Health Benefits & Drawbacks of Humidifiers

A humidifier is used to add moisture to the air to any room. Because humidifier adds moisture to the air, it prevents dryness that can cause irritation in many people. Humidifiers are also used widely for treating dryness of the skin, throat, lips, and the nose. It is believed that humidifier therapy can also provide relief from many symptoms of the flu or the common cold. In fact, humidifiers can increase humidity levels in a room to 40% or even above, thus reducing the capability of many airborne viruses to cause infections. However, overuse of humidifiers can also worsen respiratory problems. Therefore, it is necessary to know how to use a humidifier properly and for just how long to gain benefits from humidifier therapy.

What is a Humidifier?

A humidifier is a type of device that increases the level of humidity or moisture in a single room. By increasing the moisture in the air of a room these devices work to prevent dryness that can cause irritation to many parts of the body. A humidifier device is also used during the flu season to reduce the ability of airborne viruses to cause flu infections. Humidifiers are also known to be effective in treating dryness of the nose, throat, lips, and skin. Many people are now using humidifiers during the winter months to prevent their skin from drying and also to get relief from symptoms of the common cold or flu.

What Can A Humidifier Be Used For?

Humidifiers increase the moisture in the room’s air to prevent dryness. Due to this, humidifiers are often used for getting relief from the following:

These discomforts are bound to irritate you if the air in your room is dry and a humidifier works by increasing the humidity in the room, thus providing relief from these situations. In the winter months when the air is naturally dry, a humidifier is used to introduce moisture in the rooms. In the summer months, the use of an air conditioner also sucks out the moisture present in the room’s air. A humidifier is often used to counter the effects of an air conditioner. In fact, because a humidifier prevents airborne viruses from multiplying and causing infections, it has been seen that having a good humidifier can make a huge difference to your health in the winter season.

Health Benefits & Drawbacks of Humidifiers

What are the Health Benefits of Using a Humidifier?

Let us look at some of the health benefits of using a humidifier:

Humidifiers Help in Lowering the Risk of Infections

A humidifier adds moisture to the air and due to this, viruses and bacteria are unable to travel well in the moist air. This means that your chances of catching an infection are reduced significantly when you use a humidifier. Having a good quality humidifier could actually save you from getting the flu during the flu season.

Humidifiers Prevent Skin Dryness

In the winters, the cold and dry air saps out the moisture from your skin. This can cause many types of problems with your skin, including flaking, dryness, dullness, and even accelerate the process of aging. Having a humidifier helps prevent these problems by adding moisture to the air and helping you maintain soft and supple skin.

Beneficial for Sinuses

If you have sinuses then you are well aware of how your nose starts to feel all dry and tight. The condition worsens if you happen to have a cold as well. The harsh winter air or the air in a room where an air conditioner runs during the summers, tends to dry out your sinuses, thus reducing your resistance to viruses and bacteria. If you have a humidifier in your room, you will notice that this dry and uncomfortable feeling in your nose disappears and you will wake up feeling more comfortable.

Speeds Up Healing Time

If you are suffering from a cold, flu or a sinus infection, then having a humidifier has been shown to shorten the time of your symptoms or suffering. A humidifier works to keep your throat and nasal passages moist and this helps you recover faster. Humidifiers also helps provide relief in sneezing and coughing.

Protects Your Vocal Chords

Many people wake up to a growling and heavy voice. Dry air does that to the vocal chords. If you sleep in a room that has a humidifier, then you will wake up sounding like your normal self as your vocal chords will not become dry overnight.

Humidifiers Give You Better Sleep

If there is someone in your family who snores, then having a humidifier in the room may help with the problem. This is because dry air makes our throat and sinuses become dry overnight, causing us to snore more. Sleeping in a humid and moist environment makes one feel more comfortable and warmer, thus encouraging a better night’s sleep.

A Humidifier Can Provide Relief In Allergies & Asthma

One of the biggest health benefits of a humidifier is that it is very effective in easing chronic conditions, such as allergies and asthma. Having a humidifier adds moisture to the air which works at soothing the irritated sinuses. Humidity also makes it less laborious to breathe, for those who suffer from asthma. Humidifiers keep the lung secretions thin and prevent it from becoming sticky. Dry air, on the other hand, thickens the mucus inside, causing it to become sticky and hard to expel. This is also why many asthmatic patients often reach for their inhaler. Many individuals who suffer from an asthmatic cough prefer using a humidifier during the winter months and even during any season change. This is not to say that you need to turn on the humidifier for the entire night. Even turning it on for short periods of time has been shown to improve the room’s air quality.

Humidifiers are Helpful in Nosebleeds

Many people deal with the issue of getting frequent nosebleeds. The problem particularly increases during dry weather. A humidifier adds moisture to the room, thus soothing your sinuses and preventing them from getting dry and irritated.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Using A Humidifier?

These are just some of the health benefits that a humidifier provides. However, there are many drawbacks of using a humidifier as well. These include:

The Growth of Bacteria & Fungus in Humidifiers

A humidifier can become the perfect breeding ground for harmful organisms if you are not regularly cleaning and taking care of the filters and tanks. For example, the bacteria Legionella pneumophila is known to grow inside air humidifiers if they are not cleaned properly and regularly. This bacteria is known to cause Legionnaire’s disease, which is a severe form of pneumonia. By cleaning and changing the filters and tanks of your humidifier, you can avoid having such problems. You also need to check the humidifier device every 3-4 days to make sure that there is no film collecting on the surface of the water or that there are no signs of stagnant water or hard water deposits forming inside. However, if you notice that soon after using a humidifier, you develop an unexplained respiratory condition, then it is recommended that you turn off the humidifier and then notice the difference.

Some Humidifiers Can Be Quite Noisy

All humidifiers create some level of noise, but some can be much louder than others. The ultrasonic humidifier models are the quietest ones, but they are also quite expensive. If you find that the noise of the humidifier bothers you at night, many people recommend putting a wet towel over the device to counteract the problem.

A Humidifier May Put Out Too Much Moist Air

In cases where a humidifier is not self-regulated, you may notice that it starts putting out excess moisture into the air. There are humidifiers available that come with humidistats or hygrometers, which measure the humidity in the room and adjust the level of humidity themselves. However, these are more expensive as well.

Nevertheless, it is a good idea to get a humidifier model that has such gadgets handy as excess moist air is not good.

Humidifiers & The Problem of White Dust

After the water in the air evaporates, you will see that the minerals contained in the water fall down as white dust all around the room. There is no data that shows the effects of breathing in this white dust. However, it is nonetheless believed to be unhealthy. You can avoid this problem altogether if you use distilled water as it has a lesser moisture content as compared to tap or bottled water.


When used carefully, humidifiers can make a great addition to your room and to your health. Humidifiers have been shown to make a significant difference in dry skin, allergies, asthma, and many other respiratory problems. However, at the end of the day, humidifiers are not meant to be a substitute for medical treatment and if you are experiencing some serious problem, then consulting a doctor would be the best option, before you buy a humidifier. If you notice that your symptoms have been aggravated by using a humidifier, stop using the device immediately and consult your doctor.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 18, 2019

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