During the cold, dry, winter months, the lack of moisture in the air can make you more prone to sinus infections. Dry air can bring irritating and uncomfortable symptoms that can disturb your home and work life.
Prevention is an important part of maintaining healthy sinuses. The installation of a humidifier in your home or work space is one of the best preventative tips to follow. A humidifier adds moisture to the air. A steam vaporizer is a type of humidifier that adds warm moisture to the air. Medical experts are divided on which type of humidifier is the healthiest.
The terms humidifier and vaporizer are generally used interchangeably as devices that put moisture into the air.
Humidifiers and Vaporizers
Dr. Bennett recommends using a humidifier to moisturize your sinuses and breathe easier. Dr. Bennett’s Guide to a “Sinus Friendly” Home series gives you essential need-to-know facts about these machines.
Regardless of which type of humidifier you use, remember that cleaning your device is extremely important, as it will not only allow the machine to run more effectively, but will also prevent contamination. Also remember that while the most important time to run your humidifier is in the winter or in the dry early months of spring and late months of fall.
How does a humidifier prevent sinusitis?
During certain times of the year, particularly the winter months, the air is dry both indoors and outdoors. Inhaling this dry air may have adverse effects on your sinuses, including dry, cracked nostrils, thicker mucus, blocked sinus passages, and general irritation.
Thick drainage is usually a sign of sinusitis or the predisposition to a sinus infection. Thin mucus generally represents more healthy sinuses. The mist released from a humidifier helps in that it moistens the air, thinning out the mucus inside your nose and sinuses.
Moisturizing the air may reduce the incidence of sinusitis and thus reduce symptoms such as nasal congestion, headache and sore throats, however, humidifiers are by no means a cure for these ailments.
Dr. Bennett reminds patients that both acute and chronic sinusitis (symptoms of acute sinusitis that last 12 weeks or longer) are very serious health conditions and that consulting with your doctor is important. He may prescribe antibiotics in conjunction with over the counter sinus sprays and antihistamines.
Cleaning your humidifier
Cleaning your humidifier on a regular basis is very important. Never leave the water basin full of standing water, because it can grow stagnant. Take care to clean the basin, along with the filter daily or at least weekly.
Always use fresh water. An unclean filter may breed mold or bacteria. If you use tap or mineral water, you may notice a powder, white mineral dust left on your household items.
Increase the effectiveness of a humidifier
Buying and installing a humidifier in your home is not the only way to relieve symptoms indicative of an onset of sinusitis. You can maximize the effects that the moisturized air has on your sinuses by sleeping with your head in an elevated position, to facilitate drainage after your mucus has been thinned.
Sleep in an elevated position (Train the pets to help them out too!)
Flushing out your sinuses with a neti pot is also helpful. Consider using damp towels soaked in warm water placed over the face for further relief and easy breathing.
The Four Different Types of Humidifiers
There are four main types of vaporizers: steam vaporizer, impeller, evaporative and ultrasonic.
A steam vaporizer boils water in much the same way as a teapot. Electricity heats up burners until the water changes states from liquid to vapor form. Steam bubbles from the unit into the surrounding air. The minerals are concentrated and left inside the vaporizer tank. Caution must be observed when using these machines as the heated water can cause burns and the heating elements may be a fire hazard.
Rotating disks powered by electricity spin at high rates of speed to propel water through a diffuser. The water is separated into tiny droplets and expelled into the air. A cool mist is released into the room. The minerals in the water will be contained in the mist and may leave a fine white residue in the area of use.
Much like a candle wick the evaporative humidifier will use a wick to slowly draw water out of the tank. An electric fan may be connected to the unit to force air on the wick and evaporate water from the wick. The dryer the air, the more water is evaporated from the reservoir.
An electrically powered metal plate, called a diaphragm, vibrates at very high speeds until liquid water is separated into a fine vapor. The mist then exits the unit into the air. The term ultrasonic means above the limit of hearing.
Humidifier Buying Guide
If you’ve decided to give your sinuses a gift and purchase a humidifier for your home, consult this buying guide to ensure that you pick a humidifier with the most-desirable features.
EASIEST TO CLEAN HUMIDIFIER
Name: Programmable Cool Mist Humidifier
Capacity: 4.0 Gallon
The removable water basin featured on this humidifier makes cleaning a cinch. Simply pop it in the dishwasher to clean it and reduce build-up of mold and bacteria. It also offers disposable filters, making them easy to change and increasing the purity of the air released.
This humidifier is also one of the quieter models on the market, making it an excellent choice for those who need their beauty rest.
MOST CHILD-FRIENDLY HUMIDIFIER
Name: Frog Cool Mist Humidifier
This adorable little humidifier is kid-friendly in its design and safety features. The unit is small, but incredibly efficient.
BEST HIGH-END MODEL ON THE MARKET HUMIDIFIER
Name: Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
Model: AOS 7145
If you are willing to spare no expense in buying the overall best humidifier to eliminate dry sinuses, the Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier by Air-O-Swiss is the way to go. The best feature of this model is probably the automatic setting, wherein the machine maintains the humidity level on its own.
This means you don’t have to fumble with various knobs and settings, or worry if you have set the level too high or low. The machine features an antibacterial system in its base as well.
Bottom line: if cost is not an option, this humidifier is the way to go.
Here are some quick and easy tips to keep in mind when using your humidifier, no matter which model you decide to purchase:
- Monitor the humidify level. If there is no gauge on your model, you can purchase a hygrometer at any home goods store, which will give you a digital or analog read-out of the current moisture level in your home.
- If you realize you have set the humidity level too high, balance the air by turning on your air conditioner for 5-10 minutes to even out the moisture from the air.
- Clean, clean clean! Dr. Bennett cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your humidifier clean and free of bacteria. In a perfect world you would clean the tank after every use.