Making healthy use of humidifiers
Humidifiers can ease problems caused by dry air. Dry sinuses, bloody noses and cracked lips — humidifiers can help soothe these familiar problems caused by dry indoor air. Humidifiers can also help ease symptoms of a cold or another respiratory condition.
But be cautious, they need regular maintenance. Although useful, humidifiers can become a household health hazard and actually make you sick if they aren’t maintained properly or if humidity levels stay too high. If you use humidifiers, be sure to monitor humidity levels and keep your humidifier clean. Dirty humidifiers can breed mold or bacteria. If you have allergies or asthma, talk to your doctor before using a humidifier.
WHAT ARE HUMIDIFIERS?
Humidifiers are devices that emit water vapor or steam to increase moisture levels in the air (humidity). There are several types:
● Central humidifiers are built into home heating and air conditioning systems and are designed to humidify the whole house.
● Ultrasonic humidifiers produce a cool mist with ultrasonic vibration.
● Impeller humidifiers produce a cool mist with a rotating disk.
● Evaporators use a fan to blow air through a wet wick, filter or belt.
● Steam vaporizers use electricity to create steam that cools before leaving the machine. Avoid this type of humidifier if you have children; hot water inside this type of humidifier may cause burns if spilled.
IDEAL HUMIDITY LEVELS
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The amount of humidity varies depending on the season, weather and where you live. Generally, humidity levels are higher in the summer and lower during winter months. Ideally, humidity in your home should be between 30 and 50 percent. Humidity that’s too low or too high can cause problems.
Low humidity can cause dry skin, irritate your nasal passages and throat, and make your eyes itchy.
High humidity can make your home feel stuffy and can cause condensation on walls, floors and other surfaces that triggers the growth of harmful bacteria, dust mites and molds.
DEHUMIDIFIERS AND AIR CONDITIONERS
Just as air that’s dry can be a problem, so can air that’s too moist. When humidity gets too high — common during summer months — it’s a good idea to take steps to reduce indoor moisture. There are two ways to reduce humidity:
Use an air conditioner: Central or window-mounted air conditioning units dry the air, keeping indoor humidity at a comfortable and healthy level.
Use a dehumidifier: These devices collect excess moisture from the air, lowering humidity levels. Dehumidifiers work like air conditioners, without the “cooling” effect.