Avoiding “humidifier lung” with proper home heating precautions

While humidifiers can help those with breathing concerns, it could cause added complications.

While the weather has been mild in many parts of the country this winter, it seems that a majority of Americans are still suffering through bouts of sickness or the typical seasonal irritations. But, while house humidifiers can be put to use to help soothe cold sufferers, they can also cause more harm than good when used incorrectly.

Seth Brown, a physician who runs The Connecticut Sinus Institute, an organization that specializes in treating patients with diseases and disorders that affect the nose and sinuses, recently spoke to the Hartford Courant about the dangers associated with the improper use of humidifiers.

"Unless you're very diligent about keeping your unit clean and changing the filters, it does more harm than good," Brown told the report. "Bacteria can grow in the tank and then is released into the air."

According to Brown, the standing water and minerals in humidifiers can often introduce bacteria and allergens into the air. Brown says this can occur when humidifiers are run for too long or when homeowners allow the humidity level in an area to surpass 50 percent.

Breathing too much moisturized air can cause "humidifier lung," which brings flu-like symptoms and can even cause a serious infection. However, this typically only occurs when homeowners neglect the devices so much that film or scum appears on the surface of the humidifier water.

Still, when used correctly, humidifiers can help homeowners reduce their energy bills and stay healthy. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that these appliances can be used to help treat viral infections and illnesses, and because of this, are encouraged for use around children.

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  3. Tips for setting up a home humidifier
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