It’s getting to be that time. You’re trying to hold on to those last few days or weeks before you turn the heat on inside. Then, sinuses and colds kick in.

Humidifiers can be a great tool to help reduce symptoms of colds and seasonal allergies for adults and kids. However, to get the most benefit, you need to follow a few tips for proper care.

Benefits of a Humidifier

A humidifier puts moisture back into the air. Central heat can often dry out the air inside your home, and combined with cold, dry air outside, this can cause a lot of respiratory symptoms.

Adding moisture into your home can help keep your nasal passages lubricated, which lessens runny noses and nose bleeds. The humidity can also help keep your skin from getting overly dried out and ease those deep coughs you and your kids may get with colds.

Types of Humidifiers

You have three main choices of humidifiers for at-home use in a single room.

Steam vaporizers

These heat up water and put warm steam into the air. These are generally not recommended to use around children. The steam can burn them.

Cool mist humidifier

These are also called impeller humidifiers. They have a fan, wick, and tank to blow a cool mist into the room. These are fairly inexpensive and the most commonly recommended for colds or for kids’ rooms.

Ultrasonic humidifier

This type of humidifier uses ultrasonic vibration to put out a cool mist. These are quieter than the impeller type, but cost more.

Within the different types of humidifiers you can also find a range of features — filters, timers, humidity level readers, automatic shutoff, and more.

Care of a Humidifier

A humidifier is a great choice to help with allergies and respiratory symptoms; however, they can make these symptoms worse if not properly cared for.

Clean frequently

Your humidifier must always be kept clean. Any mold or bacteria that grows in the tank will end up in the air. Be sure to wipe out the tank every time you refill it.

Depending on the water in your home, you may want to use distilled water. Any minerals or impurities in tap water will be left in the tank or blown into the air.

For tanks with a wick or filter, you’ll want to let these dry out between uses and change them regularly.

Watch the humidity

Too much humidity can be bad for your home. Ideally, you should keep the humidity around 50 percent. Some humidifiers have settings to help you watch this. If the walls or floors have water on them, you’ll want to stop using the humidifier until the room dries out.

In addition, higher humidity levels encourage dust mites and mold to grow, making respiratory problems worse, especially if you have asthma.

With proper care and maintenance, humidifiers are an inexpensive, natural way to manage colds and allergy symptoms this winter.