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Consumer Reports Health News
Date:12/17/2010

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During the cold season, when we're more reliant on our heating systems to keep us warm, a humidifier can come in handy to ease dry air and help ease itchy skin, respiratory irritation, and other problems associated with dry air.  No wonder humidifier sales triple in the winter as indoor air dries out.

Consumer Reports recently tested humidifiers at its labs and identified several recommendations and one Best Buy, the Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 ($30), which is designed for a 330-square foot area.  Getting the right size humidifier is critical since too much humidity can promote dust mites, mold, and other allergens.  The report, available online, notes that the pricier Air-O-Swiss AOS7135 ($170) and the Vicks V4500 ($65) models tested can cover more space and include a humidistat that automatically shuts them off when they reach a set level.  

No matter which brand you buy, it's important to monitor humidity and keep your humidifier clean:

  • Ideally indoor relative humidity should be 30 to 50 percent. Overhumidification can lead to mold and bacteria growth. It can also damage furniture and wallpaper.  Mold can grow within 48 hours on wet surfaces, and mold in the tank or in the water can get transferred into the air, causing itchy eyes and worsening any breathing troubles, especially for babies.
  • Consumers who purchase models that don't come with a humidistat can monitor humidity with a hygrometer that costs about $20.  
  • Consumer Reports' tests revealed that some models slowed bacteria growth, but consumers will need to clean any humidifier tank regularly. That usually includes a daily change of water plus disinfecting weekly. Be sure to clean the tank and dry all the surfaces before refilling.
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SOURCE Consumer Reports on Health
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