During the winter, dry indoor air is often the cause of chapped lips, dry skin and irritated sinus passages. The moisture from a humidifier can soothe dry sinus passages. However, if you have indoor allergies, dust and mold from the humidifier may cause more harm than good.
Humidifiers are commonly used in homes to relieve the physical discomforts of dry nose, throat, lips, and skin. The moisture they add to dry air also helps alleviate common nuisances brought on by winter heating, such as static electricity, peeling wallpaper, and cracks in paint and furniture. However, excess moisture can encourage the growth of biological organisms in the home. These organisms include dust mites, which are microscopic animals that produce materials causing allergic reactions to household dust, and molds.
The number one indoor allergen is the dust mite. Dust mites grow best where there is moisture. Moisturizing the air with a humidifier creates the perfect home for dust mites to live and prosper. Keep the humidity level in your house between 40-50%. You can monitor the levels with a hygrometer.
Mold spores can also be an issue for people with mold allergies. It is important to clean and change the filter in the humidifier on a regular basis so mold does not grow in the unit and blow into the home. Read the manufacturer instructions for tips on cleaning your humidifier.
Types of Humidifiers and Associated Pollutants
Console humidifiers are encased in cabinets which are designed for floor use. Portable humidifiers are smaller and more readily moved. Central humidifiers are built into heating and air- conditioning systems, and humidify the whole house.
The two types of humidifiers which generally appear to produce the greatest dispersions of both microorganisms and minerals are:
• Ultrasonic, which create a cool mist by means of ultrasonic sound vibrations.
• Impeller, or "cool mist," which produces a cool mist by means of a high-speed rotating disk.
Two additional types of humidifiers can allow for growth of microorganisms if they are equipped with a tank that holds standing water, but generally disperse less, if any, of these pollutants into the air. These are:
• Evaporative, which transmit moisture into the air invisibly by using a fan to blow air through a moistened absorbent material, such as a belt, wick, or filter.
• Steam vaporizer, which create steam by heating water with an electrical heating element or electrodes. "Warm mist" humidifiers are a type of steam vaporizer humidifier in which the steam is cooled before exiting the machine.
If possible, use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier. The higher level of minerals in tap water can increase bacteria growth, resulting in a white dust and additional irritation to your sinuses.
The use of a nasal lavage such as Sinusol® Breathe Easy clearly provides relief fas it contains essentials oils that provide localized humidification of the nasal -sinus passages.
For more information on specific humidifiers
(Svendsen, Gonzales et al. 2018) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29107378/
(Lee, Yun et al. 2020)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29107378
Lee, J., S. Yun, I. Oh, M. H. Kim and Y. Kim (2020). "Impact of Environmental Factors on the Prevalence Changes of Allergic Diseases in Elementary School Students in Ulsan, Korea: A Longitudinal Study." Int J Environ Res Public Health 17(23).
Svendsen, E. R., M. Gonzales and A. Commodore (2018). "The role of the indoor environment: Residential determinants of allergy, asthma and pulmonary function in children from a US-Mexico border community." Sci Total Environ 616-617: 1513-1523.