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The Health Benefits of using a Dehumidifier

Date posted: 6 December 2016

While many householders invest in a dehumidifier to get rid of condensation from their windows or damp and mould from their walls, others buy one for its potential health benefits. 

By controlling the relative humidity level within your home you can help to create a healthier living environment. This is true regardless of your age or health, but it may be particularly beneficial to family members who are allergy or asthma sufferers.

Most experts recommend maintaining a relative humidity of around 45-50% for optimum comfort and health in a home or office environment. 

Here we look at the health-related problems that can arise when the relative humidity in your home is too high.

Mould

Mould thrives in humid places, particularly behind furniture or in the corner of rooms. There is no escaping mould spores, as they are all around us all of the time, but if you have a patch of mould growing in your home it will significantly increase the number of spores in the air – and these are the most dangerous ones. Some moulds produce mycotoxins, which are particularly damaging to our health. 

For people with asthma or associated respiratory problems, exposure to mould can seriously exacerbate symptoms. People who are sensitive to allergens may also suffer an autoimmune response when exposed to mould spores, and this can produce all sorts of unpleasant symptoms, often similar to those associated with hay fever. Typical symptoms of mould exposure are:

  • Skin rashes
  • Irritated, red, sore or watery eyes
  • Sinus congestion or a runny nose 
  • A persistent cough, sneezing fits, or wheezing a tight chest and difficulty breathing
  • By maintaining a relative humidity of less than 60% you can help to inhibit mould growth and help to control asthma, allergies and other unpleasant symptoms.

Dust mites

As is the case with mould, dust mites are impossible to eliminate from our environment, but their populations can grow more easily when relative humidity rises above 60%. Dust mites can trigger an allergic autoimmune response in some people, which can include sinus congestion, itchy and watery eyes, and a wheezy dry cough. 

You can help to inhibit their growth and reproduction by using a dehumidifier to keep the relative humidity below this point – preferably between 45-50%.

Bacteria and viruses

Bacteria and viruses also find it easier to grow and survive when humidity rises above 60% – and therefore there is a greater potential for infection to spread. This is because these microbes are highly susceptible to drying out, and when humidity falls below about 60% their structures alter dramatically – either incapacitating or killing them off completely. Research has found that workers in offices with higher humidity levels suffer increased respiratory infection rates – and therefore have more days off sick due to illness. By using a dehumidifier to reduce relative humidity you can help to create a less favourable environment for the spread of viruses and bacteria, whether at home or at work.

Fungal infections

People with a compromised immune system – such as babies and old people – can occasionally suffer from serious fungal infections (known as mycosis), particularly if they are living in conditions of high humidity, which encourage the growth of opportunistic parasitic fungi.

Getting the balance right

While the sensible use of a dehumidifier can help avoid the unhealthy effects of high humidity, it is equally important not to go overboard and set the humidity level too low. 

Very low relative humidity can cause health problems such as dry skin conditions, irritated sinuses and throat, and itchy eyes. Some viruses may be able to survive longer in lower humidity, giving them a greater chance of spreading. And, over an extended period of time, exposure to low humidity can dry out and inflame the mucous membrane that lines your respiratory tract. Once this natural barrier is no longer working effectively, you will also be more susceptible to colds, flu and other infections.

Other considerations

All dehumidifiers incorporate a dust filter, but this will not be fine enough to eliminate all of the nasties we've covered in our article. You can look for a model that also includes an anti-bacterial filter (or filters), which are specifically designed to kill microbes.

Another consideration is an ioniser, which can reduce the quantity of allergens suspended in the air. Ionisers work by creating a static charge around the airborne contaminants that are floating about in your room – such as dust, pet dander and other allergens. Once these are charged with static, they clump together and then stick firmly to the first surface they encounter, such as walls, carpets, furniture and tabletops. They can then be removed by normal cleaning activities. Ionisers leave the air feeling fresher because the contaminants are no longer floating around in the air, and there is also some research that suggests that environments with increased negative ions reduce our body's histamine production – which in turn reduces many of the unpleasant symptoms we've talked about in this article. Some dehumidifiers actually incorporate ionisers, so that's another feature worth looking out for.

At Best at hire , we stock a wide selection of dehumidifiers for hire suitable for both domestic and commercial uses. Please speak to one of our representatives who for assistance.

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