Can Humidifiers Make You Sick

Last updated on Jan 3, 2022 FEATURED
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While humidifiers are so important for maintaining good health, if misused they can make you sick. Humidifiers can help deal with issues related to dry air. Some of these may include dry sinuses, nosebleeds, dry skin, allergies, and asthma.

Humidifiers release soothing moisture into the dry air, making it safe for breathing and for your skin. However, if improperly used, humidifiers may become the source of your sickness. Many complications such as asthma, allergy, heatstroke, muscle cramps, and dehydration can be caused or worsened when you misuse humidifiers.

You may be wondering how you can avoid misusing your humidifier. Though, you should not be worried about misusing humidifiers anymore. In this article, we are discussing how a humidifier can make you sick and how you can safely use it.

Ways In which Humidifiers Can Make You Sick

Here is an image showing a humidifier

  • High Humidity

Humidifiers can make you sick when they release excessive moisture into the air. Low humidity causes health problems, but it can be worse when it is high. Experts assert that the good healthy humidity levels are between 30-50%.

When the humidity levels go beyond 50%, the air becomes stuffy and damp. This causes condensation in your house. As a result, this increases the prospect of bacteria growth, development of dust mites, mold, and mildew. All these can make you sick as they can trigger allergies and some respiratory conditions. 

  • Improper Maintenance

Humidifiers need frequent cleaning, especially in the tank. When not thoroughly cleaned, they can become breeding places for bacteria and fungi. This is because these microorganisms thrive in stagnant water left inside the humidifier’s tank.

On the other hand, you should replace humidifier filters at least every two months. If not, they can become the breeding ground for microorganisms. Notably, if you do not ensure your humidifier is clean, you increase the chances of releasing these microorganisms into the air.

When inhaled, they can make you sick, especially those with asthma and allergies. According to Mayo Clinic, microorganisms can also trigger flu-related symptoms and lung infections.

Common Symptoms of Humidifier Sickness

Improperly used humidifiers can make you sick. Below we have highlighted some of the common symptoms related to the poor use of humidifiers. But, you should note that these symptoms can also be signs of other complications. So, if the symptoms persist after maintaining or using your humidifier properly, you should consult your doctor.

  • Worsened Asthma

If you have been battling asthma, a humidifier can worsen them. Excessive moisture causes inflammation of the airways. This will make breathing difficult, thus worsening asthma.

  • Lung Infections

Humidifiers can be a source of lung diseases. If you use tap or hard water, humidifiers generate white dust. When inhaled, this dust can go direct to the lungs, thus causing infections. Such infections may have symptoms like cough and flu.

  • Humidifier Fever

Most people are unaware of this kind of fever. Humidifier fever is caused by bacteria. You can contract humidifier fever when you inhale moisture-containing bacteria. Poorly cleaned or dirty humidifiers act as a breeding places for bacteria. There dirty humidifiers can later on release the bacteria into the air. So, this puts you at risk of humidifier fever.

Some of the common symptoms of this disease include fever, difficulty in breathing, lung inflammation, cough, and body aches.

  • Worsened Allergies and Inflamed Sinuses

Humidifiers do not cause allergies or sinuses. However, if not properly used, they can worsen these complications. Excessive humidity makes the cilia fail to work appropriately. This gives room for mucus to congest and allow bacteria to build up in the sinuses. As irritants get introduced into the sinuses, your mucus membrane gets inflamed. This can worsen sinus symptoms.

On the other hand, high humidity favors the growth of molds and dust mites which can trigger allergies.

How to Prevent Humidifier-Related Sicknesses 

  • Clean the Tank Regularly

Regular cleaning of the tank will help you prevent the growth of microorganisms inside. You can clean the humidifier using a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Some manufactures recommend using vinegar and other disinfectants. These are all available in pharmacies. They can help remove residues that remain in the tank or any other part.

This will help limit the chances of humidifiers releasing residues into the air. So, there will be less risk of triggering complications related to asthma and allergies.

  • Change Filter

As discussed above, unclean filters can act as breeding places for bacteria and fungus. Notably, if they are washable you need to wash them frequently. But, if they are not washable you need to replace them at least every 3-6 months.  Some humidifiers come with a filter replacement indicator, which alerts when it is time to replace filters.

If left unmaintained the developed microorganisms may be released into the air. This may cause sicknesses related to allergy, cough, and itching eyes. By maintaining the filters, you prevent microorganisms from building up within the humidifier. So, there will be fewer chances of the humidifier introducing them into the air.

  • Use Distilled or Demineralized Water

Hard water or even tap water is made up of minerals. These can leave residues within the humidifier. You can see the effects of this problem with the white dust that may settle on your furniture and other property. White dust is made up of small particles, which can be inhaled and move straight to the lungs. Although there is no profound evidence regarding the health effects of inhaling white dust, it is still believed it is not safe.

In this case, you can avoid this problem by using distilled or demineralized water. They do not contain minerals which means there is less risk for sickness.

  • Maintain Humidity Levels Between 30-50%

here is an image of a hygrometer

Excessive humidity can cause moisture to build-up, and condense on surfaces. This makes the room so damp, which favors bacteria and fungi growth. You can use a hygrometer to monitor indoor relative humidity. You can also opt to use humidifiers with a built-in humidistat. This will help avoid emitting excessive moisture that is above 50%. Certainly, this will prevent the growth of molds, mildew, and dust mites that cause sickness.


Humidifiers can be safe and are vital, especially during low humidity. These generate soothing moisture to increase humidity. Certainly, this can help alleviate symptoms resulting from dry air. This makes them good for your health.

Humidifiers can only make you sick when you misuse them. When using a humidifier, you need to ensure you follow proper guidelines. Some of the primary guidelines include using demineralized or distilled water, regular cleaning and emptying of the tank. You need to periodically change the filters as stipulated by the manufacturer.

Assuming you are implementing all the above criteria, then you need to ensure the relative humidity level is limited to 50% at most. Ultimately, these will help you avoid sicknesses related to humidifiers.


In general, humidifiers can make you sick. Despite the fact that they are designed to improve our health, they can make you sick if misused. They can also cause sickness if not properly maintained. Similarly, if you let the humidifier generate more than 50% humidity levels, you are at risk of getting sick. Therefore, you need to properly use your humidifier to avoid triggering any complications.

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