The Benefits of Using a Humidifier During the Winter Season
The air in your home becomes drier every winter, when you switch your temperature control units over from the air conditioning to the heat setting. That change in moisture can dry out your skin and sinus passages—putting you at a higher risk of contracting colds, the flu, and even COVID-19. Here, two doctors explain why this happens and why using a humidifier can help.
The Complications of Dry Air
When your home's air becomes too dry, your body reacts negatively, says board-certified family medicine doctor, Dr. Mikhail "Mike" Varshavski. Dried out mucus membranes, for example, can leave you feeling uncomfortable—and might even make you more susceptible to infection. Dry throats, nosebleeds, and dry skin, which can result in cracking, itchiness, hives, and eczema flares, are other unfortunate symptoms.
Proper Use Matters
While humidifiers do help with the above—and have long been touted as a way to make your home's air healthier—Dr. Deborah Gilboa, MD, says that the opposite can actually be true if these machines are used incorrectly. "Dozens of studies have shown that humidifiers add to the toxic particles in a home, often by up to 50 times outside air, and provide moist breeding ground for germs," she says. To prevent this, make sure you're following the manufacturer's instructions. Ignoring cleaning recommendations—or incorrectly or infrequently carrying them out—will negate any of the benefits you'd see from using them.
The Impact of COVID-19
"The SARS-COV2 virus that causes COVID-19 loves dry air, and a well-humidified environment would be a logical step to take in decreasing the likelihood of viral spread in your home," Dr. Varshavski explains. "Also, if you pair your humidifier with a purifier utilizing a HEPA filter, you are doing an even better job protecting the air in your home." But taking logical, evidence-based steps (like thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing your home) will give you the best chance to fend off this virus in the coming months, he adds. Dr. Gilboa agrees, adding that "you'll have the biggest impact by limiting your home to the people who live there, avoiding unmasked or lengthy visits with others," and continuing to prioritize proper hand-washing.