone
If the weather outside triggers allergies, it might be due to humidity. Alternatively, humidity might just make other allergy problems worse. In either case, you may be able to just stay indoors and wait it out. Professional help can go a long way towards helping everyone stay free of allergen issues indoors, whether it’s monitoring your indoor air quality, replacing filters, or getting your ducts cleaned out.
Humidity Impacts Allergies When High or Low
If you were wondering whether or not humidity can make allergies worse, then the answer is yes. However, humidity can worsen allergies in both cases – high or low humidity. Before you run indoors to get a break, make sure that your home’s interior humidity levels are just right so you can actually get relief. Contact Agers Heating & Air Conditioning for indoor air quality services, and count on us to handle all your other HVAC and maintenance needs. We serve Saint Peters residents and the surrounding area.