How a humidifier could help you stay healthy this winter

VIDEO: Simple way to increase the odds you stay healthy this winter

SEATTLE — New research shows the level of humidity of the air inside your home may actually play a role in whether or not you get sick.

With cold and flu season in full effect, a simple tool could increase the odds you stay healthy this winter: a humidifier.

The cold air outside often prompts people to crank the heat inside – drying the air. And according to a pediatrician at Swedish Medical Center, viruses like the flu tend to survive better and longer in the air when it’s drier.

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“Even if you wash your hands, it may have settled on a surface that you touched without thinking about it or even be in the air and be able to be transmitted that way,” Dr. Elizabeth Meade told KIRO 7’s Linzi Sheldon.

Two recent studies examined the effects on people contracting infections. In one, researchers looked at a group of nearly 400 patients and examined factors such as their number of visitors and hand hygiene.

The researchers found that when humidity is low, infection rates go up.

“When our nasal passages and those other sort of barriers get dried out, they’re not as intact. They’re not as able to prevent those viruses and bacteria from entering into our system,” Meade said.

Meade said people should stay hydrated, disinfect work surfaces frequently, wash their hands often, and keep their distance when people are coughing and sneezing.

And if people don’t have control of their work environment, Meade says a humidifier can help.

“I think it certainly can help from a symptomatic perspective, and it may decrease the risk of certain different types of viruses,” Meade said.