During cold and flu season, a humidifier is very useful for relieving some of the discomfort from respiratory illnesses because it moisturizes nasal, throat and lung passages. The added moisture helps break up mucus and reduces unproductive coughing. It can also reduce snoring and alleviate asthma and allergy symptoms.
A humidifier can also help you avoid getting sick. Studies have shown that flu germs survive and spread more easily in arid conditions. A 2013 study found that flu viruses are much more likely to remain viable at humidity levels of less than 23% than at humidity levels greater than 43%. The cilia in your nose will be happier with a humidifier and will work more effectively to keep out bacteria and germs.
The optimal level of humidity is about 45-50%. You can measure this with an inexpensive hygrometer (less than $20). Humidifiers hold heat in the air which can reduce your winter heating costs. Humidity should be kept below 60% to discourage the growth of bacteria, mold and dust mites.
Cold mist humidifiers are recommended for homes with children and pets. Warm mist humidifiers boil the water before dispersing the mist and can cause burns if knocked over. However, cold mist humidifiers have a higher potential for mold spore production. For both warm and cold mist humidifiers, it’s important to follow the cleaning instructions. Regular cleaning and disinfection are necessary in order to curb bacteria, mold, and mineral growth. Weekly cleaning is recommended if you use your humidifier daily. Using distilled or de-mineralized water will help minimize mineral deposits.
The cost for humidifiers can vary from $20 to over $200, with the higher cost systems providing features such as de-mineralization cartridges, air cleaning pre-filters, built-in hygrometers and much more. It’s best to spend some time researching the optimal system for the size of your home and preferred features.