- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Dry Winter Air and the Nosebleed
Winter and Dry Air
All of us who live through an annual winter season would consider ourselves divinely blessed if it weren't for one drawback: dry air. But for that one irritant, winter would be an experience of total wonder and bliss.
Waking up at 5:30 a.m., for instance, to see three feet of snow in the driveway is a moment of sheer ecstasy. It's everyone's delight to jump out of bed and enthusiastically plunge into two hours of joyful shoveling before heading off to work. That is, until the evidence of dry air emerges and steals the joy away.
The evidence does not have to catch us by surprise. There are a number of ways to tell if the air is becoming seriously moisture-deficient. Some of the signs in our bodies are itchy skin, dry throat, and chapped lips; in our possessions, we might find cracked wood in expensive furniture or fine musical instruments. For the mechanical minded, there's a device called a hygrometer that tells us in plain numbers if our inside air has been robbed of its moisture.
But, standing out from all these indicators is the one guaranteed telltale sign that the air has become too dry: the nosebleed.
Yeah, that's right, folks, the nosebleed. It's as predictable as the quaffing of rye whiskey resulting in a fistfight. Here comes winter, here comes the nosebleed. All people who live in a winter-prone climate keep a red-stained hanky stowed on their person in some discreet location.
The Cause of Nosebleeds
The cause of the symbiotic relationship between winter and nosebleeds is still under debate as far as I can tell. While doing the obligatory research for this Hub, I ran across a number of articles that suggested a rather odd postulation. (A Google search for "nosebleed" will return enough of them to illustrate the point.) The gist of the postulation is this: people get nosebleeds because the nose is situated in a vulnerable position on the face.
Well! I was overcome by the simplicity of the revelation! I was in awe of the daredevil gumshoes who had exposed the naked truth! So many people so desperate for so long for answers! And all the while it was right there, plain as the... you know.
It so happens that I personally suffer from nosebleeds. Until now, I had blamed women. The sequence usually goes something like this: I see an attractive woman and I am immediately stirred by romantic inclinations; my inclinations prompt me to make romantic advances; just as my romantic advance is on the verge of acceptance a big surly guy appears from a distant corner; the big surly guy announces that he is a husband or boyfriend; I get a nosebleed.
Like I said, I used to blame the women. I felt they could at least have warned me about the big surly guy. Now I see that women have nothing to do with it. The simple truth is, I get nosebleeds because my nose is "situated in a vulnerable position on the face". I have recently made an appointment with a plastic surgeon to discuss alternate possibilities.
Anyway, more serious minded folks seem to think there is a perfectly logical reason why we get nosebleeds in winter. The nose, stuck out there all by itself like a lonely sentinel, gets no reprieve or shelter from the dry air all around. This particular body member is also full of little blood vessels, many of them close to the skin surface. The air dries the surrounding skin, then dries the blood vessels themselves, and eventually the vessels crack and bleed. Which results in a lot of sturdy winter-loving folks keeping a red-stained hanky stowed discreetly on their persons.
How to Prevent the Winter Nosebleed
As we positive thinkers know, for every problem there is a solution. The more enthusiastic among us believe that any problem, big or small, is just a solution begging to be found. And I'm happy to report that a solution to the winter nosebleed problem has indeed been found.
The solution is found in a concept known as relative humidity. Without getting too scientific, relative humidity (RH) is the level of humidity in the air, at a particular temperature, relative to what the air could hold at its potential maximum. The RH value is expressed as a percentage. Broadly speaking, the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold; so as air is warmed - without increasing moisture content - the RH percentage value drops.
For instance, If we enter a room with a temperature of 18° celsius (65° F) and a relative humidity of 50% then we raise the temperature to 25° C, the RH value would drop to perhaps 38%. The change occurs, not because moisture is taken from the air, but because the amount of moisture the warmer air can hold increases, thereby decreasing the relative value of the moisture already present.
The answer to preventing nosebleeds in winter is to increase the humidity content of the air in our homes and workspaces. (We can't do much to change what's going on outside!) Cool mist and steam humidifiers are readily available in geographical regions with cold climates and are accessible as easily as conducting an online search or by paying a visit to a local department store.
I run both cool mist and steam humidifiers in my home and office during winter. I try to maintain a relative humidity level in the area of 45% at a temperature around 25° celsius (77° F).
And, as a further precaution, until I've met with my plastic surgeon I will be making a thorough inspection of all distant corners before making any romantic advances.