The heater makes you sick? Or is that just hot air? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

The heater makes you sick? Or is that just hot air?

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - San Diego County health officials say another four people have died from the flu, bringing the total number of deaths this flu season to six.

With the flu affecting so many, people are doing all they can to feel better, including turning on their heaters to keep warm. But is that helping or hurting?

The emergency room at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest is averaging six percent of its patients being treated for this year's very strong flu strain. The recent cold snap that's brought unusually bitter freezing temperatures to the county is not bringing much relief to those who are under the weather.

Many people who are battling the bug are deciding to keep warm by cranking up heaters in their homes to fight off the chills. But is that a healthy idea, or will it just make your condition worse?

"If the humidity is lower, it may dry out your mucus membrane and you would not be able to fight off the infection as well. I think the idea though is to keep your house tolerably warm and make sure that you're comfortable. I don't think this is a major factor," Scripps Mercy Hospital Medical Director Dr. Davis Cravcroft said.

It's also possible that dust, pollen and allergens could exacerbate nasal problems, especially when heaters are turned on for the very first time after being dormant for several months.

"I think that's just a natural byproduct of turning on your heater," Crafcroft said.

So the bottom line is to keep your nasal passages lubricated while suffering through this flu season, which has started late here in the Golden State. There's one easy way to keep your nose from drying up so fast because of a heater.

"Saline nose drops would theoretically help, I don't know if there's a study on that, but any time you keep your mucus membranes moist, you're more likely to be able to fight off infection," Cravcroft said.

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