Regularly running a humidifier during the wintertime is a tried-and-true solution for combating moisture-sapped air and its uncomfortable effects on your health and home. However, did you know that humidifiers are also helpful tools for alleviating the symptoms of common medical conditions, such as the common cold and the flu? It's true. So before you pack away that humidifier in summer storage, read on to learn how it can help keep you healthy year-round.
How Humidifiers Keep You Healthy
Humidifiers, by design, add moisture to the air to help raise your indoor humidity level, which can fall dramatically in the wintertime as a result of constant heating. By restoring an ideal humidity level of 45 to 50%—the level recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—your indoor environment may feel warmer, lessening the need to crank up the heat, and any moisture-sensitive furnishings in your home become better protected from damage. More importantly, humidifiers can eliminate and help prevent the uncomfortable physical effects of dry, wintry air such as:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Sore, scratchy throat
- Bloody nose
- Cracked lips
- Dry sinus passages
- Respiratory irritation
Coincidentally, some of the side effects caused by dry air are also common symptoms of medical ailments that can strike you at anytime during the year. These include the common cold, the flu, upper respiratory infections, and sinus infections. Humidifiers, when used in combination with doctor-prescribed or over-the-counter medications and when complemented by healthy living habits to treat these conditions, can help relieve your symptoms and make you more comfortable while you recover.
According to the National Institutes of Health, increasing the humidity in your home when you're battling a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection helps moisturize your nasal and throat passages. This helps drain excess mucus so you can breathe more clearly. In addition, when you're fighting a respiratory infection breathing humidified air can ease the dryness of your bronchial tubes and lungs, making it easier for air to pass through your breathing passages. Moreover, the American Academy of Pediatrics routinely recommends the use of humidifiers around young children and infants, who may have difficulty clearing breathing passages on their own, to treat upper respiratory infections.
Humidifiers are also effective when used to alleviate allergic conditions and ease asthma flare-ups.
Choosing the Right Humidifier
Before you begin using a humidifier to help treat any medical ailment, be sure to choose the right one. Humidifiers are available in many types and sizes, including cool mist, warm mist, and ultrasonic as well as room humidifiers and whole house humidifier units. In addition, you may prefer a humidifier with extra features such as an onboard humidistat to continually measure the humidity of your room, multiple humidification speeds, digital controls, or ultraviolet light to provide germ protection. Choosing a humidifier will depend largely on the size of your space and your personal preference for the type of mist output and special features.
For extra safety, many doctors and consumer safety organizations recommend using a cool mist humidifier, such as the Germ Guardian H1000 Tabletop Humidifier, in a child's room. This is because warm mist humidifiers, which heat water to near boiling in order to produce a warm moisturizing mist, carry a possible risk of burns. However, adults might prefer using a warm mist humidifier, such as the Vicks V790 Germ Free Warm Mist Humidifier. This model includes germicidal protection and incorporates a medicine cup, which allows you to add steam inhalants that soothe your breathing passages.
For more detailed information and tips for choosing a humidifier, read our Humidifier Buying Guide.
Properly Maintaining Your Humidifier
After you begin using your humidifier to help treat medical conditions, remember the importance of regular cleaning and maintenance. The consequences of not doing this could potentially make you sicker. According to the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the proper care and cleaning of humidifiers is important for reducing potential exposure to microorganisms. In other words, failing to clean a humidifier's components and change the water regularly may create a breeding ground for bacteria and germs that could be released into your air. Breathing in these germs can contribute to complications in your recovery or even spawn new medical conditions.
To properly maintain your humidifier, follow these steps:
- Change the water in your humidifier every day.
- Use distilled or de-mineralized water to fill your humidifier.
- Clean your humidifier with a mild cleanser thoroughly every few days.
- Clean your humidifier with a natural cleaning solution that won't leave behind chemical residues.
- Consider investing in an ultraviolet humidifier, such as the Enviracaire Germ-Free EWM-211D, to help kill microorganisms inside the humidification chamber.
For more detailed information about safely maintaining your humidifier, read our Tips for Maintaining Your Humidifier.
Remember, only your doctor can provide the advice, recommendations, and tools to stave off colds, the flu, and other common illnesses for good. However, with many trusted health organizations continuing to back the power of humidifiers for symptom relief, these tools will likely become an even more popular part of a healthy lifestyle.
Still Have Questions?
For more information on specific humidifiers and other ways to improve your indoor air, please review our extensive product listings and visit our Learning Center. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact our product experts toll-free at 1 (800) 934-9194. We want to help make your indoor environment a healthy one.