Humidifiers give you the option of improving your air quality with a modest amount of expense. Keeping your home's humidity in the range of 30 to 50 percent helps avoid health problems caused by air that is either too dry or too moist. Test the humidity in your house with a tool called a hygrometer, available at hardware or home improvement stores.
Dry air in homes may lead to various respiratory problems or skin irritations. A lack of humidity creates conditions such as dry sinuses, itchy eyes and throats and chapped lips. Although low humidity can affect anyone, young children, the elderly and the ill are the most susceptible. The increase in moisture produced by a humidifier decreases the health risk to vulnerable individuals, especially during periods when the humidity is relatively low, such as winter.
Allowing humidifiers to become dirty may cause the growth of organisms, such as mold and bacteria, which negates any health benefit from higher humidity and exacerbates the conditions of individuals with asthma or allergies. The negative effects can also cause respiratory difficulties in otherwise healthy individuals. A cool-mist type of humidifier has greater potential for allowing the growth of dangerous organisms than steam vaporizers, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although the steam vaporizer type of humidifier does not promote the growth of harmful bacteria or mold, it does pose other risks. Steam vaporizers use a heating element to convert water into steam. The hot water or hot steam might causing burning in case of an accident, so using steam vaporizers around infants or young children is not recommended, according to pediatrician Dr. Robert Steele of John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, Missouri.
Tap water contains various minerals which the humidifying process separates from the liquid and releases into the air. The minerals collect as a fine white dust and have the potential to enter the lungs and cause health problems, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Two types of room humidifiers, the cool-mist type and the ultrasonic type, show the greatest tendency for allowing these minerals into the air. Use distilled water instead of tap water with both of types of humidifiers.