CHICAGO (CBS) — There hasn’t been much need for snow shovels in the Chicago area this year, or salt for the driveway, but there has been a run on humidifiers, due to the unusually dry conditions this winter.

As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, adding a little moisture goes a long way toward keeping you healthy, and even fighting the flu.

“In the morning, when I wake up, my nose is stopped up, my throat is dry,” Yolanda Mooreland said.

Jessica Taub said, “I woke up with dry throats in the morning, and I could definitely tell when blow-drying my hair.”

For Taub, the solution to the dry conditions was purchasing a humidifier.

Several local hardware stores said lots of people are investing in humidifiers this year.

Bob Rosenthal, with Stauber Hardware, said “in the last three, four days they’ve been flying out.”

Don’t expect to help yourself by simply putting out a big bowl of water inside your home.

Rosenthal said the key is having the right amount of moisture in air. That can be measured with something called a hygrometer.

“It should be 45 to 55 percent. If it’s over that, you can breed toxic black mold and mildew,” he said.

But letting the air get too dry can make you sick.

“This is what we call nosebleed season,” said Dr. David Zich, with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

He said moisture helps keep us healthy.

“When humidity drops below 20 percent, the influenza viruses actually thrive,” he said. “There’s actually germ-fighters contained within the liquid that coats our eyes, nose, and mouth. If that dries up, you have, obviously, problems with nosebleeds, but also become more susceptible to infection.”

Just as important as having the right amount of moisture, is keeping your humidifier clean.

“A dirty humidifier can actually be more dangerous than no humidifier at all,” Zich said.

If you’re in a larger space or a house, you might be better off getting smaller units for each room.

Adding moisture also keeps your home warmer, so you’ll find you won’t need to crank up the heat as high.

Watch & Listen LIVE