Health Team

Humidifiers can cause problems

Posted January 21, 2011

Many pediatricians recommend using humidifiers or vaporizers, especially during dry winter months when the heat is turned up. Humidifiers can help with dry skin and dry sinuses and can even help relieve cold and respiratory symptoms.

“When we have a cold, we have secretions and congestion. Hydrating the airways is key,” said Dr. Peter Richel, a pediatrician at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York.

But humidifiers can also cause problems if they're not cleaned properly. Mold and fungus can build up and be released into the air, triggering flu like symptoms, even lung infections.

Reactions can be particularly bad in people with asthma or allergies.

“They can have increased congestion, cough, even wheezing,” Richel said.

To keep bacteria away, experts recommend cleaning the humidifier tank and reservoir with a disinfectant every three days, changing the water every day with distilled water to cut down on mineral deposits and replacing filters regularly.

Tips to safely use a humidifier Tips to safely use a humidifier

Bari Merkow, whose children suffer from eczema, still feels humidifiers are the best way to protect against dryness.

“Anything I can do to add moisture to their skin, to their throats, noses,” Merkow said.

She just makes sure that the mist she's putting out there is clean.

Pediatricians recommend cool-mist humidifiers around children because the water or steam from other humidifiers gets hot and could burn a child.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • HowManyOunces Jan 26, 2011

    "Haha, distilled water, cleaning every 3 days, that's totally not worth it"

    I don't use distilled water, but I clean mine with bleach every other day. It doesn't take but maybe 5 minutes and keeps me from putting bacteria and mold into the air.

  • SirWired Jan 25, 2011

    Distilled water? Yikes, that's expensive. Disinfectant is a good idea, but using distilled water all the time is overkill.

  • Mugu Jan 24, 2011

    Everybody panic!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sammyg Jan 24, 2011

    When I was about 7 yrs old, we used a giant hot steam humidifier next to my bed and guess what? I rolled out of bed on top of it and burned the bleep of my arm. Even still, the hot steam ones just work better then the cold steam. I hate the new fangled kind...

  • dougdeep Jan 24, 2011

    Haha, distilled water, cleaning every 3 days, that's totally not worth it.

  • johnny2times Jan 24, 2011

    is there ANYTHING out today that doesn't cause a problem? I guess parents are going to have to step up and actually take responsibility and watch over the humidifiers and children.