Why Does Everyone Need a Humidifier?
For many people, a dry indoor climate due to low humidity causes a variety of discomforts–from increased risk of colds and flu to dry skin. A humidifier is a device that adds moisture back into the air, and a relative humidity of between 35 percent and 55 percent, achievable with a cool-mist or warm-air humidifier, is the most comfortable range for indoor humidity.
The cold, dry air of the winter months makes it easier for the influenza virus to survive, thrive and pass from person to person. Because a humidifier keeps indoor air moist, consider using one — especially during the winter months — in addition to getting influenza vaccinations for everyone in your family.
Bronchitis can develop after infection with a cold, causing symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, wheezing and fever. Bronchitis tends to resolve on its own in seven to 10 days, but using a humidifier at home can moisten the air and relieve discomfort associated with bronchitis. Adding an essential oil, such as eucalyptus or tea tree oil to the humidifier may help thin the mucus in the chest, making it easier to expel.
If you or your child are prone to nosebleeds, the dry winter air may contribute by making the skin inside and around the nose prone to cracking and bleeding. Install cold-mist humidifiers in the bedrooms and run them while you sleep to prevent nosebleeds.
People with dry skin, especially with the dermatological condition called atopic dermatitis, may find a humidifier eases the itching, burning, and discomfort associated with this skin problem. Use a humidifier to adjust indoor humidity levels during summer and winter, when air conditioning and indoor heat rob air of moisture. As part of an atopic dermatitis treatment plan, doctors may recommend specific guidelines for indoor humidity.
Excess moisture in the air can increase mold and bacteria growth in your home. Reduce your use of a humidifier or change it’s location if you see moisture on your windows, floors or walls
List of Benefits Having an Air Humidifier
Humidity refers to the amount of atmospheric water vapor, and humidifiers are devices that increase it. Indoor humidity levels should ideally remain between 30 and 50 percent, according to MayoClinic.com. Levels can be monitored with a device called a hygrometer, and many humidifiers have them built in. Humidifiers are generally more necessary during the winter, when atmospheric humidity levels are low and heating systems, which dry air out, are in use. Humidifiers have several benefits.
Dry Skin Remedy in Winter
Humidifiers treat dry skin and chapped lips during winter months. The indoor humidity levels of furnace-heated air can drop to 10 percent or less, notes Mount Sinai School of Medicine dermatology professor Hillard H. Pearlstein, M.D. on MotherNature.com. Humidifiers add much-needed moisture to the air and to the skin. Use several small units near beds in the house and keep doors closed in rooms where a humidifier is in use.
Dry Skin Soothing Conditions
Just as humidifiers treat dry winter skin, it soothes skin dryness and itchiness. Low humidity levels exacerbate symptoms of eczema, notes the American Academy of Dermatology on its EczemaNet website. Psoriasis, thyroid disorders, topical medications for acne, and cosmetic products can also cause dry skin that can be eased with a humidifier.
Treating Cold, Flu and Allergy Symptoms
Humidifiers soothe dryness, irritation or itchiness in the nose, nasal passages, sinuses, mouth, throat, and eyes. They help prevent nosebleeds in those prone to them when their nose is dried out, notes MayoClinic.com. Hence, humidifiers benefit people with a cold, flu or allergies.
They even serve as a preventative measure, limiting or eliminating viruses and bacteria that thrive in dry air, explains the Aerias Indoor Air Quality Resource Center. However, overuse of humidifiers can lead to the growth of pathogens and allergens.
Children and adults with asthma often find humidifiers help their breathing, especially when the condition is compounded by a respiratory infection, says MayoClinic.com. Those with asthma should check with their doctor before using a humidifier, though. Humidifiers must be kept clean to keep the air free of asthma irritants. Humidity levels kept too high can also make things worse, prompting the growth of mold or mildew.
Besides health benefits to people, humidifiers offer benefits to your home, as Aerias points out. They reduce static electricity in the air. In addition, they can help preserve a room’s appearance by slowing the peeling of wallpaper and preventing cracks in paint and furniture.
Your Guide on How to Use a Humidifier in Baby’s Room?
Home humidifiers add moisture to the air in baby’s room during winter months when home heating dries the air. Dry air, according to the Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, irritates baby’s eyes, nose, and mouth. You’ll need to monitor the humidifier to make sure the central or portable unit stays free from mold, mildew and bacteria growth. These growths create additional problems for your baby.
Fill the water holder of the cold-water humidifier with clean tap water and set it in an area that allows the moist air to cover the entire room. Chose a setting that keeps the air comfortable to breathe but doesn’t allow moisture to form on items in the room. Position the air so it flows evenly throughout the room and not directly on the baby or the crib.
Maintain Clean Air
Clean and dry the humidifier daily to remove stale water and any mildew or mold. Use bottled water for the tank in regions with tap water mineral deposits. This avoids clogging the steam mechanism with deposits and also reduces the risk of lung injuries from breathing the mineral powder.
Select a location where baby can’t reach the humidifier or pull the electric cord on the device. Avoid using hot-water humidifiers to reduce the risk of burns from accidents. Research your humidifier brand and model using the online information published by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC list helps you identify devices with the potential to overheat and cause fires.
Your Healthiest Types of Humidifiers
Home humidifiers add moisture to the air and help counteract the effects of dry winter heat. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, humidifiers can ease dry sinuses, itchy eyes or skin and even protect your furniture and finishes from damage. Unfortunately, some humidifiers also serve as a breeding ground for mildew, bacteria and allergens. Choose your new home humidifier with care to protect your family’s health and maintain indoor air quality.
Evaporator-style humidifiers contain an integral fan that blows air through a moistened filter or cloth. While ultrasonic and impeller units simply use vibration or spinning mechanisms to launch moisture into the air, evaporator units first pass the water through a filter to remove bacteria, mold, and minerals. The EPA warns buyers to stay away from non-filtered units, including ultrasonic or impeller humidifiers, and stick with safer units, including filtered-evaporators.
To keep your humidifier operating as safely as possible, the EPA recommends emptying all water from the unit and cleaning it after each use. Change the filter as directed by the manufacturer, and follow all recommended maintenance instructions for best results.
According to MayoClinic.com, steam humidifiers use electricity to boil the water within the unit and produce steam. This action effectively distills the moisture released by the humidifier, which means fewer minerals or contaminants are added to the air in your home. These units sometimes called “warm mist” humidifiers, don’t require filters due to the effects of distillation.
While vaporizers offer a healthy alternative to the impeller or ultrasonic units, they do pose some risks. According to MayoClinic.com, parents should never use steam humidifiers around children. If these units are knocked over, the boiling water inside could spill and cause burns.
Humidistats represent one of the most important features buyers should look for in a healthy humidifier. A quality humidistat measures humidity levels in your home and displays them on a digital screen or dial. MayoClinic.com recommends keeping humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. If levels are too low, and you could experience dry skin or itchy eyes. Humidity higher than 50 percent encourages mold and bacteria growth and also contributes to condensation and unwanted moisture in the home. The safest and healthiest humidifiers contain a humidistat that automatically switches the unit on and off to keep humidity levels within a safe and healthy range.
The Pros & Cons of Humidifiers
Humidifiers offer definite benefits if you suffer from the effects of dry indoor air, but those benefits can come at a price. You’ll pay, literally, for the cost of operating the humidifier–warm-mist humidifiers are more expensive to run than cool-mist humidifiers because you’re paying to heat the water involved. But you could pay in another sense if you don’t take proper care of your humidifier, allowing it to become a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi, or ignore the other potential problems that can come from using a humidifier.
Soothes and Eases Dry Air Symptoms
According to MayoClinic.com, using a humidifier can soothe problems caused by dry air. These include dry sinuses, bloody noses, and cracked lips. The increased humidity levels can also ease cold, allergy and asthma symptoms, although you should consult a physician before using a humidifier if you have allergies or asthma.
Must be Refilled Frequently
A humidifier requires regular maintenance for it to run effectively. This includes refilling it frequently. This may seem to be a minor issue, but if you’re having trouble getting family members to wash dirty dishes or put the clean ones away, getting the humidifier refilled regularly might prove to be a similar struggle.
Longer Life for Furniture
Maintaining proper humidity levels in your home can also increase the life of fixtures in your home, including wood furniture and wallpaper, which can suffer ill effects if kept in an environment that is too dry.
If your humidifier is set to the wrong setting or left to run for too long, it may cause overly high humidity levels in your home. This can cause condensation, which triggers the growth of bacteria, dust mites and mold, according to MayoClinic.com. These microorganisms can, in turn, trigger allergy and asthma problems.
Bacteria and fungi can breed on your humidifier’s moist surfaces and in the water tank. Once bacteria and fungi have multiplied, the humidifier disperses them into the air. Remedy this by performing the daily and weekly maintenance as directed in your humidifier owner’s manual.
Ultrasonic humidifiers can disperse a fine, white dust, caused by mineral deposits and other impurities in the water, throughout your home. Using distilled water in your humidifier reduces or eliminates the dust.
Risk of Burns
Warm mist humidifiers boil water, then disperse the steam into the air. You can get scalded by the steam output, and if the humidifier tips it poses a risk of burns from the boiling water inside, especially to small children.
What Are the Cons of Humidifiers?
A humidifier transforms water into airborne moisture to help add humidity to the air surrounding it. This can have several benefits to your health, including relieving irritated respiratory systems, eyes, and skin caused by excessively dry air. But using a humidifier is not without its potential cons and drawbacks. Knowing exactly what negative effects a humidifier may have can help you make an educated decision regarding its appropriateness for your home.
Some humidifiers are very noisy. According to the editors of “Consumer Reports” magazine, some machines may have noise outputs of 50 decibels or louder. This can be problematic in quiet areas such as a bedroom, where the appliance may disrupt your normal sleep patterns.
Mold in Your Home
Running a humidifier constantly will elevate your home’s perpetual humidity levels. Such a humid environment is ideal for the growth of mold and mildew on your walls, ceiling, and upholstery. Humidifiers are a common factor in household mold growth, warns the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which advice against using them if your home or room doesn’t have good ventilation. If your device has a humidistat—a gauge that automatically shuts down or turns on the device depending on the surrounding humidity—the EPA says to set it at a humidity level of 30 to 60 percent.
Warm-mist humidifiers use heating elements to turn water into steam, which is then dispersed throughout your home or room. This heat factor can create a burn and fire risk, according to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Wellness Center. Similarly, “Slate” magazine doesn’t recommend using warming humidifiers if you have small children. Safer options include ultrasonic humidifiers and cool-mist humidifiers.
All humidifiers use a water tank from which the device draws its water to dispense. Health Canada, a department of Canada’s federal government, warns that bacteria may grow and multiply in this sitting water. Regular cleaning and sanitizing, following the manufacturer’s model-specific instructions, is necessary to prevent distributing the bacteria spores throughout your home.
Air Purifier vs. Humidifier
Air purifiers and humidifiers have different functions. Air purifiers are clean indoor air, but do nothing for indoor humidity levels. They remove dust and smoke from the air, as well as allergenic substances like animal dander and pollen. Humidifiers add water into the air but do not clean it. They are used to relieve health issues from dry air and help reduce static electricity in the home.
Air purifiers remove particles and other pollutants from indoor air. There are two main types of air purifiers: those that use mechanical filters to separate out particulate matter, and those that use electrostatic methods to trap electrically charged particles. Ionizers, which produce negative ions, create a negative charge on suspended particles, which then settle out of the air and stick to the next surface they contact, where they can be wiped up. Some air purifiers were found to produce ozone, which is implicated in producing inflammation of the respiratory system and worsening asthma symptoms. Ultraviolet, or UV, air purifiers kill bacteria and other pathogens and are commonly used in hospitals and daycare centers. UV light purification has also become available in residential HVAC units
Mechanical Air Filters
Mechanical air purifiers use filters to remove relatively large airborne pollutants, such as dust and pet dander, from the air. Filters are often made from foam, pleated paper or polyester, or some other synthetic material. A high-efficiency particulate air filter, commonly known as HEPA, is capable of removing 99.97 percent of airborne particles. HEPA filters can remove extremely small particles, but cannot remove odors. An air purifier may combine a HEPA filter with a charcoal filter to help reduce odors.
Humidifiers add water to indoor air, increasing the relative humidity of the indoor environment. Dry winter air can cause chapped skin and contribute to respiratory problems. Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can reduce dry skin and decrease breathing problems, including lessening coughs. Adding humidity to indoor air can also reduce static electricity and prevent wooden furniture from cracking.
Types of Humidifiers
Four main types of humidifiers are ultrasonic, impeller-driven, evaporative and steam vaporizers. Ultrasonic and impeller humidifiers both produce a cool mist. Ultrasonic models are quiet because they use ultrasonic waves to produce mist, while impeller models use a rotating disk that can produce noise. Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to evaporate water into the air and are also cold humidifiers. Steam vaporizers create a warm mist by heating water with an electrical element. Some models allow the mist to cool slightly before exiting the machine, and are known as warm mist humidifiers.
The standing water in humidifiers can become home to a wide variety of bacteria, mold, and fungi. When the humidifier is turned on, these organisms can be released into your home’s air, and breathing them can cause lung problems and even infections. In the past, disinfectants used with humidifiers have also created problems. Minerals from the humidifier’s water tank can be released into the air, where they settle out as a fine white dust. Humidifiers that use heat to evaporate water are prone to mineral build-up on the heating element, and the filters in evaporative humidifiers can also harbor bacteria and molds. You must keep humidifiers clean, and you need to occasionally descale them to remove mineral build-up.
How Does a Cool Mist Humidifier Work?
A cool mist humidifier increases the humidity in a room. A humidifier is a useful device to help relieve congestion from allergies, colds and other respiratory ailments. It can also help to alleviate itchy eyes, dry skin and cracked lips caused by low humidity, especially in the dry, winter months. There are two types of cool mist humidifiers; those that evaporate water and those the impel the water to vaporize it.
Cool Mist Evaporative Humidifiers
Cool mist evaporative humidifiers use a filter that acts as a wick, absorbing water from a reservoir. An electric fan then blows air across the filter. This evaporates the water and blows the moistened air into the room.
Because the process evaporates water, it leaves impurities from the water, such as chlorine and iron, behind, trapped in the filter. The filter should be cleaned occasionally to prevent bacterial and mold build-up and the filter should be replaced regularly.
Cool Mist Impeller Humidifier
Cool mist impeller humidifiers use an electric motor that drives a small, rapidly spinning disc. The disc sprays water at high speed onto a diffuser. The diffuser then breaks the water into microscopic droplets that can then be disbursed into the air.
Impeller humidifiers are quiet and don’t require filters. Distilled water should be used in these humidifiers to prevent water impurities from being deposited on surfaces around the humidifier. These deposits are caused by minerals in water and resemble a fine powder or dust. Distilled water is free of these chemicals and will not leave a residue.
How to Use Vicks Humidifiers
A well-maintained humidifier can ease the symptoms of asthma, allergies and the common cold. Extra humidity can also alleviate the effects of dry indoor air, such as dry nose, lips, skin, and the throat, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.
But a poorly maintained humidifier breeds mold and bacteria, which can worsen asthma and allergies or trigger lung infections, even if you’re healthy. User documents for Vicks humidifiers, which include cool mist, warm mist, ultrasonic and UV models, closely echo the EPA’s advice to clean your humidifiers regularly, although the EPA recommends cleaning a humidifier every three days, instead of the Vicks recommendation for weekly cleaning.
Your Guide on How to Use
Switch off and unplug the humidifier before filling, cleaning or disinfecting it.
Insert a new filter or demineralization cartridge into the appropriate cavity, either in the top of your humidifier as for the V400, underneath the removable water container as for the V5100NS, or not at all as for the V745A.
Lift the water container straight out of the humidifier. In some cases, the top section of the humidifier doubles as the water container. Turn the reservoir upside down, unscrew the cap, and fill to the fill line with cool tap water. If you live in a hard water area, using distilled water will cut down on the buildup of minerals inside your humidifier and the fine white powder these minerals produce when dispersed into the air.
Screw the cap back into the water container, turn it back right side up and insert it into the humidifier. Plug the humidifier in and turn the power switch on. Some Vicks humidifiers feature an additional intensity setting, either a high-low switch or a rotary knob that allows you to select the desired humidity level.
Check the water level in the humidifier once or twice a day if it is in near-constant use. Vicks humidifiers may run continuously for up to 20 hours after a single filling, depending on which model you use.
Wipe the outside of the humidifier and any non-submersible parts with a soft, dry cloth every day. Vicks recommends rinsing submersible parts with lukewarm water, then wiping clean and drying.
Wipe any parts of your humidifier that come into contact with water, except the nebulizer, with a soft cloth dipped in undiluted white vinegar once weekly. To the clean, the nebulizer, soak it in a solution of one part white vinegar to one part water, then gently clean it with a cotton swab.
Soak the reservoir and pick-up tube, if present, in undiluted white vinegar for 20 minutes, swishing periodically. This loosens scale and another mineral buildup. Rinse clean, until all traces of scale have been removed. Wipe dry.
Disinfect your humidifier by soaking all submersible parts for 20 minutes in a solution of 1 tsp. bleach to one gallon of water. Shake or stir every few minutes. Rinse clean until all traces of bleach odor have dissipated.
- Things You’ll Need
- Cool tap water
- White vinegar
Tips on Running a Cool Mist Humidifier
A cool mist humidifier can benefit you and your home during cold weather months. The additional moisture cool mist humidifiers add to winter air can relieve your dry skin, nose, and throat — as well as reduce static electricity and prevent wooden furniture from drying and cracking. In order to realize these benefits without putting your family at risk, however, there are procedures to follow and precautions to ensure your cool mist humidifier operates safely and effectively.
Correct placement will help your cool mist humidifier run efficiently. An appropriate location is a flat, level, and firm surface a minimum of five inches away from walls or any heat source. In addition, make sure you do not place objects close to or on top of the humidifier that could block air openings. Check the area around the humidifier regularly to make sure absorbent materials such as carpeting, curtains or tablecloths do not become wet. An additional consideration regarding placement involves your child. If you choose to place a cool mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom, ensure your child’s safety and health by paying close attention to correct placement recommendations and keep the unit scrupulously clean.
Monitor Air Quality
Use a hygrometer, also called a humidistat, or choose a cool mist humidifier with a built-in hygrometer to make sure the humidity level in your home stays between 30 and 50 percent. Humidity levels above 50 percent not only cause condensation to form on windows, walls, and floors but also triggers the growth of allergens such as bacteria, dust mites, and molds. If humidity levels become too high, turn the unit down or off until levels return to an acceptable range.
Keep It Clean
In contrast to a warm mist humidifier that boils water before dispersing, water in a cool mist humidifier is subject to growing bacteria and molds that can make you sick. Because of this, cleanliness is essential when running a cool mist humidifier, especially if you choose an ultrasonic or impeller cool mist humidifier. Both of these cool mist humidifier types have powerful delivery systems that can disperse large amounts of pollutants, such as microorganisms and minerals into the air. A third type, an evaporative cool mist humidifier uses a less powerful delivery system that results in fewer pollutants dispersed into the air. No matter which type you choose, empty, dry and refill the tank with clean, distilled water each day, as well as giving the humidifier a thorough cleaning every three days with three percent hydrogen peroxide — a commercial antiseptic solution made of 97 percent water and three percent hydrogen peroxide, available for purchase at your local pharmacy or department store.
Perform Regular Maintenance
In addition to everyday cleaning, follow the maintenance schedule your manufacturer recommends. Inspect removable parts such as filters—clean these parts or replace them. Before storing your humidifier for an extended time, empty the water tank and then clean, disinfect and dry thoroughly before storing in a cool, dry location.
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