Breathe Easy: How to Pick the Best Humidifier for Asthma Relief

Extreme indoor humidity levels can trigger flare-ups and worsen asthma symptoms. If it's too little, your throat and nose can become dry and irritated, making it hard to control asthma. And if it is too much, asthma triggers like mites and molds may escalate and increase allergic reactions or respiratory infections. So you need to […]
February 5, 2024
Dr. Ves Gitchev
Dr. Ves Gitchev MD is the Director of Global Healthcare Partnerships at Science 37. A pioneer and innovator with nearly 2 decades of experience in the research industry, Dr. Gitchev's focus is on delivering the highest quality results to drive scientific advancement.

Extreme indoor humidity levels can trigger flare-ups and worsen asthma symptoms. If it's too little, your throat and nose can become dry and irritated, making it hard to control asthma. And if it is too much, asthma triggers like mites and molds may escalate and increase allergic reactions or respiratory infections. So you need to find a balance, and one way to do so is to use a humidifier.

But with so many options in the market, it can be hard to know the right one for your needs. This article will show you how to pick the best humidifier for asthma relief.

What is a Humidifier?

A humidifier adds moisture to the air in indoor spaces. It helps combat the adverse effects of dry air by releasing cool or warm vapor mist, creating a more comfortable environment. Dry air mostly happens during winter when you turn up the heat in your home. But it can also be due to dry climate. 

A humidifier can help you maintain the proper humidity levels in these cases. For high humidity levels, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce excess moisture.

How to Use a Humidifier

Humidifiers are pretty easy to use. Most of them are plug-and-play. But as with most devices, you’ll need to be careful, and ensure your humidifier is adequately maintained and regulated to avoid risks. So basically:

  • Keep the humidifier clean as per the cleaning recommendations. Avoid using harsh chemicals to clean because these may worsen asthma attacks. Use white vinegar instead.
  • Avoid tap water. Use purified or distilled water instead so bacteria won't form.
  • Change filters as advised.
  • Lastly, pay attention to your home's humidity levels and ensure it ranges between 30 and 50%.

Types of Humidifiers

There are many different humidifier options, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Here's a look at some:

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

This portable humidifier features a metallic diaphragm that vibrates at high frequencies to create a cool mist released into the air.

Advantages
  • They are generally quieter compared to other types, making them suitable for bedrooms
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers tend to be energy-efficient
  • Some models offer both cool and warm mist settings
  • Easy to clean and maintain
Disadvantages
  • More expensive than other options
  • Mineral dust buildup
  • Bacterial contamination may happen

Evaporative Humidifiers

These humidifiers use a fan to blow air through a wet wick or filter, causing water to evaporate into the air. They are eco-friendly and quiet and add a touch of nature to your home.

Advantages
  • More affordable than other types
  • They automatically adjust moisture output based on the surrounding humidity.
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • An excellent choice for asthma and allergies
Disadvantages
  • Mineral dust accumulation
  • Bacterial contamination
  • Operating noise from the fan

Central Humidifiers

Central humidifiers are integrated into the home's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Advantages
  • They can humidify the entire house, making them convenient for large spaces
  • Require less maintenance compared to standalone units
  • Can boost your home's value
Disadvantages
  • High upfront cost
  • Professional installation cost
  • Risk of mold and mildew

Impeller Humidifiers

Impeller humidifiers use a rotating disk to fling water at a diffuser, breaking it into fine droplets released into the air.

Advantages
  • Affordable
  • Often recommended for children's rooms due to their safety and gentle operation
Disadvantages
  • Mechanical noise

Steam Humidifiers

Also known as vaporizers, steam humidifiers heat water (using electricity) to produce steam that is cooled slightly before being released into the air.

Advantages:
  • Steam humidifiers are beneficial for relieving respiratory symptoms associated with colds and flu
  • Quiet operation
  • The heating process kills bacteria, making them hygienic
Disadvantages
  • Potential burns if the hot water inside the device spills
  • Low energy efficiency
  • Harder to clean

How to Buy the Right Humidifier for Asthma Relief

With so many humidifier options in the market, it can be overwhelming to know which one to settle for. Here are a few considerations to help you make the right choice. 

Type of Humidifier

A humidifier can be warm mist or cool mist; the cool ones release cool moisture, while the warm ones release warm moisture. Warm humidifiers tend to do a great job easing congestions that come with environmental asthma and allergies. But you’ll need to keep track of your home’s humidity level so it doesn’t become too much and attract dust mites.

If you prefer the cool mist humidifier, then it’s best to go for those that have air purifiers. This way, you can eliminate issues with impurities. Air purifiers help reduce irritants in the air, and also improve air quality.

Humidification Output

Humidifiers come in different sizes. The goal is to find one with an output capacity that matches the room you’ll use it on. And the best way to do this is to measure the room’s area (length by width) and check the specs on the device to see if it can cover the area. Note that the specification of an average humidifier assumes that the ceiling is 8ft high – so if your room has higher ceiling, factor that in too.

Noise Level

For bedrooms or other quiet spaces, choose a humidifier with low noise levels to avoid disturbance during sleep or other activities.

Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

Opt for a humidifier with easily removable components for straightforward cleaning. Regular cleaning is crucial to prevent bacteria and mold growth.

When to Seek Medical Help for Asthma

A humidifier might lessen the irritation of dry air and, therefore, prevent asthma flare-ups. But there's no hard and fast evidence that they are effective. You can try it, but ensure to adhere to the cleaning and maintenance recommendations. It's also good to keep your inhaler close in case of an attack.

Humidifier or not, if asthma symptoms persist, you should seek medical advice. You can also sign up for Science37 clinical trials. Our investigational inhaler has the potential to offer rapid relief for asthma symptoms and treat inflammation that leads to severe attacks in the first place. And the best part is it's all free, there's compensation for participation, and you get to do it all in the comfort of your own home. Click here to enroll in the study today.

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