It’s that time of year again. It’s winter and very cold, so the furnace is constantly running. While we can all be grateful that we do not have to huddle around a hearth, dry air takes a toll on us too, causing discomfort and health problems if left unchecked. What are these problems, and what can apartment dwellers who live on a college student’s budget do to fix them?
First, what are the problems? The most obvious to most people are dry hair and skin. Have you noticed the static in your hair when you brush it? Is your skin itchy unless you’re applying lotion all the time? Both are because the humidity in the air is so low. In the summer when the humidity is high, the air feels damp and heavy. In the winter the air is thin and dry. This doesn’t just affect your skin and hair, though. You breathe in that dry air continuously, and the lack of moisture in it makes your throat scratchy and worsens any cold or cough you might have. It also causes bloody noses and aggravates allergies or asthma. In short, your body slowly becomes dehydrated from the outside in.
What measures can you take to reverse this? The first thing you can do is to remain hydrated. While drinking more water will do nothing for the static in your hair, most people are usually in some state of dehydration because we do not drink enough water. We could all stand to keep track of how much water we’re drinking and increase it accordingly.
The second thing you can do is to introduce humidity to the air, either by using a humidifier for periods of time, running a vaporizer at night in your bedroom, or hanging laundry to dry. If you do not have a humidifier, you can create a makeshift one by putting a damp sponge in a freezer bag with holes poked in it. Leaving damp clothes out to dry will also moisten the air. If you leave a pot half full of water on the stove or wait to drain your bathtub, you’re also introducing more humidity to the air.
Houseplants will also help. They absorb the water and then release it into the air through transpiration. Placing a bed of stones underneath your plants allows them to absorb moisture over time and increases the humidity in the air in the same way a pot of water will. Cooking on the stove is another helpful trick. Boiling water will release steam into the air and turn around an arid atmosphere very quickly. Leave your bathroom door open after you take a shower for the same result.
Moisturizing your skin with a good lotion or oil-based salve will reduce itching and dandruff. When you have to be outside for longer periods of time, make sure to use a lip balm, or your lips will chap and crack.
Remember, winter will not last forever. It’s tough now, but by taking some care both with your Allendale, Michigan apartment environment and yourself, you’ll get through this new semester in good shape.