Humidifiers Benefits, Types, Risks & More

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If you want to make your home more comfortable and healthier, you should consider humidifiers benefits. Humidifiers are helpful tools for promoting health and wellness and help create a comfortable living space.

You can use a humidifier in your home during the winter months when the heat is on high or in the summer to counteract the effects of air conditioning. The humidifiers benefits are relevant year-round, regardless of your humidification requirements.

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of using humidifiers, the various types of machines available, the associated risks, and alternative remedies to help you feel better more quickly.

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Key Takeaways
  • Dry indoor air harms health and can lead to nosebleeds, dry and itchy skin, increased risk of contracting the flu and other respiratory viruses, asthma, runny nose, congestion, and dry throat.
  • By adding more moisture to the air, humidifiers help relieve chest and nasal congestion, allergies, sinus headaches, sore throat, and much more. They can also reduce your risk of cold and flu, asthma flare-ups, and allergy attacks.
  • Alternative remedies include using a saline nasal spray for dry nasal passages, gargling with salt water, drinking lots of water, and taking brief showers in warm water.

What is a humidifier?

Humidifiers are machines that increase the moisture or water vapor in the air, making the living space more humid.

The most popular method is evaporation, where distilled water is added to the device and released as droplets of water vapor. As these droplets mix with the air, they evaporate and boost the humidity levels in the room. The increase in humidity can be gauged using a humidistat.

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The Effects of Humidity Levels

You might not think about humidity levels in your home or outdoors, but they significantly affect the human body.

Low humidity can cause discomfort by drying out the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. It can also lead to the sensation of being colder because sweat evaporation, which cools the body, happens more quickly in low humidity.

On the other hand, high humidity can hamper the body’s cooling mechanisms, as sweat does not evaporate as quickly in such conditions. So, too much humid air can increase core body temperature, which, in turn, causes our bodies to work harder to cool us down. If sweating doesn’t work and our bodies continue to heat up, it can result in overheating or heat exhaustion.

When our bodies begin to overheat, we experience a loss of essential minerals and nutrients, such as water and salt, which can cause dehydration and imbalances in the body. In severe cases, it can even lead to death. Moreover, high humidity worsens respiratory issues and promotes the growth of allergens such as dust mites and mold, which can lead to other health issues.

Humidifiers can improve indoor air quality so that humidity levels are neither too high nor too low.

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5 Specific Humidifiers Benefits

Here are five science-backed health benefits of humidifiers.

1. Influenza (Flu) Protection

According to a study, using humidifiers can lower the chances of getting the flu. The researchers simulated coughing to release the influenza virus into the air and discovered that humidity levels above 40% quickly made the virus particles inactive, thus reducing their infectiousness (1).

The reason behind this is that the influenza virus thrives in dry environments. Another study (2) conducted in 2010 looked into the effects of using portable humidifiers during winter and found that they decreased the survival rate of the influenza virus by 17.5% to 31.6%.

An image of an elderly woman with wrinkly dry skin.

2. Soothes Dry Skin

There are various heating units that circulate hot, arid air in buildings and homes, which can strip the skin of its moisture, leading to feelings of dryness, itchiness, or flakiness. Furthermore, the cold outdoor air can also cause skin dryness.

To alleviate these discomforts and restore skin radiance, humidifiers can raise the humidity level in the air. An instance of this was demonstrated in a small 2008 study (3) conducted in a Japanese hospital, where using a humidifier during the winter season increased the humidity from 32.8% to 43.9%, effectively relieving staff members’ symptoms of dry and itchy skin.

3. Reduces Asthma and Allergy Symptoms

Did you know that dry air can worsen asthma symptoms and even trigger an attack? It can also promote the growth of allergens like bacteria, dust mites, and mold, irritating allergy sufferers. This dry air can cause discomfort by drying out the delicate membranes of the nose and respiratory tract, leading to difficulty breathing, a sore throat, and snoring.

Consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air to ease these symptoms. By doing so, you can soothe the tissues in your nose and throat, relax your lungs, and relieve many asthma and allergy symptoms, including:

  • Coughing
  • A dry, scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus congestion
  • Nose bleeds

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4. Eases Congestion

Did you know that humidifiers can help relieve congestion? When you’re sick, your respiratory tract produces more mucus, which can become sticky and difficult to expel when it dries out. Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can make it easier to cough or blow your nose and get rid of that stubborn mucus.

5. Reducing Snoring

There are several causes of snoring, such as sleep apnea, being overweight, having chronic conditions, experiencing dry air, or having congestion due to colds or the flu. A humidifier may be helpful if you are dealing with congestion or dry air. It adds moisture to the air, which can make it easier to breathe during sleep.

However, if snoring persists, it’s important to consult a medical professional. A humidifier can help manage snoring caused by environmental factors, but a healthcare provider should address chronic snoring.

Other Humidifiers Benefits

Humidifiers can help those who experience:

  • Dry throat
  • Chest and nasal congestion
  • Sinus headaches
  • Bloody noses
  • Dry hair
  • Persistent cough
  • Eye irritation
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Allergies

Types of Humidifiers

There are several types of humidifiers.

Warm Mist Humidifiers

  • ​​​​​Steam vaporizers: Steam vaporizers create steam by boiling water, which is then released into the air. This makes it one of the most hygienic humidifiers that can improve indoor humidity levels.
  • Central humidifiers: Central humidifiers are built into the forced heating and air conditioner system to humidify the air as it is heated. Unlike portable humidifiers, which need water to be manually added periodically, these devices automatically pump water from household plumbing into the humidifier.

Cool Mist Humidifiers

  • Ultrasonic humidifiers: Ultrasonic humidifiers release water molecules into the air using vibrations instead of boiling water, making them a safer option for children. Additionally, they operate quietly.
  • Evaporative humidifiers: Evaporators use a fan to release moisture into the air. They are usually affordable, and the filter prevents harmful microorganisms from entering your air.
  • Impeller humidifiers: Humidifiers with impellers use a spinning disk that diffuses water into the air. However, this process produces a low humming noise, and it is important to clean the tank frequently to prevent harmful bacteria from being dispersed into the air.

Potential Risks of Using a Humidifier

There are a few risks associated with humidifiers, with burns being the most common. Therefore, you must take special care if you have children. Never let children handle humidifiers, and don’t put a warm-mist steamer in a location where the child has easy access to it, like in their bedroom. A cool mist humidifier is safer for children.

Further, if a humidifier expels too much moisture, it can cause wall condensation, leading to mold growth. Placing the humidifier too close to fabrics like beds, sofas, or drapes can also cause dampness, which can promote mold growth that spreads throughout the home.

According to a 2022 study (4), unclean humidifiers can cause bacterial growth, leading to coughs and colds. To prevent bacterial growth, it is essential to clean the unit regularly as per the manufacturer’s instructions. During use, the bucket and filter system should be washed every 2 to 3 days.

Finally, humidifiers can potentially release minerals and microorganisms that can bother people with asthma. Therefore, it is advisable to use distilled water instead of tap water to avoid this problem.

Alternative Remedies

If you don’t have a humidifier, you can take simple steps to ease some problems tied to dry air:

  • Use a saline spray or rinse for dry nasal passages
  • Gargle with warm salt water several times daily to ease sore throat due to cold or allergy. Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt with a half cup of water to prepare an effective gargle. Spit it out when you’re done gargling.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Keep your skin moist by limiting showers to 5 to 10 minutes in warm, not hot water.


During the dry winter seasons, using a humidifier can be beneficial in preventing sickness caused by the spread of influenza. It can also assist in moisturizing skin, relieving congestion, reducing snoring, and easing allergy and asthma symptoms.

However, it is essential to maintain your humidifier properly as it may collect harmful bacteria, which could exacerbate allergy symptoms or lead to infections. To achieve these health benefits, cleaning your humidifier thoroughly and monitoring humidity levels is crucial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it good to sleep with a humidifier?

Making a small change, like using a humidifier at night, can significantly impact your health. Too much humidity can disrupt your sleep quality, but using a humidifier while you sleep can help keep your body healthy. Experts suggest aiming for a relative humidity level of 40 to 60 percent indoors throughout the year.

What are the benefits of using a humidifier?

Humidifiers are helpful devices that increase the moisture in the air, preventing dryness, which can irritate various parts of the body. They are specifically effective in treating dryness of the skin, nose, throat, and lips and can also alleviate specific symptoms of the flu or common cold.

What are the benefits of a humidifier in the winter?

A humidifier is a device that helps to increase the amount of moisture in the air within your home, particularly during the winter season when humidity levels tend to be lower. Using a humidifier in your home can alleviate issues such as dry skin, sore throats, and other related discomforts while enhancing the overall comfort of your living space.

Can I use tap water in a humidifier?

It is possible to use tap water in a humidifier, but it is not advisable. It is better to use demineralized, distilled, or purified water, which can be purchased at a store. This type of water reduces the likelihood of mold and bacteria growth within your humidifier.

What is the difference between a humidifier and a dehumidifier?

During periods of low humidity, humidifiers add moisture to the air. Typically, people utilize them in the winter to counter the dryness of the winter air. Conversely, dehumidifiers are employed during the spring and summer to extract moisture from the air when humidity levels are too high.

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SANE MD Chief Medical Director at SANESolution

Dr. Matthew Olesiak, MD, is the Chief Medical Director at SANESolution, a renowned wellness technology company dedicated to providing evidence-based solutions for optimal living. Dr. Olesiak earned his medical degree from the prestigious Jagiellonian University Medical College in Kraków, Poland, where he developed a strong foundation in medicine.