We ask can a humidifier make you sick?
We normally talk about humidifiers in a positive manner, helping people breathe more easily when the air is too dry, enabling people with asthma to lubricate their bronchial tubes and putting a stop to skin irritations caused by dry air. But there are situations in which humidifiers can have the opposite effect.
Any appliance or device, if not used correctly, can be hazardous to your health. In our fast busy lives, we very often order a piece of technology over the internet, receive it the next day and then in the excitement of the moment it arrives, unpack it and switch it on to see what it does. In other words, a lot of us don’t bother reading the instructions.
So can a humidifier make you sick? well it can if you don’t use it correctly. So let’s have a think about what you can do…
Can a humidifier make you sick if the water is dirty?
It might seem obvious, but if your water is dirty or polluted in some way, then all that you’re doing, when you switch on your humidifier, is distributing that pollution into the air, and in the process you make it easier for that pollution to get into your body – by breathing it in.
So firstly make sure that your water is clean and give the water tank, that holds the water, your utmost attention in terms of cleanliness. All surfaces that come into contact with water need to be constantly cleaned so that mold doesn’t appear and grow.
Is white dust from humidifier harmful?
The importance of this has to be emphasised when using ultrasonic humidifiers, which produce cool mist. Because of the way these operate, any monerals that are in the water get dissolved and appear in the air as ‘white dust’. White dust, if inhaled can lead to all kinds of complications such as hypoxemia, pneumontis and techypnea. Asthma sufferers are subsceptible to a worsening of their condition if white dust is inhaled.
If the ultrasonic humidifier’s water tank is not kept clean, then mold and mildew can form, and just like the minerals in the water, the pollutants can also be released into the air via the mist.
Even very healthy people are at risk of developing respiratory problems if they breathe in moisture that has come from a dirty humidifier.
How to clean a humidifier with vinegar
Yes vinegar! you may think that if you do this and then start up the humidifier, the air will smell of vinegar, but vinegar really is a great ingredient for cleaning things – here’s how you’d do it…
- Dismantle your humidifier so that the water tank is separated from the rest of the appliance.
- Fill up the water tank with water and add a tablespoon of bleach. Leave it for approx 30 minutes.
- Fill a saucepan with water and add 2 cups of white vinegar.
- Put the filter in the saucepan. Leave it for approx 30 minutes.
- Pour undiluted white vinegar over the base of the humidifier, removing any excess. Leave it for approx 30 minutes.
- Disinfect the base with bleach. Leave it for approx 30 minutes.
- Clean any other separate pieces
- Rinse the tank, filter and base of the humidifier.
- Reassemble the humidifier and fill the tank with water.
This is a general method suitable for most cool mist humidifiers but always read the manufacturer’s instructions prior to doing this.
Can humidifiers burn you ?
Well if it’s a vaporizer humidifier, which works by boiling water via a heating element, releasing it as steam, then of course there is a danger of scalding or burning the skin if you get too close to the steam. Just as you’d keep a kettle, full of boiling water, away from young children, the same caution has to be given to a vaporizer.
A vaporizer carries less risk of breathing in minerals from the water than the ultrasonic humidifiers, but there is still the need keep the water reservoir clean in order to keep mold and mildew from forming.
If the room is already humid and you start to use a humidifier, then there will eventually be too much moisture in the air. Relative humidity should stay between 30 and 50%. If the humidity is above this then you’ll start to feel uncomfortable and worse still you’ll start to encourage the growth and spread of harmful bacteria, dust mites, mold and mildew, which will all have health implications.
Check the humidity levels in your home BEFORE you use a humidifier. You can check the levels by using a hygrometer. Some humidifiers come bundled with a hygrometer. You can also get humidifiers with a built in humidistat which measures the humidity in the air and controls the humidifier – releasing moisture if the air is too dry, then stopping when the optimum humidity level is reached.
Can a humidifier make you sick by having it in your bedroom ?
This is a common question, but there isn’t really any differentiation between breathing in air during your waking hours and breathing in air during your sleep. The fact remains that if you use a dirty humidifier or if use a humidifier when your room is already humid, then you run the risk of mold and mildew developing, as well as encouraging dust mites and harmful bacteria to populate freely and these are the things that will make you sick.
So can a humidifier make you sick?
Like any appliance or device, if you don’t use a humidifier responsibly then you could make yourself and others ill or put them in danger. If you don’t regularly clean your humidifier or if you use it when your house is already humid, then you’re asking for trouble.
But used responsibly and safely, a humidifier can really benefit your health. So let’s not ask can a humidifier make you sick, let’s be proactive and ask can a humidifier benefit your health. Here are some of the key benefits of using a humidifier responsibly:
You’ll sleep better
Babies and young children especially will find that having optimum humidity in the bedroom puts the body under much less strain than when the air is dry.
Allergy Risks Reduce
When the air is moist, dust and pollen find it easier to bind together and will become heavier, falling to the ground instead of floating through the air. If they’re on the ground rather than in the air, there’s less chance of breathing them in and so less chance of triggering an allergic reaction.
Skin is healthier
One of the most noticeable symptoms of dry air is irritable and itchy skin. Our bodies need moisture to keep the skin healthy.
If the air has enough moisture you won’t get as much static charge in your hair and clothes. This is often demonstrated with people who are surrounded by computer equipment all day – all the fans in the computers and disks create dry air and consequently computer workers often find they become excessively charged with static.
During the winter months our mucous membranes can become inflamed and when the air is excessively dry, this will reduce the efficiency of our immune systems. That’s when we may start wondering can a humidifier make you sick ? If the membranes contain enough moisture however they won’t become inflamed.
Less nose bleeds
The dry air can cause our nasal mucous membranes to suffer and sometimes results in nosebleeds. If the air contains more moisture then this won’t happen.
If you wake and find it hard to open your eyes, it’s a sign that the air is too dry. Dry air can really aggravate the eyes, making them itchy with a burning sensation. A humidifier will put moisture into the air to make sure this doesn’t happen.
You’ll save your furniture
Wood doesn’t like to get too dry – floorboards will start to creak and furniture will start to crack. Achieving the optimum humidity level for wooded flooring (40-60%) will prolong it’s life.
Houseplants will flourish
If there’s too much dry air it’ll mean that soils belonging to houseplants will start to lose their moisture. The plant will then quickly dry up. Enough moisture in the air will keep the plants happy.
Musical Instruments will sound better.
If not kept in the optimum humidity, tuned instruments, such as guitars and pianos, will go out of tune. Keep the humidity level comfortable and your instruments will stay in tune for longer.
To reiterate the answer to the question can a humidifier make you sick ? Yes it can, but only if you use it the wrong way. If you use it the right way and follow the guidelines for proper care and maintenance then a humidifier will benefit your health greatly. For more about this have a read about humidifier benefits.
What humidifier should I get ?
You firstly need to consider what kind of area you want to cover. Some humidifiers will offer coverage of a small room, such as a bathroom. Some humidifiers will cover a whole house. Have a think about the different variants of humidifiers and their advantages and disadvantages:
Dry air moves through evaporator cassettes, but only takes as much moisture as it needs at the current temperature.
A vaporizer boils water and sends the resulting steam into the air.
Humidifier discs rotate and absorb water. Dry air moves over the discs. The air absorbs moisture and removes harmful particles. You could say this is also an air purifier.
Water splits into small drops which thenbecomes mist. The mist then evaporates in the air.