Humidity is common in the Midwestern, Southern, and Eastern parts of the United States. It’s particularly bad in the summer when temperatures are high. Humidity is not only uncomfortable, but it can also contribute to a number of negative health issues. Keep your family safe by recognizing and understanding the potential issues.
What Causes Humidity?
Humidity is all around us, but it’s more tangible in some places than others. Jeffrey Hovis, a scientific officer at the Charleston chapter of the National Weather Service explains:
“Relative humidity, a term often used by the local TV and radio media, is a measure of the actual amount of moisture in the air compared to the total amount of moisture that the air can hold. Warm air can hold more water than cool air. But if the air (warm or cool) is holding half as much moisture as it can hold when saturated, the relative humidity is 50 percent.”
In coastal regions or areas with large bodies of water, water vapor enters the air through precipitation. In Midwest and Southeast regions where there are fewer bodies of water, strong wind patterns blow ocean and lake vapors inland.
There also tends to be more cloud cover and less mountainous protection in these areas. The clouds descend with more water vapor and there aren’t mountains to keep out the vaporous winds.
Most Humid Cities in the United States
You might not realize the level of humidity around you. If you don’t know any different, you might not be aware of the risks.
In the United States, there are 10 cities with more than 72.5 percent humidity year round. On some days in the summer, the humidity can be as high as 100 percent. Here’s a list in order of highest humidity:
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
2. Jacksonville, Florida
3. Houston, Texas
4. Orlando, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. San Francisco, California
7. Seattle, Washington
8. Miami, Florida
9. Portland, Oregon
10. Rochester, New York
If you live in or near any of these cities, it’s important to understand what humidity can do if you aren’t careful.
High Levels of Humidity Cause Illness: 7 Health Concerns
Spending too much time in high amounts of humidity can have a negative impact on your health. Experts agree that humidity levels between 35 and 60 percent are ideal for avoiding negative health effects.
Here are some of the major health concerns facing those who spend an extended amount of time in humidity of 60 percent or higher:
1. Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion, or Heat Stroke
Sweating is a natural mechanism your body uses to cool off. Because of the moisture content in the air, areas of high humidity make you sweat more. Unfortunately, sweating in high temperatures with high levels of humidity can actually make you hotter, which leaves you dehydrated and at a higher risk for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or fainting. Drink plenty of water and use a fan to stay cool.
2. Insect Risks
Areas with high humidity attract a lot of insects. Chiggers, for example, live in areas with high levels of humidity, and their bites can cause an irritating rash as well as transfer diseases. Disease-carrying mosquitoes, spiders, kissing bugs, bed bugs, carpet beetles, lice, and other nasty pests can be found in these areas, transferring diseases and causing irritation with their bites.
3. Higher Blood Pressure
As your body works to cool itself in the drastic heat, it will naturally raise your blood pressure. Your heart beats faster, and the blood heads to the brain to protect it from the excess heat. If left unchecked and untreated, exposure to such heat and humidity can lead to fainting, chronic high blood pressure, and a variety of heart conditions.
4. Mold and Mildew Spores
Organic contaminants are more common in areas of high humidity. Mold and mildew grow in the wet air and on carpet, sheetrock, and wood products exposed to a humid environment. Spores from mold and mildew can get lodged in your lungs and cause a variety of health issues.
Aside from mold and mildew spores, airborne chemicals, dust mites, fungi, and other allergens can fester in a humid climate. These are among the worst culprits for indoor allergy sufferers, and can lead to a condition called sick building syndrome, which is only curable if you move elsewhere.
Viruses can also manifest themselves more frequently in the humidity. Those exposed to humidity are sick more frequently with the common cold, the flu virus, and other illnesses. Although the onset of symptoms may not be serious, continued exposure to this environment can worsen the illness over time.
7. Respiratory Issues
Breathing heavily is another of your body’s automatic responses to help cool yourself down when sweating doesn’t work properly. Doing so for prolonged periods of time can lead to conditions like asthma, runners hack, and hypersensitive lungs. Mold, mildew, fungi, and air contaminants can also be lodged in your lungs and make it difficult to breathe normally in the future.
Billions of people live in high humidity areas, but they can take charge of their health by being aware of their health risks. By drinking plenty of water, staying cool, using a dehumidifier, and staying knowledgeable about the effects of humidity, you can keep yourself and your family safe.