Do Humidifiers Help Stop the Flu?
Why does the flu spike during Tennessee winters? Dry winter air creates the perfect conditions for airborne illnesses, such as the flu, to thrive. This dry air irritates airways and weakens our natural defenses. It’s no surprise then that as temperatures drop every year across Tennessee, airborne illnesses increase.
While vaccines and washing hands remain crucial to maintaining health, using a humidifier is an unconventional method for preventing the flu. Could a common household item like a humidifier make a difference? Read this quick guide on how humidifiers and air quality play a role in flu prevention.
Does Humid Air Prevent the Flu?
Air quality and humidity levels play a unique role in the spread of viruses. High humidity levels inactivate airborne viruses, including the flu virus. Humid air makes virus particles heavier, causing them to fall out of the air faster. This reduces the risk of virus particles being inhaled. Moist air also keeps our nasal passages and respiratory tracts hydrated, helping our bodies fight off pathogens. Humidifiers are worth considering during flu season for preventing infection or relieving respiratory illness symptoms.
Health Benefits of Humidifiers
While using a humidifier is not a fool-proof solution, research suggests that humidifiers decrease the risk of infection from the flu. Beyond preventing the flu, humidifiers can also:
- Relieve coughing and congestion
- Sooth a sore or scratchy throat
- Prevent or reduce dry skin
- Promote better sleep
Can The Air Be Too Humid?
Find the balance between dry and humid in your home’s air quality before using a humidifier. If the air is too humid, you are at risk of promoting the rapid growth of mold and bacteria. If the air is too dry, viruses will thrive. Aim for a level between 40-60% humidity as this range is most effective against viruses. Use a hygrometer to measure the moisture levels in your home to determine if a humidifier is necessary.
Choosing And Maintaining Your Humidifier
Don’t play a guessing game when it comes to choosing your humidifier. There are a variety of options on the market, but cool-mist and warm-mist humidifiers have notable differences that you will need to consider.
- Cool-mist humidifier: Generally considered a safer option, especially for children as there is no risk of getting burned from boiling water temperatures.
- Warm-mist humidifier: Considered a healthier choice as the water temperatures kill potential bacteria or mold before entering the air.
Both types have pros and cons, but regardless of which one you choose, clean it regularly to help prevent mold and bacteria growth. Consult your doctor if you have asthma or allergies – a humidifier may not be the right choice for you in the case of a pre-existing respiratory condition and could worsen your health.
Other Flu Prevention Measures
Combine using a humidifier with other best practices for preventing the flu:
- Get your annual flu vaccination
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes
- Avoid close contact with others, especially during flu season
Also, practice self-care and boost your immune system through healthy habits such as drinking enough water, getting sleep, and eating a balanced diet. By maintaining overall health, you will decrease the risk of the flu and other airborne viruses.
A humidifier may be worth the investment, especially during flu season. Remember that using a humidifier is not a magic bullet, but combined with other preventative measures, you will decrease the risk of infection in your home. If you do start feeling sick and suspect it’s the flu, visit an AFC Urgent Care location near you for rapid flu testing and treatment.