Could Your Humidifier Be Making You Sick?

by Dr Jonathan D'Souza

Humidifiers make life really comfortable, especially during the cool, dry winters. These handy gadgets release moisture-filled air into your home and can combat dry skin and sinuses, dry eyes and even fight the flu.

But if you don't clean them properly, you could be putting yourself at risk of getting sick.

Studies have found that about 75 percent of swab samples from humidifiers had fungal growth, while about 87 percent had bacterial growth.

Breathing air that is contaminated can put you at risk for developing a lung infection such as pneumonia or even an asthma attack. A humidifier can prove to be a problem if you've been suffering from chronic breathing conditions. If not cleaned, the dirty mist (mist that contains bacteria or fungus) can worsen asthma and allergy symptoms.

Here are four ways to prevent developing health problems from your humidifier.

1) Check The Water You Use
Do not use tap water. Always fill the humidifier with bottled, pre-filtered or demineralized water. This will help avoid the deposition of salts or contaminants in the unit and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus.

2) Keep Changing The Water Every Day
Bacteria and fungi can thrive even if you leave the water standing within the humidifier for a couple of days. Hence, it is best to change the water every day. Also, humidifier filters need to be replaced every two months.

3) Do Not Use Chemical Cleaners
Simple cleaning solutions are the best way to keep your humidifier clean. Unplug the humidifier and empty the water. Use either water or an alcohol-based cleaner to remove mineral deposits or any film that develops in the tank.

Do not use chemical cleaners, especially ones containing hydrogen peroxide. Using a strong chemical cleaner can cause ‘humidifier disinfectant-associated lung injury', as the chemicals get aerosolized. This chemical-laden vapor can circulate in the home and affect the lungs.

4) Change The Humidifier Every 2 Years
Even with the best care, humidifiers could build up deposits that may be difficult to remove over the years. These deposits can prove to be a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. If your unit is more than two years old, its best to play safe and invest in a new one.

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