If you are using a humidifier to help improve annoying allergy symptoms caused by dry air, such as scratchy nasal passages or throat or dry, tight skin or eczema, watch out for mistakes you might be making in the care and use of your unit. You should follow each manufacturer’s instructions for using and maintaining your humidifier; otherwise the unit can exacerbate or cause new symptoms for allergy sufferers.
Here are the five most common mistakes you should be aware of and try to avoid making when using your humidifier.
1. Ignoring Humidity Levels in Your Home
Simply put, humidity is the level of water vapor in your indoor air. And, the level of humidity in your indoor air can either help your allergy symptoms or hurt them if humidity gets out of control. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should keep humidity below 60 percent in the summer and, ideally, between 25 percent and 40 percent relative humidity in the winter.
While many types of humidifiers come with a built-in humidistat for measuring relative humidity you can also buy a separate moisture or humidity meter, officially called a hygrometer to more accurately measure and check your indoor relative humidity. If you’re using a humidifier to help specific allergy symptoms, check your humidity often and keep your humidity relatively stable.
2. Letting Humidity Levels Rise Too High
Along with keeping humidity stable, watch out if it rises above acceptable levels, because while a little humidity can improve your allergy symptoms, excessive levels of humidity can actually make allergy symptoms a lot worse. This is especially the case if you have specific, known allergies to dust mites, molds and mildew. Higher relative indoor humidity levels cause all three of these known allergens to grow, proliferate and thrive in your house.
Check the humidity and reduce it immediately if the room feels particularly dense and moist, curtains and pillows feel damp, or condensation is building up on windows or window sills, which are all signs that the humidity is too high in the room. In fact, dust mites die at humidity levels between 40 and 50 percent. So, if you have a dust mite, mold or mildew allergy problem, check your humidity levels often and don’t let the humidity rise beyond that 40 percent.
3. Neglecting to Clean the Humidifier Often Enough
Since you are breathing the air affected by your humidifier, you must follow the manufacturer’s specific directions on how to clean and maintain the unit most effectively.
If you do not clean filters and tanks as often and in the exact manner described by the manufacturer, the unit can grow and breed mold, mildew and even bacteria and then spew those allergens into your air along with the mist. Dirty mist may significantly worsen any allergy symptoms, so be sure to clean your unit according to manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Using Tap Water in Your Humidifier
Many Ultrasonic room humidifiers work by breaking up water particles as well as splitting up and disbursing mineral particles. This creates a “white dust” mineral residue around the room and in the tank, if you fill the unit with unfiltered tap water, against manufacturer’s instructions. These mineral deposits can promote bacterial growth in the humidifier, and you will also be breathing them as they are disbursed into the air.
For these units, manufacturers will specify filling the unit with distilled, demineralized or purified water, or using a water demineralization filter or cartridge. To avoid exacerbating allergies because of minerals in the water and build up in the unit, don’t use tap water against manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Letting Water Sit in Your Unit
Never let water sit in the machine for days between uses as a film can form on the top, which can breed bacteria in the enclosed tank. Always empty water and clean the tank when not in use or even when skipping use for one day.
Follow manufacturer’s directions for cleaning and/or wiping down the unit with hydrogen peroxide or bleach to inhibit bacterial growth and then rinse and dry thoroughly so harmful chemicals never get released into your indoor air.
If you notice that bacteria or algae is building up in your unit, it’s recommended to use a special water treatment formula to help you get it under control.
If you have allergies, follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully in using and maintaining your humidifier to keep your allergy symptoms at bay.