Can humidifiers really provide relief from the dry, winter weather? Dr. Eugene Leung recently sat down to answer a few Q&As about the benefits of having a humidifier.
Do humidifiers help prevent the spread of germs/airborne viruses, like the flu?
When set at the right levels, humidifiers have been shown to decrease how transmissible flu is. Particles released into the air travel farther and stay in the air longer when the water content in the air is low. With higher levels of humidity it “weighs down” particles and are more likely to fall to the ground.
What should the ideal humidity level in your home be?
30-50% humidity is about the right range to decrease infections. However, in the winter, you may wish to keep it below 40% humidity to avoid condensation on windows. You can measure the humidity using a hygrometer, which is available at many hardware and department stores.
Why does dry air make us more susceptible to illness?
Dry air will dry out your mucus membranes and can make them more susceptible to invasion by microorganisms. Low humidity may also impair a protective mechanism called the mucociliary escalator, which is responsible for keeping bacteria and viruses out of your respiratory tract.
Do humidifiers help with allergies?
Low household humidity seems to encourage the formation of dust, so to combat that a humidifier might be the answer. In houses with low household humidity, dust particles remain airborne for longer periods of time, which affects people who have allergies. Furthermore, dry nasal passages may increase nasal passage irritation. Increasing moisture in the air can also help those who have conditions like asthma.
If you sleep with a humidifier in your room, how close should it be placed to your bed?
How close you put your humidifier to your bed depends on the age of the person and the humidifier. Cool mist humidifiers can be placed as close as possible to maximize the humidity delivered. With warm mist humidifiers, you should exercise more caution as there is a heating element which can get very hot and can cause burns. If your kids do a lot of running around in a particular room, you’ll want to keep the humidifier in a safe place.
About Eugene Leung, MD
Dr. Leung is a physician at WakeMed Primary & Urgent Care — Forestville Crossing.