Low Humidity and Headaches: What You Should Know
December 27th, 2014 by Blog
Do you experience pounding headaches on a regular basis? If so, you aren't alone. According to the World Health Organization (WSO) headaches are the single most common nervous system disorder, with roughly 1 in 2 adults experiencing at least one per year. While some people assume their headaches are caused by stress and anxiety, low humidity may be the actual culprit of this painful condition.
How can low humidity cause a headache? When a person is exposed to dry air over a prolonged length of time, he or she is likely to experience nasal dryness. The mucus membranes will dry out and begin to crack, at which point they may also become inflamed and irritated. This can trigger a particular type of headache, rightfully known as a sinus headache. The inflammation restricts the normal flow of blood through the sinus cavities, resulting in a pounding headache.
Another way in which low humidity can cause headaches is from the offgassing of noxious and/or toxic chemicals. You might be surprised to learn that common household items like shower curtains, furniture fabrics and paint contains potentially harmful chemicals. These chemicals are typically trapped on the surface – that is until offgassing occurs. Exceptionally dry air will cause these chemicals to evaporate into a gas form, tainting the surrounding atmosphere. And breathing in these noxious gases may trigger headaches and other health problems.
One study confirmed that relative humidity does in fact impact the rate of offgassing of formaldehyde as well as other chemicals.
“Relative humidity also affects the rate of offgassing of formaldehyde from indoor building materials, the rate of formation of acids and salts from sulfur and nitrogen dioxide, and the rate of formation of ozone,” wrote the study's researchers.
We discussed this in a previous blog post, but it's worth mentioning again that low humidity can increase the frequency and intensity of allergic reactions. Airborne moisture vapor normally works to catch and control allergens like dust, dander and mold. When the air is dry, however, these allergens can travel through the air with greater ease. And if you've suffer from allergies, you're probably well aware that headaches are a symptom.
To recap, low humidity can cause headaches. Dry air encourages the mucus membranes to dry out, at which point they become irritated and inflamed. Additionally, dry air may trigger allergic reactions as well as the offgassing of toxic chemicals, both of which can also cause headaches.