Fly away hair, static shocks and irritated nasal passages often come with very dry air. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most comfortable and healthy humidity level for the home occurs when humidity reaches 30 to 50 percent. Humidifiers seem a simple solution to the problem. They often actually are a safe and simple solution to dry air, but must be properly maintained.
Types of Humidifiers
A few kinds of humidifiers exist, including central humidifiers. The central type is built right into central heating and cooling systems. An ultrasonic humidifier produces a cool mist using ultrasonic vibration. Impeller humidifiers use a rotating disk to humidify the air with a cool mist.
Humidifiers can cause problems in the home. Ultrasonic humidifiers can release the minerals in water into the air in the form of a white dust. These particles may be small enough to be inhaled and cause lung and throat irritation. To avoid this, use distilled water, which has a low mineral content, in the humidifier and keep a close eye on surrounding furniture for the white dust. If you run a humidifier in a child's room, check with a pediatrician before using an ultrasonic type.
All humidifiers can release potentially harmful organisms into the air if they are not cleaned properly. Steps to keep humidifiers safe include changing the water in the reservoir every day. Changing water becomes especially important as standing water can carry bacteria that cause legionnaire's and other diseases. Legionnaire's disease is treated with antibiotics but is best prevented. Unplug the humidifier every three days and follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning. Most recommend chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide for cleaning. Rinse your humidifier well after cleaning. Change the filter in the humidifier frequently, especially if it looks dirty.
Too Much Humidity
When using a humidifier, always keep track of the humidity level with a hygrometer. Some humidifiers come with a hygrometer. If not, your local hardware store will have one. If the humidifier works too well and raises the humidity too high, the excess moisture can cause mold and mildew growth, which is not safe for health, particularly if you have allergies or asthma.
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