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Cold and Flu Center

What Are Humidifiers Used for?

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
What Are Humidifiers Used for?
A humidifier can help to restore moisture to dry sinus passages. Photo Credit steam image by Dave from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

If you frequently experience colds or respiratory infections due to the cold, dry winter air, a humidifier may be for you. These machines help to introduce either warm or cool water into the air in order to restore moisture to your sinuses and your home. Although different types of humidifiers exist, they all offer benefits to your breathing during the winter.


Humidity refers to the amount of water in the air. Therefore, a humidifier works to restore moisture into the air that may be missing during the cool winter months, according to Ask Deb. While humidifiers may work in different ways, each works to add moisture to the air.


Humidifiers add water to the air via a number of methods. Evaporation units feature a fan that introduces water into the air by blowing on a moistened pad, according to Ask Deb. Steam humidifiers, which also are known as vaporizers, boil water that adds steam into the air. Warm mist humidifiers work similarly to steam humidifiers except the steam is cooled before it is emitted. Cool mist humidifiers do not boil water, but spray cool water into the air via small drops. Ultrasonic humidifiers use vibrations to cause droplets to spread, but vibrate at such a fast speed that they do not make noise.


When cold temperatures begin to cause dry air, your sinuses and skin can dry out and even cause damage to furniture and electronics, according to Air Conditioner Home. By introducing moisture into the air, a humidifier restores moisture to your hair, skin and sinus passages. It also prevents wooden furniture from cracking and reduces the amout of static electricity in the air.


Because both warm and cold humidifiers introduce water into the air, you may consider which is the best for your condition. Cool mist humidifiers may not be as able to kill bacteria that are created due to the water and moisture. Therefore, purchasing a cool mist humidifier may require regular maintenance, according to Ask Deb. Warm mist humidifiers do kill bacteria with their use, however, they may not be suitable for homes with children, as they can create steam burns.


Failure to regularly clean your humidifier can result in dispersing bacteria and mold into the air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Introducing these into the air can pose a "serious health risk," according to the EPA, resulting in lung problems or allergies. For this reason, carefully read all instruction manuals that accompany your humidifier and clean as recommended.

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