Humidifier vs. Dehumidifier: Which Is Better For Asthma?

For people with asthma, managing the humidity levels in their homes can make a significant impact on their overall health. Having too little humidity inside the house can cause your throat and nose to become dry, increasing the irritation. This makes colds worse, and asthma becomes more challenging to control. On the other hand, having too much humidity will allow allergens such as mold and dust mites to thrive, triggering an asthma attack. Very humid air also makes it difficult to breathe, putting a lot of strain on the respiratory system and triggering an asthma attack. This is why maintaining the right humidity level inside your home or office can significantly help in reducing your asthma symptoms. Read on to find out more about should you use a humidifier for asthma?

The Relation Between Humidifiers and Asthma

The Relation Between Humidifiers and Asthma

A humidifier works by adding either cold or warm moisture to the air in the form of a mist. It helps regulate the humidity of your home, but it is essential to control and maintain a humidifier, or else it can worsen the symptoms of asthma.

According to the National Asthma Council, indoor humidity levels should be kept within a range of 30 to 50 percent for people with asthma.(1) This humidity level is also considered to be most comfortable for most people, even those who don’t have asthma.

Typically, the humidity levels inside a house get affected by the weather conditions outside and also by the outdoor air temperature. During the winter season or in cold weather, the air inside the home tends to be dry, and with more and more people using indoor heating, it only increases the dryness inside.

On the other hand, if you live in a place that has a dry climate all year round, then there is not going to be adequate moisture present in the air.

In either of these conditions, having a humidifier can help you maintain just the correct amount of humidity inside the house.(2)

However, there is no medical evidence to show whether humidifiers are effective at alleviating asthma symptoms or not. Nevertheless, it is a fact that if the indoor air gets too dry, it can negatively affect your respiratory system and your airways, triggering an asthma attack. In such cases, having a humidifier may prove to be helpful.

If you do decide to keep a humidifier, then there are certain things to keep in mind:

If you run the humidifier nonstop or on a very high setting, then it can worsen the symptoms of asthma as it can make the air too humid.

If you are using tap water to fill your humidifier, airborne minerals from water can also cause irritation to your lungs.

Humidifiers can worsen the symptoms of asthma if they are not cleaned frequently or properly. A dirty humidifier can quickly become a breeding ground for fungi and bacteria, which they then release into the air.

Cleaning your humidifier with bleach or products that contain harsh chemicals can also cause irritation to your lungs and airways.

What About Dehumidifiers & Can It Help In Asthma?

Dampness and humidity in the air can occur in any type of climate, regardless of whether it is hot or cold outside. Breathing in heavily humid air can lead to respiratory distress, which worsens asthma.

While humidifiers add water to the air, dehumidifiers are devices that remove the water from the air. Using a dehumidifier can help in bringing down the humidity inside a home in an overly humid climate. Dehumidifiers also decrease the buildup of dust mites and mold in the house.

If you already have mold present in the house, a dehumidifier won’t be able to remove it, but it can reduce or prevent the additional growth of mold.

Dehumidifiers can help people with asthma in the following ways:(3)

  • By stopping the growth of mold
  • By eliminating dust mites
  • By focusing on troubled areas in the house to maintain the humidity levels

Humidifier vs. Dehumidifier: Which Is Better For Asthma?

There is really no clear answer about whether a humidifier is better for asthma or a dehumidifier works best for people with asthma. The answer to this question truly depends on the individual and their asthma triggers. It also depends on which type of climate you live in. It can indeed be confusing to decide which appliance you need.

If you find that your home becomes very dry during certain times of a year, then using a humidifier can add more humidity to the indoor air, allowing you to breathe better.
On the other hand, if the opposite is true and you are living in a damp environment, then using a dehumidifier can help make the air dry, allowing you to breathe easier.

You also need to take your present health under consideration before deciding which appliance you need. Many people tend to just automatically reach for a humidifier when they suffer from a respiratory infection or have a cold. They believe that breathing in humid and moist air will help clear up the congestion. Many doctors also recommend using a humidifier when you have a cold and bad congestion.

Using a humidifier can also make it easier for you to breathe in some circumstances, but if you have an allergy to mold or dust mites or these are the common triggers for your asthma, then it can make your respiratory infection worse.

If you are considering buying a humidifier and you or a family member has asthma, then keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ensure that the humidifier is cleaned properly every one to three days, and it remains free of any mineralized crusts.
  • Make sure to change the humidifier filter on a weekly basis or as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Use distilled or demineralized water to fill the humidifier. Avoid using tap water.
  • Wash the humidifier with natural cleansers such as mild dish soap or white vinegar. Avoid using harsh chemical cleaners or bleach for cleaning.

Conclusion

If you find that your house has an overly dry environment, then using a humidifier can help make the environment more comfortable for people with asthma. This ensures that the air is less irritating and easier to breathe, avoiding any strain on your respiratory system.

However, if a humidifier is not cleaned and maintained properly, then it can worsen the symptoms of asthma. This also promotes the growth of microbes that the person might be allergic to, thus triggering an asthma attack.

Asthma can affect the quality of your life, but following your treatment plan and making certain adjustments to your lifestyle can help improve your condition significantly.

References:

  1. Nationalasthma.org.au. (2020). The National Asthma Council Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/news/2016/indoor-humidity [Accessed 9 Mar. 2020].
  2. Singh, M., Bara, A. and Gibson, P., 2002. Humidity control for chronic asthma. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (2), pp.CD003563-CD003563.
  3. Singh, M. and Jaiswal, N., 2013. Dehumidifiers for chronic asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews,(6)

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