Humidifiers have long been at the center of debates between health benefits and health risks. Before you decide whether a humidifier is the right choice for your home and health situation, here are five things you should consider about humidifiers.
Humidifier Question 1) What is a humidifier and what does it do?
Humidifiers are devices that deliver moisture into the air in a room. While there are many different humidifiers on the market, there are three main types of humidifiers: steam humidifiers, wick evaporation humidifiers, and ultrasonic humidifiers.
Steam humidifiers, also called vaporizers, work by boiling water which releases steam into the air. There are steam humidifiers that also cool the steam before releasing it out of the machine.
Wick evaporation humidifiers work by having standing water in a tank and a fan that blows cool air over an absorbent material such as a wick or a filter, thus delivering moisture to the air by way of evaporation.
Ultrasonic humidifiers work by releasing a fog caused by high-frequency vibrations. Because the water is not boiled, these humidifiers require more upkeep to avoid bacteria and minerals from being released along with the water droplets.
Humidifier Question 2) What is the care and upkeep on a humidifier?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, water in standing tanks of humidifiers should be refilled daily with low mineral content water. The tank should be cleaned thoroughly (per manufacturer’s instructions) every three days. Always unplug the humidifier or vaporizer prior to refilling or cleaning any part. If cleaning a humidifier that heats the water, always wait until the water in the unit has had a chance to cool completely.
Because the water is not boiled during use, wick evaporation and ultrasonic humidifiers require more upkeep to ensure that bacteria and other organisms don’t occur in the tank. WebMD suggests that those people with mold allergies should be extra vigilant with proper cleaning and disinfecting of cool mist humidifiers, to avoid the production of irritating particles. Make sure to clean or change the filter, wick or other parts of the humidifier as instructed by the manufacturer.
When the humidifier or vaporizer is not in use, clean the unit following the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure all parts are completely dry before putting into storage to avoid the growth of mold and bacteria.
Humidifier Question 3) What are the health benefits to using a humidifier?
Humidifiers have been used to reduce the frequency of bloody noses, sinus congestion, dry eye, and various other respiratory ailments. Because the humidifier delivers moisture into the air, it can provide healing moisture to mucus membranes that have been irritated by harsh dry environments.
Humidifiers are commonly used in the winter, when the dry, cold air quality makes respiratory and sinus issues more severe, as the steam puts soothing moisture back into the home. Cool mist humidifiers are also used in extreme dry climates such as desert environments.
Humidifier Question 4) What are the health risks to using a humidifier?
Steam humidifiers or vaporizers release the steam into the air, and thus, these devices contain boiling water that can cause severe burns if a person comes into direct contact with the hot steam or heated water in the unit. Always make sure to keep your steam humidifier in a safe place, away from anywhere it could tip over or where people could come into contact with the hot steam.
Wick evaporation and ultrasonic humidifiers also carry their own risks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, humidifiers can disperse mold, bacteria and encourage the growth of biological organisms such as dust mites. The risk of bacteria and organism growth is higher in these types of humidifiers because of the standing water in the tank.
Humidifier Question 5) Where can I go for more information regarding humidifiers?
Your licensed healthcare provider is your best resource for information regarding using a humidifier. Your healthcare provider can help you decide whether a humidifier is right for your unique health situation, the type of humidifier that is recommended, and can help you determine when and how to best use a humidifier.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions provided with the humidifier to ensure proper use and safety.