As fall and winter approach, temperatures dip and windows are sealed up. Visions of nights spent as a family, cuddled around the fireplace stir in our minds and somehow the thought of a frosty winter doesn’t seem so bad after all. But, when that familiar tickle starts in our throats and the sneezes aren’t far behind, we remember that this can also be the prime time of year for some nasty viruses!
Before you commit yourself to a season of coughs, colds, tissues, and sleepless nights, let’s discuss one thing that might help you to bypass an under-the-weather winter.
There are a number of reasons that colds & respiratory infections are more common in the wintertime:
- An overall lack of moisture in the air
- More time spent indoors where airflow is lessened significantly
- Furnaces get turned up, producing even more dry air
One way to keep those mucous membranes moist and combat a cold is to invest in a humidifier or vaporizer.
While many of us dread humidity during the summer months (after 17 years of living in Colorado, our summer travel to the NJ Beach feels akin to a trip to Costa Rica’s Rain Forest 🙂 ), it’s actually very important that your home maintain a certain level of moisture in its air.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a relative humidity level between 30% – 50%. The vapor from a humidifier or vaporizer will do just that. These devices – ranging from portable to industrial in size – introduce moisture into the air and lubricate dry nasal passages.
So, how do you know which to buy? Consider the slight differences between the two:
Humidifiers are best for simply adding moisture to the air and raising the level of relative humidity in a room or an entire home. There are a few types – the most common being evaporative, natural, ultrasonic, impeller, and central humidifiers.
- Evaporative humidifiers function by using a water reservoir, wick, and a small fan for dispersing vapor
- Natural humidifiers simply use a wick and water
- Ultrasonic humidifiers distribute a cool mist via sound vibrations
- Impeller humidifiers create a cool mist using a submerged, high-speed disc
- Central humidifiers are attached to a home’s furnace and add moisture to an entire house
Vaporizers, which also function to add moisture to the air, may call for the use of herbal and medicinal extracts for inhalation. The main difference between humidifiers and vaporizers is the boiling water that vaporizers require to emit hot steam. With that in mind, if you’re considering a vaporizer for your child’s room, make sure it is far out of reach. In general, we recommend a cool-mist humidifier in children’s rooms to avoid any accidental burns.
Whether you opt for a humidifier or a vaporizer, always remember to…
Use distilled or demineralized water. Because most tap water contains significant traces of minerals, it’s ideal to use distilled or demineralized water to avoid unnecessary mineral buildup in your device or on your walls, furniture, and anywhere else its vapor reaches.
Clean your device regularly. Failing to change the water in your device or clean the machine regularly (usually at least once every 3-7 days) can result in scale buildup and/or bacteria growth, neither of which are welcome! This can also translate to the spreading of germs as well as the accumulation of dust and mold – a nightmare for anyone but especially those with allergies.
The best way to sidestep this is to follow your device’s instructions for cleaning it thoroughly. Most can be cleaned with natural dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or a very diluted bleach solution. I personally clean ours weekly with my favorite household all-purpose cleaner, Force of Nature.
Many humidifiers contain filters so be sure to change those whenever it is recommended.
While the heating component of a vaporizer can help to kill any bacteria or mold growing inside, it’s still important to clean vaporizers regularly as well.
Above and beyond preventing sickness and treating the symptoms of a common cold & flu, humidifiers and vaporizers can also help to…
- Reduce nosebleeds & sinus irritation
- Hydrate and moisturize dry skin & hair
- Improve sleep and alleviate snoring
- Keep your houseplants healthy & hydrated
Have you found humidifiers to be helpful in your home? Let us know what you have experienced!
If you are ready to try one this season, here are some of our favorites, including the ones we use in our own home.
Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifiers for Children. We’ve had these since the kids were young and keep a Frog in Leo’s room and a Cow in Mia’s during the fall & winter. There are tons of other animals to choose from as well! They do not require filters, are easy to clean and maintain and are super cute!
Crane Teardrop Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier. We use this one in our bedroom. Humidifies up to 500 square feet with a 365 degree control of the mist direction.
MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier. This humidifier seems very similar to the one we own and also gets great reviews.
Portable Travel Humidifier. This is a small 2-cup humidifier that we take along with us when we travel.
TaoTronics Ultrasonic Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier. Has an option for both cool & warm mist.
AIRCARE Whole House Evaporative Humidifier. Works to humidify a 2400 square foot home!
Vornado Evaporative Humidifier. Works to humidify a 1000 square foot home or office space.
Honeywell Advanced Bypass Humidifier. This is the central humidifier that my parents have. It attaches to your furnace to humidify the entire home.
Vics Warm Steam Vaporizer. This vaporizer emits warm steam. You can choose to add an essential oil blend that assists the body in breathing more easily.
YES! Thanks for the reminder! Time to bust out the humidifier. They really make a difference in helping my daughter to sleep thru the night. (less waking up with a dry nose/mouth)
Thanks Suzanne! Glad to hear that you’ve found them helpful for your daughter!
Doc, where were your ‘summers at the New Jersey shore’? Just curious as my parents used to take us to Lavallette for two weeks in late August each summer. I grew up in Morris County, around the middle of NJ.
Thanks for the Humidifier article – I will make some changes to our practice.
We go to Surf City, NJ each summer:)
Glad you found this post helpful!
Any tips on where to buy distilled or demineralized water? We’d definitely go through more than a gallon per day for our three humidifiers. Thank you!
hmmmmm….we have an RO system at home, which is what we use for our water. I’d say its about a gallon of water per humidifier, which lasts about half the week (running at night only).