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Indoor Air Quality for the Holidays

Hello readers! Today is December 28th, 2021- hope you all had a great Christmas and are enjoying the holiday week. As we mostly spend time indoors this time of year, a lot of us may not realize that our indoor air quality effects our overall heath more than we think.

For today's post, lets start with relative humidity (or dryness as we all know it). The relative humidity (or RH) is the percent of humidity (or moisture) relative to a given temperature. This is not the most accurate way to measure total moisture in the air, as we can have high RH during the winter and low in the summer. Also used to predict dryness is the dewpoint temperature. The dewpoint temperature is the temperature at which the air is saturated with moisture (at a given atmospheric pressure, blah, blah, blah...)- this is reported in degrees Fahrenheit (F) like the regular temperature. You may notice on on humid summer days, the dewpoint temp. is in the 60-70 plus range (giving us that sticky feeling) and on dry winter days, the dewpoint can drop into the teens or below. So what causes the extreme dryness in the winter, inside of our homes, resulting in dry skin, static electricity, sore throats and dry eyes? If we use both of these dryness metrics (RH and dewpoint), we can demonstrate how this works. For example, lets say that the outdoor temp. is 30 degrees F and the dewpoint is 15 degrees F. This would give us an outdoor RH of about 53%, which may not sound extremely dry. When we move indoors and heat up the dry air to room temperature (68 degrees F) and keep the dewpoint the same, the RH drops to 13%! This will cause dryness symptoms that we all know and love. So what can we do to keep the winter dryness at bay? For starters, keeping hydrated helps with the dryness symptoms discussed above. I do sometimes recommend using a humidifier to add moisture to the air- these exist as portable mist generators or can be added to a home's HVAC system. While effective, these items should be cleaned regularly, as they can cause localized microbial growth. I also recommend purchasing a hygrometer to measure RH along with temp. Inexpensive digital versions are widely available (I have multiple devices in my own home!)

For reference, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends regulating the indoor temperature between 68-72 degrees F and relative humidity between 20-60% on a year round basis.

Thanks for checking out my blog- I will be continuing the indoor air discussion on subsequent posts (cliff hanger!). As always, feel free to email me at or check out my website at and drop me a line there. Stay healthy everyone!

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