One of the happier consequences of the coronavirus pandemic was that far fewer cases of flu and other diseases were registered all over the world.
Clearly, commonsense precautions against airborne infections work. The same turns out to be true for allergies such as hay fever.
This is one reason, aside from simple comfort, why people invest in a humidifier.
Is this a misconception, though?
Can humidifiers really relieve the symptoms of allergy sufferers?
Humidifiers and Allergies
The best way to beat allergies is to remove their source. Keeping your house clean is non-negotiable, especially when you have pets.
Cleanliness isn’t the whole story, though. Reducing your sensitivity to allergens can ease your discomfort significantly.
If your mucous membranes are already inflamed, which often forms part of a rhinitis attack, higher humidity will cause this swelling to go down and let you breathe more easily.
As an added bonus, humidifiers purify the air somewhat. When airborne moisture condenses on specks of dust, pollen, dander and other contaminants, they become too heavy to stay aloft and eventually settle onto some surface. If you have a persistent problem, though, a good air purifier will help ease your problems even better.
Could Your Humidity Be Too High Already?
One allergy that has been receiving more attention in recent years is that caused by mold. A very large proportion of people are affected by fungal spores in the air, including up to 80% of people who suffer from asthma.
For the most part, an allergic reaction to mold shows much the same signs as any allergy, including a runny nose, itchy eyes and dry skin. In some cases, though, things can get a lot more serious, such as when psychological symptoms make an appearance.
If mold is likely to become a problem, you may want to get a dehumidifier, at least for any room or closet that smells musty. Mold has trouble growing in any environment with a relative humidity of 60% or lower.
Do Humidifiers Kill Germs?
Humidifiers that use heat to generate steam, known as “warm mist” models, destroy infectious agents by drawing in room air and exposing it to boiling water. In addition, some humidifiers are specifically designed to kill airborne microbes.
When it comes to keeping colds and flu at bay, however, the real value of a humidifier is that it maintains indoor humidity in the optimum 30% to 60% range. Choosing one with a programmable humidistat (humidity regulator) makes this even more effective.
Controlling the population of viruses, bacteria, dust mites, and mold in your home isn’t about wiping out every last germ. Rather, the smarter strategy is to keep them from multiplying – and watching your humidity is a big part of that. If the humidity level is just right, they won’t be able to make little germ babies and your chances of getting infected are significantly reduced.
There is one major caveat here, though. Without proper care, your humidifier may end up making the situation worse.
Water tanks are notorious breeding grounds for some types of bacteria. It’s definitely recommended that you empty the reservoir when not in use, and clean it with a vinegar solution every week or so. Harsh detergents are not a good idea, as you’ll end up breathing them in over time.
So, Do Humidifiers Help with Allergies and Kill Germs?
If you’re constantly itching and sneezing, a too-low humidity level may well be part of the problem. If a moisture gauge shows anything below 40% RH, you will almost certainly feel better once you plug in a humidifier.
These are less expensive than you probably think. Sure, the very best humidifiers may well cost more, but there are plenty of portable, personal models out there costing less than fifty bucks. This probably compares well to your monthly allergy medicine budget and won’t leave you feeling drowsy.