Are Humidifiers Good For Asthma?

Approximately twenty-five million people experience asthma symptoms in the U.S. alone. That averages out to 1-in-13 people, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Although no cure is available, some things can help you avoid sudden asthma attacks. This includes taking medication as prescribed and avoiding common triggers.

Some also feel that having a humidifier in the home will help.

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What is a humidifier?

In its most basic form, a humidifier is a device that adds moisture to an otherwise dry environment. Therefore, many people feel that placing a humidifier in your home, especially if you have asthma, is a great idea. 

It may even help if you suffer from:

  • Bloody noses

  • Dry eyes

  • Chapped skin or lips

  • Dry skin

  • Allergies

  • Dry nasal passages

Dry air happens most often during the winter when you turn up the heat in your home to stay warm. This dry air can cause a variety of problems for those with asthma and even those who don’t experience asthma symptoms. 

For instance, dry air may be the reason why your family gets colds that last a long time, why you may cough more during the night, and even why you feel your favorite shirts clinging to you.

By adding moisture back into your home, you will keep your sinuses, throat, and lungs moisturized, which will make it easier for you to breathe. Therefore, the best features to look for in a humidifier include:

  • Quiet operation

  • Anti-Microbial

  • Extended run time

  • Easy controls

  • Safety features

Types of humidifiers

The best way to reduce the onset of coughing, wheezing, etc., with a humidifier is to choose one that will meet your needs. There are five types for you to consider, and each one will have its own unique benefits.

1. Central humidifiers

This option is the most beneficial but also the costliest. The size of your home and the type you choose may further increase the cost, though most people should expect to pay between $400-$2,500. You add it directly to your heating and air unit so that your entire home can stay at the right humidity level.

2. Evaporators

When using this humidifier, you will have a moistened filter in front of a fan. As the fan blows, it pushes damp air out into the room. It is not ideal for large spaces. This humidifier can provide relief for up to 500 square feet and can be purchased for about $50. 

3. Impeller humidifiers

Rather than a fan pushing moisture out, the impeller uses discs that can rotate at extremely high speeds. It is a good option for larger rooms, but may not be effective for your entire home. The cost of this type of humidifier can average between $30-$100, but it depends on how long you want it to last and what features you want it to have.

4. Ultrasonic humidifiers

These humidifiers use ultrasonic vibrations rather than rotating discs. They cost approximately $75and work effectively in rooms up to 500 square feet.

5. Steam vaporizers

Steam has always been an effective way to break up colds and reduce phlegm. These machines heat water and then cool it as it releases it into the room. It is the most portable and can be moved from room to room easily. 

Difference between a humidifier and a dehumidifier

When looking for a humidifier, you may also come across something known as a dehumidifier. They may sound the same, but their purposes are slightly different.

Whereas a humidifier adds moisture to an otherwise dry home, a dehumidifier will take the dampness out. Both can be useful during certain times of the year or based on your home location. 

The humidifier will be best in an area with a drier climate since it will reduce allergens, congestion, etc. The dehumidifier may be best in coastal areas or areas with plentiful rain and humidity because it will remove certain allergens, including mold and mildew.

For some, you may need a humidifier during the winter months when you are running your heater; but in the summer, a dehumidifier may be best. The goal is to keep your home's moisture content, or Relative Humidity (RH), between 30-50%.

Is a humidifier good for asthma?

If you struggle with asthma, you know very well its effects, including constricted bronchial muscles and inflamed airways. When an asthma attack occurs, it can cause phlegm and make it difficult for you to get a full breath of air.

Whether a humidifier can help with these symptoms is up for debate. There's no medical proof that it is effective in the prevention of sudden asthma attacks. However, many say it can help reduce the number of asthma attacks you experience, especially during the winter when the air inside your home or office is driest.

How do you use a humidifier for asthma?

If you want to give humidifiers a chance to see if they might help you get control of your asthma, you need to understand that there is a right way to use them. Failing to use them properly could mean that you end up escalating your breathing problems. 

Proper humidifier use includes:

Taking care of your humidifier

To ensure you get the maximum benefit from your humidifier, cleanliness matters! Every humidifier will have instructions for cleaning. Follow their recommendations, rinse it often, and avoid letting water become stagnant.

You should also avoid using harsh chemicals to clean it since they may make asthma attacks worse. A better option is to clean it with white vinegar at least once a week.

Consider the water you use with it

Water can become a breeding ground for bacteria. If this is a concern for you, then consider using purified or distilled water in your machine. It will make it harder for bacteria to form.

Pay attention to your home's humidity levels

Some humidifiers will come equipped with a humidistat to tell you the humidity level in your home. If you do not have one on your machine, you may consider getting one to ensure that your humidity level does not exceed 50%.

Consider choosing a higher-quality UV humidifier

Asthma attacks can be scary, and they can be deadly. Therefore, if you are trying to lessen their frequency, consider a higher-end machine that uses UV (ultraviolet light).

These UV lights sanitize the water coming out before it is released into the air to prevent mold and other fungi. This can be helpful if you plan to use the humidifier constantly in your home.

Risks of using a humidifier for asthma

The biggest risk of using a humidifier is whether you can keep up with its necessary maintenance. If you are unable to take care of your machine properly, it may cause asthma symptoms to become more severe rather than helping them to improve.

There is also the risk of increasing the mold in your home because too much humidity is released into the air. As your furniture and the air becomes damper, mold and mildew can form. 

Precautions

As with all electrical appliances, you should take precautions if you get a humidifier to help with asthma. For instance, avoid putting the humidifier near carpets, drapes, beds, and other absorbent surfaces. Putting a humidifier in these areas or near these surfaces can increase the moisture accumulation there, which could cause mold or mildew spores and make asthma worse.

Some risks may come from putting a humidifier near your electronic devices, where they can cause damage or increase the chance of electrical shocks. You should also avoid placing it in direct sunlight, which can cause an increased risk for bacteria formation inside the humidifier. 

Alternative treatment options

Besides using a humidifier, some other methods that could help reduce your asthma symptoms include: 

  • Practicing yoga breathing techniques: When you do yoga, there is an emphasis put on your breathing.

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is believed to be effective at treating various illnesses, including asthma. However, it may not be effective for everyone.

  • Exercise frequently: Exercise may increase your lungs’ ability to breathe more air and reduce asthma symptoms. However, if you get a flare-up of asthma when exercising, speak to your doctor.

Remember that none of these options have been medically proven, but they have helped some people. 

When to see a doctor

Asthma can be deadly. Therefore, remain connected with your doctor to ensure it stays under control. For most people, this means keeping up with yearly checkups.

Consult your doctor right away if you feel:

  • Dizzy or weak

  • Short of breath doing normal things (cooking, cleaning, etc.)

  • Wheezing more or if your wheezing gets worse even after you have taken your medication

  • Coughing more than normal

Call 911 or head to the nearest urgent care facility if you:

  • Notice your lips or nails are turning blue

  • Cannot walk or talk normally

  • Notice your nostrils flaring with each breath

  • Feel you are taking 30 breaths or more per minute

In short, if you have symptoms that make you feel that something is wrong, it is always better to be safe and contact your healthcare provider.

The lowdown

Managing asthma is tough, but there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself. For some people, this includes using a humidifier in their home and office. However, a humidifier is not something that will be effective for everyone, and it should replace your normal asthma medications. It is also something that should be used properly to maximize results.

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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