Each year, between 29,000 and 59,000 people die from the flu in the U.S. While this is shocking, there are hundreds of thousands of others who are affected by influenza and who get well.
Most public health officials agree that the best way to protect yourself from the flu is by getting the flu shot and washing your hands often. Unfortunately, even the most diligent prevention methods are no guarantee you will not be afflicted by the flu.
If you or someone in your family has the flu, there are some things you can do to help ease their symptoms. For example, you can use over-the-counter medications, plenty of fluids, and lots of rest.
While all this can be helpful, is there anything else you can do? What about a humidifier. If you are like many people, you may wonder – can a humidifier help with the flu?
If you have a humidifier, you may be tempted to turn it on, but is this a smart move? Keep reading to find out. With this information, you can make an educated decision about the use of a humidifier for the flu.
Humidifiers and the Flu
As mentioned above, many people suggest using a humidifier for the flu. There is some evidence that has linked flu activity with the dry, cold weather of winter. This has led some scientists to conclude that dry air helps the flu spread and humid air makes this harder.
The question is, will using a humidifier in your office or home really help to reduce your risk of catching the flu?
The Connection Between Humidity and the Flu
In temperate regions, flu outbreaks occur seasonally. For the U.S. it typically starts showing up near the end of fall. There are several factors that are believed to contribute to this patter, with humidity levels being one of these.
The flu virus can be transmitted through the air when humidity levels are below 40% to 50%, but less likely to be transmitted when humidity is over this amount. There are some experts who believe this same concept applies to the COVID-19 virus, as well.
Understanding Relative Humidity
If you want a healthy and comfortable environment, balanced humidity is a must. Humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air and this measurement usually refers to relative humidity specifically.
Since the relative humidity in your home can directly correlate with allergy issues, building or house damage, pests, and comfort, it is essential to get it right.
When humidity is too low or too high, it can lead to several health issues. For example, when levels fall below 30% (this is considered extremely dry air) the likelihood that flu and cold viruses will spread is higher.
When air is too dry, it may also inflame and irritate your nose and your respiratory passages, dry out your skin, and damage your home’s foundation, causing wood floors to separate, ceilings and walls to crack, and window and door frames to shrink. The best way to prevent these issues is by using a humidifier.
On the other hand, if the relative humidity is over 50%, which means the air is damp or moist, airborne allergens like bacteria, dust mites, and mold spores will thrive and multiply quickly. These are going to aggravate the symptoms that allergy-sufferers experience.
If excessively humid environments are present, other issues may arise, such as:
- Perfect breeding grounds for pests (i.e. termites, cockroaches, etc.)
- Cause musty odors
- Accelerate wood decay and rot
- Cause stained walls and ceilings
- High levels of relative humidity make the environment feel hotter
If you need to remove excess moisture from your home, a humidifier should be used.
Finding the Ideal Humidity Levels
If you want to avoid the comfort and air quality problems that are common with high or low relative humidity, you have to make sure you find a good balance.
As mentioned above, ideal relative humidity levels range between 45% and 50%. What this means is that the surrounding air only holds have the maximum amount of moisture it can retain. When humidity levels are at this range, mold spores are unable to reproduce, dust mites can’t survive, and pests that prefer humid environments find somewhere else to go.
Also, the air is not so moist that it does not irritate your respiratory system or negatively impact your home’s foundation.
If you do not have a hygrometer, it is a good idea to invest in one. This will help you regularly check the humidity level in your home and keep things comfortable and healthy.
Should You Use a Humidifier for Preventing the Flu?
Even though there is no conclusive evidence (yet), many agree using a cool mist humidifier is probably a good idea. While moderate humidity may not affect the flu virus itself, it causes the virus particles to become denser, which means they quickly fall from the air after someone who is sick has sneezed, coughed, or breathed into a room.
During the winter, everyone remains indoors, in controlled environments where the air is not circulating, and you are breathing in what everyone else is breathing out. If you can keep the air more humid, it means there are fewer flu particles floating around. This means you are much less likely to breathe them in later.
Keeping home humidity levels between 40% and 60% (as mentioned above) is considered the “sweet spot” to help reduce the risk of flu. If you increase humidity levels too much, it may backfire. According to research in tropical climates, which are areas where the flu season follows different patterns than in the U.S., have shown that both low and high humidity levels help the virus spread.
When the humidity levels are too high, it can encourage the growth of dust mites, bacteria, and mold.
If you use a humidifier, experts recommend choosing a cool mist option if you have children. This is because the tanks used for warm mist devices hold water that is so hot it may cause a burn if spilled.
Additionally, if you have a cold, a warm mist may cause your nasal passages to swell. This makes breathing more difficult, not better.
The Top Reasons to Consider Using a Humidifier During Flu Season
Humidifiers are a popular appliance, used to help boost your indoor comfort. However, as seen with the information above, they can also be beneficial if you have the flu or flu-like symptoms (along with an array of other health conditions).
If you are not convinced this is a good idea, or that you should use this appliance, check out the top reasons to consider using a humidifier during flu season here.
Stop the Spread of Viruses (Including the Flu)
When air conditions are dry, viruses thrive. By increasing the humidity levels in your home, it makes it less likely that germs will survive and transmit to people around you. A few tips to help prevent the spread of flu germs include:
- Maintain relative humidity levels of 40% to 50%
- Use a hygrometer to measure humidity levels
Knowing the humidity levels in your home will help you know when you need to take action and begin using a humidifier.
Breathe Easier with a Humidifier
Some of the most common flu and virus symptoms, such as a sore throat, coughing, sinus congestion, and a runny nose can make it challenging to breathe. A humidifier will moisturize your lung, throat, and nasal passages, which makes it easier for you to breathe.
If you are sick, consider using a warm mist humidifier (as long as kids aren’t around), which will disperse a soothing heated mist, providing an extra boost of comfort.
Feel Better Faster with a Humidifier
Along with providing soothing moisture that helps ease your airways, a humidifier will make your home feel more comfortable. When you are comfortable and can breathe easier, you can get rest, which will help you fight the flu and get back to your normal routine.
Prevent Future Illnesses
Do you know what cilia are? These are the hairs inside your nose that help protect your nasal, throat, and respiratory passages. When you take a breath in, your cilia will move to help prevent dust, germs, bacteria, and other foreign particles from getting into the nasal passages and causing illness.
If your nasal passages are too dry, cilia won’t provide this protective service. By using a humidifier, it ensures the airways remain moist. This helps the tiny hairs continue to keep germs and bacteria out of your respiratory system.
What all this means is that with the help of a humidifier you and your entire family can stay healthier, even through cold and flu season.
Humidifiers vs. Vaporizers
You may wonder if you can use a vaporizer rather than a humidifier to add water vapor to the air. They make the air moist and help to combat dryness. As a result, they are a useful remedy for an array of conditions that can cause congestion, skin dryness, or a dry nose.
Many people use both vaporizers and humidifiers for conditions like allergies, bronchitis, and colds. They are also commonly used in baby nurseries. While this is true, there are some slight differences between the two devices, which means they have varied uses and benefits.
What Is the Difference?
A vaporizer and humidifier add humidity to the air in different ways. The vaporizer will heat the water and add steam to the air. It features internal heating technology that will boil the water before it is released into the air as steam.
Humidifiers release a very fine cool mist into the air. There are some cool mist humidifiers that feature ultrasonic technology. Other use a fan and wick filter.
When choosing between a vaporizer and humidifier, consider how it will be used. Both can help reduce discomfort because of skin dryness or a dry nose or throat and can help make breathing easier.
To determine the right device, you should understand how vaporizers and humidifiers work and what conditions they benefit. While they work for allergies, bronchitis, and more, here you can learn more about which option is best for flu symptoms.
Cold and flu symptoms usually include nasal congestion or a sore throat. Both humidifiers and vaporizers may help to ease congestion and throat irrigation by adding moisture to the air.
Dry air and cold temperatures may make the transmission of viruses easier, which increases the likelihood of an infection. By adding moisture to the air, you can reduce the likelihood of an infection.
The decision between a humidifier or vaporizer for the flu is usually a personal preference. However, with a vaporizer, you can add medications to it to help ease chest and nasal congestion.
Can a Humidifier Help with the Flu: Now You Know
As you can see, humidifiers can be quite beneficial for an array of health concerns, including the flu, which answers the question, “can a humidifier help with the flu.”
If you are interested in using this in your home, be sure to put time and thought into the option selected. If you want more information, you can contact us or check out some of our other blogs. Our goal is to help spread information and resources about living a healthy life.
If you are ready to purchase a humidifier, check out the Ultrasonic humidifier offered on our site. It is one of the highest-rated products available today.