Humidifiers and Health: What You Need to Know
Home Humidifier System
Humidifiers and Health: What You Need to Know
There are various health problems that are associated with dry air. Such problems include dry sinuses, cracked lips, running noses and so forth. With the help of humidifiers, these problems can be abated to ensure your home or office is comfortable and healthy. Being that as it may, when not used properly, humidifiers can be a health hazard. Not to worry though, this article addresses the different types of humidifiers commonly used, the various potential risks and how to ensure that you use your humidifier safely.
What are humidifiers?
First things first. We need to understand what Humidifiers are. Basically, humidifiers are devices that emit water in form of vapor or steam in order to raise the level of moisture in the air.
There are various types of humidifiers used to raise humidity levels in rooms or buildings both residentially or commercially. The different types are:
Ultrasonic Humidifiers which use ultrasonic vibrations to produce mist.
Central humidifiers which are integrated into home heating or air conditioning units. These are used to humidify the whole home or an entire floor of a building.
Impeller Humidifiers use a rotating disc to produce a very cool mist
Steam vaporizers produce and cool a stream of steam before it leaves the machine
Evaporators have a powerful fan that blows a stream of air through a wet belt, wick or filter.
What is the ideal level of humidity?
Humidity is defined as the amount of water vapor contained in the air. The levels of humidity change with the season, weather and geographical location. Humidity levels generally rise during the summer and are much lower the winter season.
In ideal situations, the humidity in a building or your home should be anything between 30 to 50 percent. Humidity that is too low causes dry skin, dry nasal passages, dry throat and itchy eyes. On the other hand, humidity that is too high can make your home stuffy, cause condensation on surfaces which in turn fosters the growth of bacteria. Such bacteria and other allergens can trigger respiratory complications.
Humidity levels are best measured using a hygrometer. You can purchase this at a hardware store near you. You can also buy a humidifier that has a hygrometer built in.
Humidifiers, allergies, and asthma
If you live with anyone that has asthma or other respiratory allergies and allergies in general then it would be proper to consult your physician before you use a humidifier. While increased humidity may actually make breathing easier for adults and children who are asthmatic, dirty mist or an increased level of allergens may actually worsen asthmatic and allergic symptoms.
When humidity is too high as is the case during summer, it is wise to reduce the moisture indoors. You can basically do this in two ways;
Using an air conditioner which is either centrally or window mounted to ensure the air is comfortably humid. Using a dehumidifier which effectively collects excess moisture from the air. These machines work just like an air conditioner would do but now without the cooling effect. Dehumidifiers are usually used to dry out humid rooms like basements.
Keeping Humidifiers clean
As earlier mentioned, the dirty mist is very dangerous for the respiratory system. It is very easy for the filters and reservoir to accumulate dirt. This dirt poses a potential risk to people with respiratory complications and those without. Asthmatic conditions may worsen while those that don’t have respiratory problems may actually develop lung infections and flu if contaminated moisture is inhaled. The release of airborne allergens may actually be more prevalent in cool mist humidifiers than it is in evaporators and steam vaporizers.
It is therefore important to ensure that the humidifier is kept clean and free from contamination. Here are some tips that will help you ensure that you can keep your humidifier clean.
Use demineralized or distilled water. Tap water is likely to have minerals that will easily create deposits which will foster bacterial growth in the humidifier. These minerals can also be released in the air and are usually seen as white dust on furniture or other surfaces. The airborne minerals can be detrimental to health when inhaled. Using demineralized or distilled water usually has lower and safer mineral content of minerals than what is present in tap water.
Change the water often. Do not let deposits to form inside humidifiers. It is important to empty the tanks from time to time and clean it with clean water to ensure there are no deposits forming inside. Make sure to unplug them from electrical sockets to prevent electrical shock.
You can use a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution to remove any mineral deposits that may have formed in the machine. You may also use chlorine bleach as recommended by some manufacturers. Disinfectants may also come in handy when doing the cleaning.
Change the water and the filters often. If you use a humidifier that has a filer, you need to ensure that you change it as often as the manufacturer may recommend. You also need to ensure that you change the filters to your heating and air conditioning system.
Clean and refill the water inside the humidifier as often as possible to prevent contamination.
Keep the area around the humidifiers dry. If you find that the area around the humidifier is damp then you need to cut down on its usage. It means that there is more water in the air than is necessary.
Replace your humidifier. After using your humidifier, you need to consider replacing it with a new one. Humidifiers can build up deposit even while you do your best effort to clean them. You need to replace the machine to avoid the risk that may come from bacterial growth from deposits that are hard to get rid of.
You need to remember that your humidifier will work much better if your house is well insulated with a vapor shield. Opt for a humidifier which has a humidistat that will automatically switch your machine on and off. You need to switch off and empty the humidifier whenever you are not using it.