Dryness and irritation
Keep waking up with dry skin and stuffy sinuses? Try a humidifier. Adding moisture to your room can make a big difference in how you look and feel, especially if you have dry nasal and sinus passages, and are uncomfortable during the arid winter months, explains Clifford W. Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and a clinical instructor at the New York University School of Medicine.
Humidifiers make for easier breathing when you or your kids have a cold, too. Just be sure to clean them frequently, Dr. Bassett says, to reduce mold and bacteria growth that can trigger allergies and asthma.
To help you feel great all winter, we road tested both cool- and warm-mist humidifiers. (You can use either, Dr. Bassett says; they work equally well.) Read on to find the best pick for you.
Best Home Buys Winner
Honeywell HCM350W Germ Free Cool Moisture Humidifier ($70; amazon.com)
Low humidity can lead to dry skin, itchy eyes, and irritated sinuses; it can even dry out the mucous membrane lining of your nasal passages, making you more susceptible to respiratory infections during cold and flu season. (Between 30 and 50 percent humidity is the sweet spot; higher can allow mold to grow.) Turn the dial on this secret weapon, which uses UV light to kill microbes that might be in the water. Keeping your humidifier clean and mold-free is crucial: This model is also a snap to wash, either by hand or in the dishwasher.
Best for kiddies
Crane Frog Cool Mist Humidifier; Model: EE-3191 ($40)
The Scoop: This humidifier is so darn cute, one tester went in skeptical but was pleasantly surprised. “The base was heavier-duty than I thought it would be, and the water lasted all night,” she said. The cool mist is perfect for young ones (it eliminates the risk of scalding). And if the tank is low, the machine automatically shuts off.
Bonus: It’s compact enough to fit in even the smallest nurseries.
Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier ($40; amazon.com)
The scoop: Humidifiers can be a nightmare to keep clean; not so with this warm-mist model from Vicks. The basin—which holds 12 hours worth of water—detaches for easy scouring.
Bonus: This unit comes with a medicine cup so you can add an inhalant that produces a soothing, medicated vapor.
Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier; Model: AOS 7147 ($170)
The Scoop: This überquiet humidifier creates mist through high-frequency vibrations, not rotating disks and fans. It automatically maintains humidity levels (just turn the knob to set it) and has an antibacterial system in the base. “When I woke up, I didn’t feel dry and stuffy,” one tester raved.
Bonus: A device inhibits mineral buildup.
Tips from the allergist
Check the humidity. If your machine doesn’t have a humidity gauge, buy a hygrometer. We like Holmes's ($13).
Overdid it? Use the AC. To bring down the humidity fast if your room starts to feel like a sauna, turn on the air-conditioning for a few minutes.
Clean it up. To keep your machine bacteria-free, be diligent about removing and cleaning the tank according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Be extra careful. If you have asthma or allergies, it’s crucial to avoid high humidity levels, which promote the growth of mold and dust mites.