Can Humidifiers Make You Sick? Badly So

 What humidifier sickness symptoms do you need to watch out for? There is a good number of them.

A dirty humidifier can, and will have serious repercussions on your health.

Relax though… you see, while a humidifier has its fair share of downsides, its benefits outweigh the disadvantages of staying, or sleeping in a dry room.

Humidifiers are built to enhance your indoor comfort. They do a great job of raising the humidity level in your indoor space.

However, if unchecked or used improperly, they can raise the humidity too much. Too high humidity is not good at all.

In this post, we are going to cover everything possible about how a humidifier could be causing you serious symptoms.

Can cool mist humidifier make you sick?

Can cool mist humidifier make you sick

Yes it can. It will do that in the following ways:

Unlike their warm mist or evaporative units, which boil water and can kill mold and bacteria, cool mist units use cold water. Therefore, they are more likely to make you sick.

Some types of illnesses that you can experience from cool mist humidifiers include:

  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Colds, congestion, coughing and others
  • Itching skin, running eyes and nose
  • A humidifier (unbelievably) can cause dehydration

Although these diseases can affect healthy people, they are more likely to affect people with weak immunity. They can affect people with allergies, asthma and others.

A humidifier won’t always make you sick. Only dirty and unkempt units can causes sickness.

Symptoms of humidifier sickness

Image of symptoms of humidifier sickness

Please note that these symptoms are common with other diseases too. You need to rule out other causes first before you can blame the humidifier in your bedroom, office or living room.

The indications for humidifier-caused sickness are as follows:

1. Flu-like Symptoms: Can humidifier cause cold?

Are you getting flu-like symptoms such as shortness of breath?  If you haven’t cleaned your humidifier, you should check it out.

Such symptoms include high temperature, coughing, chills, and headache.

Even if you know other things caused your flu, if you have not cleaned this appliance, clean it. You can use a clean humidifier even if you are down with another illness.

Another thing, humidifier causing sore throat is unheard of. Actually, it helps with sore throat because it is the moist air is soothing as it goes over the inflamed throat tissue.

2. Allergy flare-ups

Fungi, mold spores and white dust can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, if your allergies are triggered, check the humidifier. If it hasn’t been cleaned for a while, then it could be producing these allergens.

If you experience humidifier causing chest tightness, you could be getting an allergy flare-up. You need to turn it off for sometime.

3. Sinus blockage

Sinus infections cause sinus blockage because of breathing in pseudomonas bacterium from the humidifying tank.

If you get sinus blockage and this appliance is running, try moving away or turning it off. If the blockage disappears, it is time to give the humidifier a thorough cleaning or replace it.

4. Lung infections

Image of humidifier lung disease

Can a humidifier make your chest hurt? If you have asthma, a humidifier can make it worse. It can cause the airways to inflame, which would cause chest tightness in return.

If you inhale white dust, you could end up with lung infections. White dust comprises of mineral deposits emitted by humidifiers if you put tap water in the reservoir.

To prevent this, you should only use distilled or demineralized water.

One such lung infection is legionnaires disease. It is a type of pneumonia caused by legionella pneumophila, which is found in static water storage.

Its symptoms include high temperature, headache, coughing, mental confusion, diarrhea and muscle aches.

5. Humidifier Fever/Lung

Humidifier fever/lung is one of the bacteria in illnesses. You can get it if you inhale vapors that have bacteria.

So, if you don’t clean your unit, you will end up with colonized bacteria. When emitted with the mist, they cause fever, which is a viral lung inflammation.

Symptoms include fever, body aches, cough, chills, inflammation of the lung, shortness of breath and malaise.

If you notice these symptoms, clean or remove the humidifier. If you don’t, the illness can become chronic with symptoms such as loss of appetite, lung disease, lung scarring, weight loss and respiratory infections.

6. Asthma attacks

Ideally, your humidifying appliance increases moisture and eases breathing especially in people who have allergies, asthma and children.

However, when the unit releases dirty mist, which has fungi, bacteria and mold, it can trigger an asthmatic attack.

Therefore, if you are asthmatic and using a humidifier, you were alright for a while, but you start getting asthmatic attacks, check the unit.

It could be dirty and producing the fungi and mold that are triggering the attack.

7. Coughs and Colds

This is one of the dangers of humidifier.

If you are catching coughs and colds, it could be your humidifier spreading it. A dirty humidifier will create a good environment for bacteria to grow.

Image of humidifier sickness

8. Humidifier shortness of breath

Unknown to many people, this is another way that a humidifier can make you feel really sick.

When the humidity level is high, the air becomes stuffy, and hard to inhale. This can be quite hurting especially for people with low lung capacity, such as children.

If you have a cold, you are more likely to experience shortness of breath when the humidifier is running. Usually, healthy people might not experience this, but it is a concern.

The best thing is to maintain a good level of humidity because dry air can cause the same problem – of shortness of breath!

Dry air can inflame the airways. Reducing their capacity to take in large volumes of air.

How a humidifier can make you sick

How a humidifier can make you sick

Now that we have seen the symptoms of humidifier sickness, we want to look at how these units can make you sick. Usually, they do this in the following two ways:

1. Too high humidity

In summer, the indoor humidity level should be 30 to 50 percent. For winter, set the humidity at 30 to 40 or 45 percent.

Indoor humidity, also called relative humidity, is like a double-edged sword. If it is too low, it has ill health effects.

If you keep it too high, it has ill effects too. That’s why you must always keep it at the optimum – recommended level!

In a separate post, we looked at the health effects of high humidity. You can read it to see for yourself. Some of the ill effects of high humidity include

  • Itching and running eyes
  • Running nose as the high humidity makes the mucus too thin
  • Cool mist humidifiers release germs and bacteria in the mist, which you inhale
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers cause white dust, which may be bad for children
  • Indoor allergens such as dust mites, mold and mildew thrive in high humidity
  • Skin feels clammy and damp since you sweat and the sweat doesn’t evaporate

High humidity seems to hold more warmth. Therefore, this tricks the body to think it’s overheating and so it goes into cooling mode – by producing a lot of sweat! You end up losing too much water, leaving you dehydrated.

If left unchecked, humidifiers can increase the level of humidity too much. Usually, this happens when you do not know how to set it just right.

Uncontrolled high humidity can also be a problem when you have a whole house humidifier. Usually, this happens when people do not know know how to set the right humidity level.

2. Dirt in the humidifier

Like fire, humidifiers are good servants but bad masters. If you want your unit to keep serving you very well, you must be ready to give it the right maintenance.

If you live in a dry place where you need to use a humidifiers daily, you need to clean it more often. In some instances, you need to clean the unit two or more times a week.

Humidifiers are the perfect environment for breeding germs and bacteria, stagnant water enclosed in a small space!

If you clean regularly, warm soapy water is going to be enough. However, if you choose to clean it less frequently, you should use white vinegar. It kills bacteria, mold and mildew.

Take special care to clean the humidifier filters. They trap the viruses, mold and other things. Also, a filter can become blocked with grease, in which case the unit would not work correctly.

If you have a furnace humidifier, you should clean the evaporator pad because it can carry a lot of bacteria. Basically, a humidifier can spread germs, but it is not a bad idea at all.

How Do You Keep the Humidifier Clean?

humidifier shortness of breath

As you have seen above, a dirty humidifier will cause humidifier sickness symptoms. Therefore, you need to know how to keep it clean and bacteria-free.

Follow these tips:

Daily cleaning

This can help with the humidifier dangers.

Clean the unit every day and not later than three days using warm water and dish soap. Scrub the reservoir to remove deposits or scale. Avoid using disinfectants since they cause more problems such as lung injuries.

If you use disinfectants such as chlorine bleach, rinse the tank thoroughly so that you don’t end up inhaling harmful chemicals.

Alternatively, you could use white vinegar, which is safer as a disinfectant.

Remember to NEVER USE WHITE VINEGAR AND BLEACH TOGETHER!

Replace the water daily

Empty the reservoir, dry it and refill the water. This will prevent the growth of fungus and bacteria since they need stagnant water to thrive.

It will prevent mineral deposits and film from developing. This is more important for ultrasonic and cool-mist humidifiers.

Only fill the tank using demineralized or distilled water. You should not use tap water because it may contain minerals that become white dust when released into the air.

Monitor the humidity level in your home. You can use a hygrometer. The recommended humidity level is 50% or below. Too much moisture in the air can make your home to become the breeding ground for spores and mold.

Replace the filters at least every two months or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Clean the area where you keep the humidifier

The area around humidifiers should remain dry. If you see any wetness such as on the wall, table, windows, or carpets, reduce the frequency of use or turn it down. Damp places can be breeding points for mold and fungus.

Clean your unit even when not in use

Clean and dry the unit before storage and after removing it from storage. If you store a dirty and wet unit, you are giving the microorganisms time and place to multiply.

These will affect your family when you start using it again. Clean after storage to get rid of any harmful microorganisms that may have harbored in it.

Humidifier Sickness Symptoms FAQ

It can be disheartening that an appliance designed to keep you safe can cause illness. But when water stays for long in closed spaces, protozoans, sometimes unidentifiable, can grow.

They will then be dispersed with the tiny droplets of water (mist), into your space. To help you understand this better, here are the more frequently asked questions:

What is humidifier fever?

Also called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, this is a kind of lung fever that affects you when inhale air that is contaminated with some bacteria variants.

Some of the common humidifier fever symptoms include lung inflammation, coughs, fever, body aches, chills and shortness of breath. These should go away after a few days when you clean your humidifier

Is humidifier fever contagious?

In most cases, humidifier lung is not contagious. It only happens when a person inhales the infected air but it rarely passes from one person to another. If the humidifier is not cleaned with bleach to kill the causative agents, continuous exposure might cause an immunity compromise, in which case a person might catch other contagious illnesses.

Does humidifier fever go away on its own?

Once you clean the humidifier and kill the mold spores and the bacteria, the symptoms of humidifier lung start to go away. They will disappear on their own after two days.

Can you get sick from a cool mist humidifier?

You can if you do not clean it. Any humidifier that you do not clean can allow bacteria to grow in the tank. It will then disperse these with the mist and you will inhale them and get humidifier fever. Such can also cause a musty smell.

What are side effects of humidifier?

There are several but the most common of them include humidifier sickness if you do not clean your unit. Too much humidity can also cause allergy flare-ups and runny noses. Your unit can also cause the growth of mold which can damage your leather items, clothes, walls, and make you sick.

How do you treat humidifier sickness?

If you clean your humidifier regularly, the symptoms of humidifier sickness will disappear on their own, in two to five days. To kill protozoans that cause diseases, clean with white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or bleach. Remember, you should never mix bleach and vinegar as they form a poisonous gas.

What to do if your humidifier makes you sick

What to do if your humidifier makes you sick

If you have established that your humidifier makes you sick, well, you are going to need to do the following:

Clean the humidifier

Stagnant water is good for breeding germs. That is why you must remove the water daily and replace it with clean water. Boiled water in the humidifier is not going to do much good.

Also, you might add a dash of essential oil in the humidifier. However, do not overdo it because many of these units are not designed to diffuse essential oils.

Essential oils help with congestion. They also help you to relax, lose your anxiety and stress. If aromatherapy is your thing, consider getting a Vicks Humidifier with Vapopads.

Use the right cleaning products – mild soap and warm water. You can also use white vinegar to kill bacteria. However, do not use chemicals such as bleach.

Also, do not add water softeners in the humidifier.

Change the filters as needed

Humidifiers have HEPA filters to remove bacteria, fungi and viruses from the water. That way, the mist getting to your air is clean.

However, with time, the filters become clogged up with so many contaminants. They start leaking into your mist and when you inhale it, they get in your body to cause illness.

Check with the manufacturer to know how often you should replace the filters. Also, a humidifier with washable filters helps a lot. You can clean them often to keep your mist pure.

Use distilled water only

When you use tap water, the minerals will dissolve and they will be pumped out in the mist. Inhaling these minerals can cause inflammation of your airways.

If you cannot afford distilled water daily, filter the tap water you have at home. You can do this using a filtration system. You can also use a demineralization cartridge.

Another option is to use humidifier tablets. These one form ions that bond with the minerals in the water. The minerals are captured on the filters, and the pure mist is released to your indoor air.

Visit a doctor

Never attribute all the humidifier sickness symptoms to… well… humidifiers! They could be an indication of a bigger underlying issue.

Visit a doctor to find out what you could be suffering from, the root cause. In addition, some of these illnesses require treatment with medicine.

If the doctor recommends lowering the humidity level some more, make the changes!

Final Thoughts on Humidifier Sickness Symptoms

Humidifiers may change their role from that of preventing illness to that of causing it. If they are not cleaned and maintained correctly, they can cause respiratory diseases.

These include coughs and cold, flu, allergic reactions and lung infections. Stay alert for any of the humidifier sickness symptoms.

However, this need not happen. It is possible to use a humidifier and not get sick. Start by cleaning the unit properly, using distilled water, replacing filters and replacing the water daily.

You can get a good humidifier such as GENIANI Portable Mini Humidifier on amazon.com. It is easy to maintain and it is very effective.

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