What are the effects of humidifiers on health?
Dry sinuses, nosebleeds and chapped lips - these complaints are common in winter, caused by dry indoor air. Indoor humidifiers can help alleviate such symptoms and the humidifiers can also be useful for colds and respiratory diseases. However, if used improperly, room humidifiers can quickly become a health risk.
Experts from the renowned Mayo Clinic in the USA explain the advantages and disadvantages of room humidifiers. Because in addition to the numerous advantages that these devices can bring, they also pose a health hazard if they are not properly maintained or are set incorrectly.
Different types of humidifiers
Indoor humidifiers are devices that emit water vapor to increase the moisture content in the air. There are several different types of these devices, such as ultrasonic humidifiers that generate a mist with ultrasonic vibration or impeller humidifiers in which the steam is generated by a rotating disc. There are also electric vaporizers that generate water vapor using electricity.
What is the ideal humidity?
Depending on the season, the weather and the place of residence, the humidity in the living room varies. Humidity is generally higher in summer than in winter. The health experts at the Mayo Clinic advise aiming for a humidity between 30 and 50 percent in the interior. If the air humidity is above or below, health problems can occur.
What are the symptoms of unfavorable humidity?
According to the Mayo Clinic, low humidity can lead to dry skin, irritate the throat and neck area and cause itchy eyes. On the other hand, excessive humidity can make the air stuffy and lead to condensation on walls, floors or other surfaces. The water deposits then promote the growth of bacteria, dust mites and mold. This can lead to breathing difficulties and trigger allergy and asthma attacks.
How do you determine the humidity?
The best way to measure air humidity is with a so-called hygrometer. This measuring device can be purchased relatively cheaply, for example in hardware stores or online. Some room humidifiers have an integrated hygrometer that automatically keeps the air humidity in the ideal range.
Keep the devices clean
Dirty humidifiers can cause health problems. Bacteria and mold quickly collect in the water reservoirs and filters. Asthmatics and allergy sufferers are particularly sensitive to polluted humidifiers. But even in healthy people, the dirty fog can cause flu-like symptoms or even lung infections. The risk of contamination with electric evaporators is somewhat lower than with cold evaporators. The hot water in electric evaporators poses a risk to children.
This is how you ensure clean use
The experts at the Mayo Clinic provide tips on the clean and safe use of humidifiers so that only the positive effects of the devices are shown.
- Only use distilled or demineralized water in the devices, especially if white dust settles on the surrounding furniture after use.
- Prefer devices with demineralization cartridges or filters.
- Change the water frequently.
- Do not allow films or deposits to form inside the devices.
- Clean the humidifier every three days.
- Use a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution for cleaning.
- Always rinse the tank after cleaning to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the air and then being inhaled.
- Change the filters of the room humidifiers regularly (observe the manufacturer's recommendation).
- Keep the area around the humidifier dry.
- If the area around the humidifier gets damp or wet, turn the intensity down.
- If the device is not used for a long time, it should be completely cleaned and all filters should be disposed of.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Mayo Clinic: Humidifiers: Air moisture eases skin, breathing symptoms (accessed: December 30, 2019), mayoclinic.org