Dry air and the effects it could have on your health

Dry air and the effects it could have on your health

During the winter months, it’s not uncommon to catch a cough or cold – but what if these tell-tale symptoms are actually a result of dry air? In this article, we explain what dry air is and what might be causing it in your home. We also take a closer look at how dry air can affect your health and what precautions you can take if it impacts your wellbeing.

What is dry air?

Dry air naturally occurs as a result of cold weather. As the outside temperature drops, humidity levels decrease and the air outside loses its ability to hold onto moisture. This is due to the fact that cold air cannot retain as much water as warm air.

What causes dry air in the house?

Especially if the property is not well insulated, it can be easy for dry air to infiltrate your home through the walls or through cracks and gaps around the windows and doors – and this is more likely to happen during the winter months too. When this cold air enters your home, it can cause the indoor humidity levels to drop causing dryness.

This can be worsened by the fact that during the winter, there’s a good chance you’ll crank up the thermostat to keep your home cosy and warm. However, if your property is poorly insulated, you may find that you lose your conditioned heated air and that it’s replaced with cold, dry air that’s coming in from the outside. In turn, there will be an imbalance of dry air present in your home.

Effects dry air can have on your health

The truth is, dry air can have a huge impact on your health and it can make you feel quite unwell. In the sections below, we take a closer look at some of the most common symptoms of dry air and what you can do to relieve them.

Does dry air give you a headache?

If you’re exposed to dry air for a long period of time, you could develop a sinus headache. Dry air can cause nasal dryness which occurs when the mucus membranes inside your nose dry out and crack. In turn, this can then cause your nasal passages to become irritated and inflamed which can then restrict the flow of blood through the sinus cavities, resulting in a headache.

The good news is, this type of headache can often be relieved by taking over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. You could even try placing a warm compress across your forehead to help relieve the pressure in your sinuses.

Can dry air make you cough?

Cold, dry air can be extremely irritating on your throat, and as a result you may find that you feel the urge to cough to relieve this feeling. You may also feel the need to clear your throat more often than normal. You can ease your cough by taking a cough medicine recommended by your pharmacist. You could also try using a humidifier – an electrical device that helps to increase the moisture in the air[1].

Can dry air give you a sore throat?

As we’ve mentioned above, dry air can irritate your throat and cause you to cough. As a result, you might find that your throat becomes sore. What’s more, the lack of moisture in the air can dry out your throat which can cause you pain. You might also notice that your sore throat is worse in the morning[2].

To keep a sore throat at bay, you could try using throat lozenges. Available at your local pharmacy, throat lozenges often contain ingredients that work to numb pain to ultimately soothe your throat and fight infection. Alternatively, you could use a throat spray.

Can dry air cause allergy symptoms?

If you suffer from allergies, you may find that dry air causes you to experience some of your usual allergy-related symptoms. However, it’s important to note that it’s likely not your allergies flaring up at all. Instead, it can often be a condition known as non-allergic rhinitis. In this case, allergy treatments, such as antihistamines, won’t usually help, so it’s best to stick with painkillers and decongestant medicines if you find that you’re suffering as a result of dry air[3].

That being said, if you struggle with a skin-related condition, such as allergic contact dermatitis, you might experience particularly dry, itchy skin if the air itself is too dry. In this case, it’s important to keep your skin moisturised and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated[4].


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cough/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/