Curling up in front of a roaring fire while watching a white, fluffy blanket of snow coat the ground outside gives the winter season a magical air, but the cold air seeping in from that lovely winter scene can be absolutely brutal. Dry winter air leeches moisture, leaving your skin as dry and cracked as a salt flat and your sinuses as parched as the Sahara in summer. Dry air also contributes to that jarring static shock that practically propels you across the room every time you pet the cat.
Here are a few tips to help you combat dry indoor air, preserve the moisture in your skin and nasal passages, and avoid feline-induced static shocks this winter.
By Hilda Hutcherson, M.D.
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There's a reason why you get so sweaty in the summer, and it's not just from the heat. Warmer air holds more moisture than cooler air.
In the winter, the cold air that seeps into your home from the outside has a lower humidity -- meaning that it carries very little moisture. You crank up the heat inside your house, which adds warmth but doesn't increase the amount of moisture in the air.
Because wintertime humidity is so low, what little moisture that is around is quickly sucked up into the air. Moisture also evaporates from your body, leaving your skin, nose, and throat parched.
Cold, dry air pulls moisture from your mouth and nose, leaving your nasal passages dried out and your throat dry. Dry nostrils are more likely to crack and give you a nosebleed.
Because your nose needs gooey mucus to trap viruses and other icky invaders before they can get you sick, dry nostrils can also make you more vulnerable to colds, sinus infections, and the flu. That's especially a problem in winter, when bacteria and viruses can tend to linger longer in the dry air after someone coughs or sneezes.
When you turn up the thermostat in your home, your heating system kicks up clouds of dust, pollen, and other allergens that can inflame your sinuses. Cold, dry air plus those allergens can also irritate your airways. For some people with asthma, cold and dry air can lead to a narrowing of breathing passages and trigger an attack.