Dry lips, sore throat? Record-low humidity could be to blame

Dry lips, sore throat? Record-low humidity could be to blame
A sunny day in Brussels. Credit: Belga

Humidity levels in Belgium in recent days have been exceptionally low for this time of year, resulting in people suffering from dry lips and experiencing sore throats.

According to the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (KMI), the alternation of high-pressure zones has been driving the good weather over the past few days, with a supply of continental and dry air from the northeast to the south, resulting in humidity levels dropping.

"It is true that the average relative humidity in March for Uccle is currently the lowest value since 1961 (namely 62%)," Rozemien De Troch, Climate services manager at KMI, told The Brussels Times.

On Wednesday afternoon, the relative humidity even dropped to 24%.

The relative humidity as recorded in the Uccle weather station in the last 24 hours. Credit: KMI

According to experts from the VUB, the recommended relative humidity for buildings is between 40% and 70%. "If levels drop below 40%, this can cause irritation to eyes (especially people with contact lenses), and the sense of a dry mouth and throat."

De Troch said that taking into account the weather forecast for the next few days, the average relative humidity for the month of March (in Uccle) is expected to be slightly higher (around 63%).

"This average value for March 2022 will still be well below the normal value for Uccle (74.8% for the month of March over the 30-year period 1991-2020)," she added.

Record levels of sunshine

The continental and dry air in the country at the moment has resulted in very little precipitation over the past few days and a lot of sunshine, with daytime temperatures that are "already very high for the time of year," De Troch explained.

The precipitation levels in Uccle for March were the lowest ever recorded since 1981: only 1.6 mm of precipitation fell in Uccle by 22 March, compared to the normal 43.1 mm.

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Meanwhile, the level of sunshine recorded — 164 hours and 30 minutes — was the highest since 1981 and almost double the month's average of 80 hours 27 minutes.

"In short, the weather situation causes the air to contain very little water vapour (resulting in low relative humidity), so the air can contain a lot of extra water vapour, meaning moist surfaces (including lips) dry out quickly," De Troch said.

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