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Why we can't stand the heat indoors

The weather may be getting chillier, but turning up the thermostat isn't always a good idea. In fact, it could be making you unwell

By Tim Madge

Published 23/11/2015

Within reason: overdoing the central heating at home can be damaging to our health
Within reason: overdoing the central heating at home can be damaging to our health

Central heating may be the norm for modern UK homes, but that hasn't always been the case. Not that long ago, when temperatures dropped, people would have to wrap up to keep warm, or huddle around an open, or electric, fire where they could. Bedrooms in Britain had a world reputation for frost along the window ledges - on the inside.

The move to central heating appeared to be a great leap towards a civilised way to get through winter. However, more and more research is suggesting that we might have gone too far. Keeping warm is one thing, but hot, dry and airless rooms are quite another, and they might not be doing us much good.

Like so many things in life, it's a case of everything in moderation. And don't forget, while it might be winter, fresh air is always a tonic, so airing the house on mild days will work better than an artificial freshener. Here are a few points to consider.

Having very different room temperatures can affect your heart

Going from a hot to a cold environment can increase your blood pressure and that could affect the blood supply to the heart.

In some people, that could trigger angina, heart attacks or changes to the heart rhythm.

Dr Maurice Pye, consultant cardiologist at York Hospital, advises that there needs to be a "reasonable temperature" in all rooms - above 18C.

Heating dries the atmosphere in the house

Constant central heating produces a dry atmosphere which, over months and months, is dehydrating to the entire body. The result might particularly be felt in the sinuses and nasal passages, possibly causing sinusitis, due to mucus in the nose becoming too dry, as George Murty, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at University Hospitals, Leicester, notes.

The dry heat can cause eyes to water

The natural film in front of the eyes is made of three layers; mucus, water and oil. The oil floats to the surface to stop the water from evaporating, but if the atmosphere dries out, the water will evaporate. Chris Worsman, a senior optometrist, suggests humidifying rooms with a bowl of water - or house plants.

Skin can be affected too

In winter, with windows and doors shut against the weather, skin is more likely to dry out and lose its all-important moisture. To overcome this, and to ensure no chapped lips, extra hydration and a lot of TLC is needed. Using more moisturiser will help, and don't forget to hydrate from the inside out, too, by drinking plenty of water.

Radiators might harm your hands

Warming your hands on a radiator could cause blood vessels to go into temporary spasm, blocking the blood supply and causing fingers to first turn white, then blue and red. For the 20% of us who suffer from Raynaud's syndrome, this is a major problem - so "don't warm your chilly hands on a radiator", advises Dr Maurice Pye.

Central heating could cause weight gain

Dutch researchers have found that central heating might even contribute to weight gain, because the cold activates the 'brown fat' in our bodies, which helps in burning off calories. Having the heating on too high stops this mechanism. Based on the findings, the researchers suggest the temperature in our homes should be no more than 15-17C for at least a few hours every day.

Belfast Telegraph

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