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Are Humidifiers Bad For You?



Short answer

Humidifiers can greatly benefit your health when used properly in the dry winter months, but be sure to keep it clean and bacteria and mold free.



Long answer

Humidifiers can be a huge help during the winter months when your heat is turned up and the air is dry. Most people with forced-air heat will find they have this problem in their house. One of the telltale signs your air is dry and humidity is low is static electricity.

Humidifiers come in two varieties: hot air and cold air; but they really do the same thing for you. By putting humidity back into the air, you can alleviate the feeling of dry skin, eyes, and nasal passages. This will keep your mucous membranes in soft protecting you from illness and colds in the winter, preventing sore throats and stuffy noses. Those with asthma can benefit from increasing humidity as well since humid air is easier to breathe. Think about it this way: you have moist cells that line your throat and windpipe right down into your lungs. If you constantly breathe in dry air, that air begins to dry these cells which your body constantly has to replenish with moisture leaving you dehydrated.

If you like to keep the thermostat lower in the winter, humidifying the air make even make the house feel warmer. All of the effects from humidifiers may not be good, though. The benefits or faults all depend on how you use them.

Some of the biggest mistakes people make using their humidifier include using tap water, not changing the filter often, not cleaning the reservoir tank, and running it too often. The major problem with all of these mistakes is actually causing or increasing allergies.

Many don’t realize that you are supposed to use distilled or demineralized water in the humidifier. Others just don’t want to spend the money on this water when they can get tap water for ‘free’ at home. Here’s the problem: bacteria and mineral deposition. As the humidifier releases the water into the air, the minerals in the tap water are going to do two things: enter the air as a white powder and form deposits on the reservoir, fan, and filter. In the air, this powder acts as an allergen that you are breathing in and can even stain the walls and furniture. As the deposits humidify themselves, a breeding ground for bacteria and mold is forming.

It’s also common for people to just refill the tank each time it is empty without taking the machine apart and cleaning it. Part of cleaning the machine is removing the bacteria that clings to moisture and the other part is changing the filter. Remember that the air that passes through the machine is coming from your house where we have pets, dust, allergens, we sneeze and cough and have general dirt. Some filters even sit half in the water and half out in the air making them a breeding ground for mold as well. Why continue to blow these allergens around? Change the filter often.

Lastly, we have the issue of running the humidifier too often. How could this be a problem in a dry environment you ask? Well if you run the humidifier in just one room, that room’s humidity is likely more than the rest of the house. If you never move the machine from this room and it runs constantly, the humidity here is very high making the environment even better for mold, bacteria, and viruses. You’re actually more likely to get sick – you’ve defeated the purpose. Be sure to move the humidifier around the house changing which room it is running in every other day or even as you sit in different rooms. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • worsened allergies
  • illness due to mold/bacteria growth

Big are humidifiers bad for you.


  • prevents illness and colds
  • prevents sore throats and stuffy noses
  • keeps skin, eyes, and nasal passages moisturized
  • keeps static electricity to a minimum

Suggest improvement or correction to this article
Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS | 08-31-2016

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Suggest improvement or correction

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