Warning: Using tap water in humidifiers can increase risk of Legionella bacteria
The cold dry air of a Central New York winter makes it hard for many people to sleep. Katrina Root from Syracuse uses a humidifier to help with her asthma symptoms but she also makes sure it is cleaned out at least once a week.
"I am allergic to mold too so I don't want to get anything where I can get sick or worse," said Root.
Humidifiers, vaporizers, nebulizers and anything that turns water into mist can also carry bacteria from the water. Legionnella bacteria is naturally occurring in all tap water but it only creates health problems when it is breathed in. Cayuga County Director of Community Health Services Andrea Simmons says that's why you should always use distilled water in humidifiers and vaporizers - anything that creates a mist -
"If you are using basic potable tap water in any of those machines you do increase the chance of Legionella," says Andrea Simmons.
Buying distilled water each week adds up but Katrina Root wants to reduce her risk of getting sick.
"I would rather do it and have health than not do it and not have health," said Root.
Humidifiers are not the only bacteria risk. Simmons says hot tub owners also need to make sure everything is clean and up to date on chemicals.
"As you are sitting in there and it is misting and steaming - again - if you inhale that, there is that potential," said Simmons.
Very young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk of contracting an infection.