Banish Winter Itch The Easy Way


Dry air is as much a part of winter as the cozy warmth provided by home and office central heating systems. How the heated air affects us is the issue. Dry air means dry skin and the condition commonly called winter itch. There is always plenty of good and bad advice on how to solve the problem.

Most doctors tell us to use a home humidifier. No one bothers to explain the “care and feeding” needed by the new appliance. After the second or third month of use, we begin to question whether the results justify the time, energy and money involved.

First, there is a twice-daily (or more) chore of filling the tank with water. Next is a weekly, if not daily, washing and sterilizing of the humidifier. Do not ignore the manufacturer’s directions on this subject. Any bacteria or mold spores in the air will find the moisture around the humidifier an ideal environment for growth. Neglecting the cleaning routine means you may be breathing in more than the moisture in the air – and that’s not a choice anyone cares to make.

Recently a Mayo Clinic newsletter recommended the use of filtered or demineralized water instead of regular tap water. Everything in a room gets a film of white dust from the minerals in tap water when a humidifier is in operation. The extra “dust” that comes along with the moisture could cause a more serious problem than dry itchy skin. Some of the newer model humidifiers may have a filter to solve this problem. Then it becomes extremely important to clean and/or replace the filter on a regular schedule.

Finally, are the results really worth the efforts made? Before my third season with a humidifier, I purchased a hygrometer to check how much the humidity in the bedroom had improved. Yes, the moisture content of the air did improve but the air was still rated as dry. Even the second humidifier didn’t get the air quality to normal Relative humidity should be somewhere between 30 and 50 percent.

Overdue, but finally a bit of logical thinking entered my project. Consider the number of cubic feet of air in even a small bedroom. Every time the room temperature drops, the heating system provides more nice warm, but dry, air. Next, consider how many hours of the day are spent in the bedroom. The rest of the day we are outdoors or in an office or other environment where we have no control over humidity.

Surprise! There really is a simple way to eliminate most dry, itchy skin caused by heated air. We cannot control our surroundings but we do have control over what goes into our own body. That includes drinking eight or more 8-ounce glasses of water daily. We have heard the message so many times that it simply goes in one ear and promptly out the other. An explanation of why water is so important would go a long way towards real listening and habit changing.

Remember, the human body is 65% water – and over 70% of the body functions take place in water. Skin is the biggest organ in our body – but it has the lowest priority when the supply of water is limited.

Our brain and internal computers have an amazing capacity for prioritizing in order to preserve life. All of the internal organs and body functions take precedence over skin whenever there is a shortage of water. Research has shown that the body will take calcium and other minerals from our bones if there is not enough available in the food we eat.

With water it becomes more of a rationing program with the most essential organs getting the largest portion of the quantity that is available. Unpleasant it may be, but we can live in spite of dry skin. When there is sufficient water for all of the body functions, the skin will get the needed moisture to make up for the evaporation caused by dry air.

It does take effort to make water drinking a daily habit. Thirst is a very unreliable gauge for judging our needs. I can guarantee that in spite of the low humidity in my home, the winter itch is gone. It takes time and determination to change or add new habits into the daily routine, (It’s definitely easier than caring for a humidifier!) Begin the day with one or two glasses of water – the body has been making repairs while we sleep so that we wake up dehydrated. That is the reason why dieters prefer getting on the scale first thing in the morning. It is the lowest weight we will be that day.

Possibly the worst invention in any office is the water fountain or that cooler with the tiny paper cups. You usually get only a couple tablespoons of water – enough to just wet the mouth. Use some creativity to find your own personal signature water jug for the desk. Having a handy supply of water makes it easier to reach the daily goal. It is not just the skin that improves when the body gets enough water.

Sorry, but it is water that our body needs – not coffee, tea, carbonated, flavored, alcoholic, sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages. During the early habit forming days, you may find it helpful to add a small amount of unsweetened juice to the water. The goal is to eliminate the juice as soon as you can. It’s not just the extra calories. Juice is food and one more thing that requires water in order to be processed through the body.

Using a saline nasal spray frequently will eliminate the stuffy nose that comes from breathing in dry air. The spray is available at any drug store or supermarket. Use it throughout the day to keep the nostrils moist. It is important to get the plain one without any medication. The plain saline mimics normal nasal moisture and has no restrictions on how often or how long it can be used. It may or may not be true, but there has been some publicity recently that the regular use of saline spray can reduce infections such as the common cold. It makes sense when you consider that the nose serves as a filter for the air we breathe.

Gloria Hansen is an author and educator on consumer issues. She has a B.S. degree in foods and nutrition from Iowa State University. Her articles feature lifestyle changes for optimum health, living life in abundance, feeling and looking great, changing your mind to change your world and other resources for self improvement.

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