Physiological and subjective responses to low relative humidity

J Physiol Anthropol. 2006 Jan;25(1):7-14. doi: 10.2114/jpa2.25.7.


In order to investigate the influence of low relative humidity, we measured saccharin clearance time (SCT), frequency of blinking, heart rate (HR), blood pressure, hydration state of skin, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), recovery sebum level and skin temperature as physiological responses. We asked subjects to judge thermal, dryness and comfort sensations as subjective responses using a rating scale. Sixteen non-smoking healthy male students were selected. The pre-room conditions were maintained at an air temperature (Ta) of 25 degrees C and a relative humidity (RH) of 50%. The test room conditions were adjusted to provide a Ta of 25 degrees C and RH levels of 10%, 30% and 50%.RH had no effect on the activity of the sebaceous gland and on cardiovascular reactions like blood pressure and HR. However, it was obvious that low RH affects SCT, the dryness of the ocular mucosa and the stratum corneum of the skin and causes a decrease in mean skin temperature. Under 30% RH, the eyes and skin become dry, and under 10% RH the nasal mucous membrane becomes dry as well as the eyes and skin, and the mean skin temperature decreases. These findings suggested that to avoid dryness of the eyes and skin, it is necessary to maintain an RH greater than 30%, and to avoid dryness of the nasal mucous membrane, it is necessary to maintain an RH greater than 10%. Subjects felt cold immediately after a change in RH while they had only a slight perception of dryness at the change of humidity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blinking / physiology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Eye
  • Face
  • Hand
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Heating
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Male
  • Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Saccharin / metabolism
  • Seasons
  • Sebum / metabolism
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Temperature / physiology
  • Thermosensing
  • Water / metabolism


  • Water
  • Saccharin