Nobody likes being sick. Skipping work can be fun sometimes, but when you're miserable, it's hard to enjoy it. And if you're an entrepreneur or freelancer who isn't salaried, you simply can't afford it.

You need to do everything you can to stay healthy, especially during flu season. And while ingesting vitamin C is a good bet, there's another hack you should take advantage of immediately, due to its sheer multitude of advantages.

If you live in a heated house or apartment, the air in your home is dry. Really dry. This is a problem for a variety of reasons, the most salient being that a 2013 study showed that in a low-humidity environment, 70-77 percent of flu viruses can transmit themselves through coughs. When humidity levels were boosted to 43 percent or higher, the transmission number fell to just 14 percent.

In the words of study researcher John Noti of the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, at high humidity levels "the [flu] virus just falls apart." 

In short, if you want to protect yourself and your family from cold and flu season this year, you need a humidifier. Where? In your bedroom, where you spend crucial resting hours.

Here are a few other advantages to using a humidifier:

1. It softens your skin

Dry air saps the moisture from your skin, which you already know leads to noticeably dry skin and flaking. But did you know that this dryness also accelerates the aging process? A humidifier gives your skin that precious moisture back, which keeps you looking your best.

2. It promotes quicker healing

Say do end up succumbing to a cold or flu--using a humidifier helps you get better faster. Why? Because when you keep your nasal passages and throat moist, it reduces coughing and sneezing, which helps you recover quicker.

3. It gives your sinuses a break 

Winter air dries out your sinuses--you're already familiar with that annoying, tight feeling you get in your nose when it's cold out. But dry sinuses are more than just uncomfortable--they leave you more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses. A humidifier keeps your sinuses healthy and happy, which keeps you the same.

4. It lowers your heating bill

Ever feel like when it's more humid out, it's hotter? It's true--moist air feels warmer. When you add moisture to the air in your home, it'll feel warmer, so you'll be able to lower the thermostat and save money on your heating bill. 

5. It reduces electric shocks 

If you feel like static electricity is worse in the winter, you're right. The dry air increases your chances of that painful snap when you touch a doorknob after moving over carpet. Add moisture back into the air and you'll be shocked by how much better this issue gets.

6. It protects your wood furniture 

Dry air is bad for wood furniture, moldings and doors--it can cause the wood to split and crack. A humidifier helps preserve the integrity of the wood, maintaining your valuable pieces.

7. Better sleep

If you or your partner snores, a humidifier can help, since snoring often worsens when the person has a dry throat or sinuses. Plus, moist air in your bedroom will make the room warmer and more comfortable overall, which promotes restful sleep.

Ready to take the plunge? There are a few things to keep in mind. First, you'll need to regularly clean your humidifier (about once a week). If you don't, the humidifier itself can turn into a source of bacteria and mold. 

Second, it's best to use distilled or de-mineralized water in your humidifier. Depending on where you live, your tap is likely to have minerals in it that will generate buildup in your machine (which then promotes the growth of bacteria).

It's easy to make distilled water from tap water at home, for free. Use it in your humidifier and you'll have to clean it less often. 

Third, if your humidifier has a filter, be sure to change it regularly. Same idea--you don't want bacteria to grow in there. 

Finally, don't go overboard and turn your bedroom into the tropics--too much humidity is just as bad as too little. Pick up a hygrometer to measure the humidity level in your room (they cost less than $8). According to the study, the ideal humidity level is 40-50 percent.

Then breathe deeply and be proud. You're taking good care of yourself.

Published on: Jan 4, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.