I want my folks to upgrade their humidifier. Their apartment complex just got a new boiler; the heat is relentless, and my dad had nosebleeds last week. How do I help them find the best one?
Josh F., Queens, New York
For optimal comfort and health, you want your home to have a relative humidity in the 30 to 50 percent range. Heating systems easily can drive RH below 10 percent, and that’s nosebleed territory.
So, you might want to get one humidifier for the bedroom and one for the living room, etc. Definitely start with one in the bedroom, and the sooner the better.
There are two types of humidifiers: warm mist and cool mist. Warm mist sends out steam, while cool mist uses a fan to blow humidity out into the room through a filter. You’ll need to consider factors such as machine noise, maintenance of water tank and filters, whether you want the machine to have a humidistat and a timer (to regulate the room’s humidity throughout the day) and, of course, the size of the room being humidified.
According to Consumer Reports, small humidifiers cover rooms up to 300 square feet; medium-range humidifiers are good for rooms 300-499 square feet; and large humidifiers are for rooms 500-999 square feet.
Maintenance: It matters! If you don’t keep humidifiers clean, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria and mold. So:
▪ Use water that’s been well-filtered and/or distilled. Impurities in tap water may be inhaled, and that can trigger respiratory problems.
▪ Use humidifiers with removable tanks that can be emptied and cleaned.
▪ Twice a week, wash the tank with a 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide or a 3:1 mixture of distilled water and vinegar; let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with tap water.
▪ Change filters regularly; never let them develop discoloration or mold.
Humidifiers aren’t very expensive, and good ones greatly improve quality of life.
I have been taking ibuprofen daily for a couple of months because of a herniated disk. My blood pressure used to be 125 over 80, but now it’s 155 over 110, and my doctor says I need to stop taking the OTC pain med. Why would it raise my blood pressure?
John M., Akron, Ohio
All nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, as well as prescription-strength cox-2 inhibitors, can have cardiovascular side effects. But it’s hard to predict how each type will affect you.
So much depends on the dose, the length of time you’re taking them and your individual physical condition.
But research shows that NSAIDs can trigger hypertension even in folks who start out with a healthy blood pressure. The NSAIDs’ main blood pressure effect seems to come from the fact that they cause water retention, increasing the blood volume in your body, and reduce sodium excretion. They also might constrict vessels, pumping up pressure.
One exception: Although aspirin is considered an NSAID, in low daily doses it has shown no negative effect on blood pressure.
Now, if you already had high blood pressure, NSAIDs could raise your risk for stroke — and make antihypertensive medications less effective (aspirin lowers your risk). Seems the pain relievers stimulate aggregation and activation of clot-forming blood platelets, and alter blood flow to the kidneys, too. (Aspirin does the opposite here also.)
Whatever your situation, if you start taking NSAIDs for more than a couple of days, we advise you to meet with your health-care provider so that he or she can provide blood tests or other tests (including a kidney function test) to determine how effective your treatment is and to look for any harmful side effects.
One last note: Acute pain itself can raise blood pressure!
So to lower your blood pressure, protect your cardiovascular system and ease your disk-related pain without OTC pain meds, we suggest massage, acupuncture/electro-acupuncture, physical therapy and meditation.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To submit questions, write to Drs. Oz and Roizen, 300 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019-5238, or visit sharecare.com. Their column appears Monday.