Where I live, winter is practically upon us. The colder weather makes us run our heaters. This creates dry air, which causes static and dries out your skin and mouth. For years, I have baselessly believed that running a humidifier can greatly improve my health during dry, winter months. My husband, on the other hand, believes that humidity does not play a significant role in good winter health. So, today we’ll discover the answer to the ultimate winter question from my household: Does humidity make you healthier?
Benefits of Humidity
First, we’ll take a look at some of the listed benefits of humidity. The first, most notable benefit of increased humidity is that it decreases the impact of cold and flu viruses. According to BeWell.com,
“A 2013 study, for example, showed that increasing humidity levels to 43 percent or above significantly reduced the ability of airborne viruses to cause flu infections. In fact, in a low humidity environment, 70-77 percent of viruses could transmit the disease through coughs, but when humidity was increased to 43 percent or more, that number dropped to only 14 percent.”
With increased humidity in the air, some other health benefits include:
- soft, youthful skin;
- increased ability to comfortably breathe through the nose;
- shorter healing times;
- improved sleep quality; and
- fewer shocks from static.
This increase in humidity is also beneficial to pets, house plants, and any wood flooring or furniture you may have. Additionally, humid air often feels warmer, allowing you to lower your thermostat and save money on heating.
Make sure, though, that you keep your humidity level between 40-50%. If you go above 50%, you’re running the risk of growing (and inhaling) all sorts of nasty mold and bacteria.
Dangers of Humidity
Think about it for a minute. What happens when there is moisture, darkness, and possibly warmth? You grow bacteria and/or mold. This is the number one danger associated with humidity. Plus, in this situation, you’re not just growing bacteria and/or mold, you’re pumping it into the air around you and your loved ones, contaminating your air, and making it more likely that you will get sick.
Additionally, smaller humidifier units have quite a reputation of leaking. This means that they cannot be left unattended. Unfortunately, I have learned this the hard way–a couple of times. The unit malfunctioned, spraying water all over our hard wood floors. Let me assure you, this level of humidity does not improve the health of your wood.
My husband’s main hesitation about humidifiers is that moisture is pumped into the air, and he’s uncertain about where the moisture will ultimately settle. Several years ago, his mom had a mold situation in her house. The walls were cheaply constructed and, because of where the dew point was on the wall, moisture gathered behind furniture and wall decorations. This lead to mold. It was horrific.
So ultimately, the main danger of using a humidifier is that you very easily could infest your personal space with mold and bacteria. However, if you keep your humidifier clean, you should be able to avoid the growth of mold and bacteria.
Cleaning Your Humidifier
According to BerkelyWellness.com, here are some tips for maintaining a clean humidifier:
- Clean your humidifier before using it, and make sure you clean it after your last use. Read the directions with your humidifier to determine the best way to clean it. For example, some humidifiers are cleaned with warm, soapy water and others are cleaned with vinegar solution.
- For humidifiers under a 5 gallon capacity, clean and empty them every day. Sanitize them every 7 days.
- For humidifiers over a 5 gallon capacity, empty them every day and refill them with clean water. Every third day, clean the surfaces and every two weeks, sanitize them.
- When you’re not using the humidifier, leave it clean and empty.
My advice is “To thine own self be true.” Do you hate cleaning? Maybe a small humidifier isn’t for you. Instead, if you have forced heat, you can look into having a humidifier installed on your furnace.
In fact, according to LiveStrong.com, running a furnace can drop the humidity to 10% or less. If you have a furnace, it would be wise to install a humidifier. With a humidifier tied to your furnace, you wouldn’t have to worry about daily upkeep of a portable unit. Instead, you would just change a filter sometimes.
At my house, we have a really old humidifier connected to the furnace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work really well, so I have to supplement with smaller portable devices. Caring for the portable units is a challenge.
I hate cleaning, but I like to run humidifiers. From November through March, I buck up and step up my cleaning game. The health benefits that I feel my family receives from the extra humidity is well worth the extra hassle of disinfecting the units in each of our bedrooms.
So I suppose that this year, just like all the others, my husband will have to endure my humidifier obsession and I, in exchange, will do my very best to make sure that I don’t spray water all over the inside of our house.
What about you? Do you use a humidifier? Let us know in the comments below.
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