Chilly evenings, snowy days, holiday prep . . . and sore throats? If you're someone who notices that you develop a sore throat as soon as those winter temperatures dip and the heat in your home goes on, then you're not alone. Some sore throats from heating and unrelated to illness during the wintertime is a thing, and there's a pretty good reason behind it. To help better understand why household heating can trigger pesky sore throats, we spoke to two experts.
Can Turning On the Heat Cause a Sore Throat?
As it turns outs, putting on the heater in your home definitely has the potential to cause a sore throat, but it is a little bit more involved than you may think. "The throat needs to be hydrated or lubricated to function properly," said Inna Husain, MD, assistant professor and section head of laryngology at Rush University Medical Center. "Heat indoors is drying and often not humidified." Dr. Husain explained that lack of moisture in the home can lead to both throat dryness and discomfort.
Furthermore, dirty heating systems can also contribute to sore throats. "Heating systems are often not cleaned properly or consistently, so the ducts can collect dust when not in use," Dr. Husain added. She shared that when dust blows along the heating ducts it can actually act as a trigger for indoor allergies, which could also cause a sore throat.
Can Turning On the Heat Cause Any Other Issues?
Beyond sore throats, turning on the heat in your home can cause other issues, including dry skin and bloody noses. "Heat is [drying] and lack of moisture can cause dry skin," Dr. Husain shared. "Also, indoor heating can contribute to nosebleeds for the same reason — dry nasal passages are more prone to mild nosebleeds; this is why we see more nosebleeds in the winter."
Peter Bailey, MD, physician and expert contributor at Test Prep Insight, noted that running your heater all day and night could also cause watery or itchy eyes or a runny nose, and may even make allergies or sinus issues feel worse. "You must be mindful of how long and at what temperature you run your heater in the winter [because of this]," Dr. Bailey advised.
How Can You Help Prevent or Remedy It?
Thankfully, there are simple ways to prevent and remedy these issues. One quick fix: investing in a humidifier. "The most effective means by far of reducing throat soreness is to get a humidifier," Dr. Bailey said. "Running a humidifier in the winter will help to replenish moisture in the air in your home that is needed to maintain throat and skin health."
Dr. Husain also suggested setting up a humidifier bedside to help combat any dryness, but make sure that both your humidifier (and heating ducts!) are cleaned often. "If humidifiers are not kept pristinely clean they can grow mold, so I caution patients on that," she said. "Also, it is important to have [heating] ducts cleaned routinely." For nosebleeds, a simple saline solution from your local pharmacy can help greatly.