At least once in our lives, we have all had a persistent cough that lingers on. It’s often worse at night when we lay down. A longtime aid in easing a cough is a humidifier.
How a Humidifier Eases a Dry Cough
When you get sick, the medication you take for clogged sinuses can dry out the membranes in your nose and throat. The congestion itself irritates your throat, bronchial tubes, and chest. A humidifier adds moisture to the air around you.
Breathing moist air as opposed to dry indoor air soothes your dry and irritated throat, thus providing you with relief. A humidifier can even help with cracked lips and bloody noses when the cause is dried out sinuses.
The added moisture in your respiratory system soothes your cough immediately but also promotes healing. As your hose, throat, and chest clear the congestion, the added moisture help restore the tissues in your sinuses and airways.
Why Humidifiers are Age-Old Cough Remedies
Our parents and grandparents knew the value of adding a humidifier to their list of home remedies for coughs and colds. Now you know a little bit more about how the technology itself works, and why a little added humidity goes a long way to relieving that dry cough.
How Humidifiers Work
Humidifiers are devices that release steam or water vapor into the air to increase the moisture (humidity) in the room. They convert water stored in a tank into water vapor.
The vapor released is in a natural form, similar to natural humidity increases that happen during and after a rainfall.
Cool and warm mist humidifiers are the most common types used to ease coughs and other respiratory ailments.
Both types release a fine mist into the room that eases your nose and throat.
How Cool Mist Humidifiers Work
Cool mist humidifiers do not use heat to generate mist. Because of this, they won’t add heat to the room, which is something many users prefer. This makes them ideal if you live in a warmer climate because the vapor enters the air at room temperature.
Some cool mist humidifiers generate mist using high0speed, ultrasonic vibration. The unit has a built-i nebulizer that agitates the water and creates a fine mist. From there, the unit dispenses that mist into the air.
While many prefer warm mist over cool mist to relieve coughs specifically, remember that warm mist humidifiers have a heating element. For safety reasons, always use a cool-mist humidifier for children to avoid accidental injury.
How Warm Mist Humidifiers Work
As mentioned above, warm mist humidifiers use heat to convert water into steam vapor. The unit slowly releases vapor into the air, gradually increasing the humidity in the room.
As the air becomes more comfortable, it reduces that nagging cough.
This makes them perfect for congestion due to colds or allergies. In fact, some models accommodate medicated additives or pads to enhance the soothing effects.
Many of these contain menthol eucalyptus, which helps suppress coughs and reduce congestion.
While they do not reach dangerously hot temperatures, they do feature an electric heating element.
Nonetheless, many parents choose cool mist humidifiers for their children as an extra precaution.
How to Care for Your Humidifier
Humidifiers do a fantastic job of adding humidity to the room. Though, any type of device that uses water and has a water tank must be properly maintained.
Stagnant water and condensation can attract mold, which undermines the health benefits of the humidifier.
Dirty filters and water reservoirs quickly breed mold and bacteria. If you have allergies or asthma, bacteria growth can aggravate those conditions. They can also trigger symptoms in people without allergies or respiratory problems.
To avoid this issue altogether, here are some recommended ways to keep your humidifier clean and bacteria-free.
Read the Manufacturer Guidelines
While all humidifiers tend to work the same way, you should read the manufacturer guidelines for your humidifier model. They are tailored to the specifications of your machine.
Manufacturers will also recommend the correct filters or cartridges for your unit as well as how often to change them.
Only Use Distilled Water
For both cool and warm mist humidifiers, be sure to use only demineralized or distilled water. Tap water and even bottled drinking water contains minerals that will eventually leave deposits in your humidifier that will encourage bacteria growth.
After a while, you may even see what looks like white dust on your floor and furniture. If you do, it’s the result of built-up deposits in your humidifier. If you can see it in your room, then you are also breathing it in.
Distilled water has lower or no mineral content compared to tap water. So, you won’t be adding the minerals that will turn into clogging sediment. If your humidifier is an older one with a considerable amount of build-up, it’s time to invest in a new one.
Change the Water Every Day
You should most definitely change your humidifier water often, if not every day. Sitting water allows a film and deposits to collect inside your humidifier. When you empty the tank or reservoir, also take the time to wipe it dry with a clean cloth.
Doing this removes any residual buildup. Be sure to unplug the unit first as a safety precaution.
Clean Humidifiers Every 3 Days
You should give your humidifier full cleaning every three days of use. To do so, unplug the unit and drain the tank. Next, use a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to clean away film and deposits that you may not be able to see.
Some manufacturers may recommend other cleaners like bleach, though hydrogen peroxide is safe for any unit. When you are finished, rinse the tank with water and wipe all parts dry with a clean cloth.
Finally, keep the area around the humidifier dry. If the area stays wet or damp, adjust the settings to reduce the humidity. Damp spots indicate that the humidity is too high in the room.
Change the Filters
You should change the filters in your humidifier according to the manufacturer recommendations. Also, change it if it is visibly dirty our unit has been sitting in storage for a long time.
Storing Your Humidifier
Hopefully, you won’t need to use your humidifier for a long time. When it’s time to put it away, be sure to drain and clean it as described above. Toss out the filters and have new ones on hand for the next time you need them.