As the leaves keep falling and the days grow shorter, it’s getting colder in New Jersey and homeowners are once again turning on the heat.

Some Garden State residents, however, are holding off because the hot air gives them all sorts of respiratory problems.

“At this time of year, the air outside is cold and dry and then when you put the heat on it's further drying, so that tends to dry out people’s nasal passages, people’s throats,” said Dr. Douglas Leventhal, an ear, nose and throat specialist with ENT and Allergy Associates in Oradell, and a member of the Medical Society of New Jersey.

He explained dry heat can cause a variety of issues, including chronic throat discomfort.

"Sometimes it can exacerbate allergies or sinus issues and then a lot of times it’ll actually lead to nose bleeds if things get too dry from the crusting.”

Normally when you take a breath through your nose, it humidifies and adds moisture to the air. But if you have issues with the nose with congestion and you’re breathing mostly through your mouth, that dry air tends to dry out your mouth and cause chronic sore throats.

“The nose and throat are used to being moist so it can irritate things if it’s too dry there and it can lead to problems with dryness, crusting, difficulty breathing,” he said

So what’s the best way to get relief?

“You can use direct saline sprays in the nose. They have simple little squirt bottles you can get at the pharmacy. You can be a little more experimental and try something like a Neti Pot, a more forceful, thorough type of saline rinse,” Leventhal said.

He explained this can help “because you’re adding moisture, and especially depending on what kind of heat you have, forced hot air is obviously the most drying.”

Another option to consider is a humidifier.

“This can help to humidify the air in the bedrooms, just to keep the overall moisture level a little bit higher,” he explained.

In some instances, a dried-out respiratory system can encourage the development of other infections, so Leventhal says it’s important to make sure your nasal passages are properly moisturized.

When a heating system is first turned on after being off for months, the forced hot air can spread dust that’s accumulated on the vents.

“This can make it a sort of double whammy for people who suffer with allergies,” he said.

Contact reporter David Matthau at

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