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By Alexandra Zissu, Editorial Director

Feeling itchy? Do your kids’ buttery-smooth hands suddenly feel like leather? You’re not alone.

Depending on where you live, winter means dry skin for you and your kids. The cold months are the driest because cooler air holds less water vapor. The drier the air, the drier we are.

Dryness isn’t just painful; it can be unhealthy. Cracked skin is prone to infection and dry nasal passages are susceptible to cold and other viruses. It’s also uncomfortable, especially after a bath and right at bedtime, which sends a lot of harried parents to the store in search of humidifiers. While some question their safety, with a few precautions to prevent mold and bacteria, humidifiers are safe and can help you and your kids.

Just don’t over humidify or you’ll invite mold. Recommendations for ideal humidity levels vary. The EPA says to aim for 30 to 50 percent humidity to prevent mold  while the body prefers a somewhat higher range of 40 to 60 percent. Use a humidity gauge to help monitor moisture levels.

Using distilled or demineralized water in a humidifier can prevent mineral build up and the bacteria that feed on it. Change your water daily and clean your unit twice a week with a vinegar and water solution instead of chlorine bleach. Install new filters as recommended, more often if they get dirty quickly; dirty filters are a prime source of indoor air pollutants. Embedded silver filters or water tanks are largely considered safe. If the area around your humidifier gets wet or damp, move the unit or turn it down.

Alternative gadget-free ways to humidify your home’s air include houseplants, shallow dishes of water placed on top of radiators or metal pans on a wood stove, drying clothes on indoor racks, and showering with the bathroom door open.

When it comes to topical treatments for dry skin, there are plenty of great natural moisturizing creams and lotions on the market. One pure way to seal in moisture is to keep a bottle of a food grade (organic, if you like) oil like safflower in the shower to slather on bodies big and small alike before toweling off. Just be careful not to slip in it!


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