Nearly 25 million people in the US suffer from asthma. That’s 1 in every 13 Americans! Even more shockingly, for the first time in 20 years, deaths caused by asthma shot up in 2020 with over 4,100 fatalities.
While asthma is not a joke and can lead to loss of life if untreated, asthma can be manageable and patients can still have a good quality of life. One popular device homeowners with asthmatic family members install is a whole-house humidifier.
Do humidifiers help with asthma? Should you choose a cool mist humidifier or a warm mist device to relieve asthma-related symptoms? How does too little or too much humidity affect the health of asthma sufferers? Why should you go for a whole-house humidifier instead of a portable one if you have an asthmatic member of the household?
Take a deep breath and let’s dive into these topics.
Does A Humidifier Help With Asthma Symptoms?
Humidifiers do help with asthma. A humidifier increases the level of moisture in the air in your home. The correct humidity level can make asthma symptoms more bearable and can even prevent asthma attacks.
Here are five benefits humidifiers bring to asthma sufferers:
- Reduce swelling of airways. Asthma can cause the lining of one’s lungs to become inflamed, making it highly difficult to breathe. By introducing more moisture to the air you breathe via a vaporizing device, the airways relax and are soothed, easing the asthma patient’s breathing.
- Prevent nasal and throat irritation. Sinuses and the throat are parts of our body that need constant moisture to continue functioning properly. When the surrounding air is dry, these organs become stinging and irritated easily causing the breathing of an asthmatic person to be more labored. A humidifier can supply the necessary vapor, minimizing sinus and throat pains.
- Relaxes respiratory muscles. The bronchial muscles of a person experiencing an asthma attack tighten and shrink. This is the same feeling people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) where they feel like their chest is obstructed and burning at the same time. A humidifier gives relief by easing the airflow and helping expand the airways with increased humidity.
- Thins and loosens mucus. Mucus and phlegm production intensifies when you have asthma because the respiratory system becomes more vulnerable to irritants. Because this gel-like material is sticky, it causes nasal congestion which aggravates the breathing issues triggered by asthma. Humidifying the air will help loosen the mucus for easier discharge from the body, either by coughing it up or spitting it out.
- Improves breathing while sleeping. Asthma feels a lot worse at night, robbing you of much-needed sleep. This is because lying down puts added stress on your lungs and chest and you are more prone to post-nasal drip. The dripping of mucus to the back of your throat will lead to more coughing and wheezing. Sleeping with a humidifier on will alleviate the asthma symptoms, help you sleep better, and improve your health.
A whole-house humidifier is a great addition to your cooling and heating systems, especially if you have an asthmatic family member. They create humidity for the entire house and not just in specific rooms. Whole-house humidification is also less work to manage than several portable ones.
Whole house humidifiers are also better at preventing over-humidifying your home. Too much humidity may also trigger asthma symptoms.
Which Is Better for Asthma: A Cool Mist Humidifier Or A Warm Mist Humidifier?
Increasing the indoor humidity level to a proper degree is already adequate to relieve breathing issues in asthma sufferers, and maintains moisture to nasal cavities, throat, lips, and skin.
But since humidifiers are available as cool mist or warm mist humidifiers, some people are curious whether one offers a better service than the other in helping asthmatic patients.
Medical experts weigh in on the matter by discussing the pros and cons of each kind of humidifier so families can make an informed decision on which to get for their homes.
Cool Mist Humidifiers
- Soothe congestion
- Prevent sore throat
- Moisturize skin
- No risk of burns
- Available in evaporative, impeller, and ultrasonic variations
- Potential breeding ground for indoor mold, bacteria, and mineral deposits if unmaintained causing allergy
- Commonly limited to portable or room humidifiers only
Warm Mist Humidifiers
- Relaxes lung muscles
- Reduce tightness in airways
- Boost clean and fresh vapors from heated water
- Alleged to kill germs and bacteria in the tank as the water boils
- Whole house humidifiers work better with hot water than cold
- Hazard for burning if put within reach of children or pets
- Limited variety compared to cool mist humidifiers
How Does Excessive Use of Humidifiers Affect Asthmatic Patients?
Now that we are sold on the idea that using a humidifier to raise the moisture content in a home can help you deal with asthma and other respiratory problems, another concern is brought to the table: Can the overuse of a humidifier trigger asthma or exacerbate an asthma attack?
Humidity, or the amount of water vapor in the air, is a double-edged sword. Too little of it can make asthma symptoms worse, while too much humidity can trigger an asthma attack. How is that even possible?
As previously discussed, asthma restricts the breathing of a person because his airways become inflamed and bulgy. If the air is too dry due to cold weather paired with a running heating system, the nasal passages, sinuses, and throat lack moisture and become susceptible to irritation.
Once these glands and organs get irritated, they produce mucus which impedes the breathing of the asthmatic person even more, magnifying the respiratory problem.
On the other hand, inordinate use of humidifiers can lead to surging the humidity level beyond healthy limits.
When the air gets too damp, the air becomes stagnant and heavy. The sensitive nerves in your lungs are prompted to narrow and stiffen leading to extra harder respiration. This is the last thing you want to happen to a patient suffering from asthma whose breathing is strained.
Additionally, the unmonitored use of a humidifier can increase the humidity so much that your home becomes an ideal nest for mold, mildew, insects, and other air pollutants. If mixed with your breathing air, these can trigger an allergy which will lead to asthma attacks.
Why Is A Whole House Humidifier the Best for Asthma
To conclude, we have established that yes, humidifiers can help asthma sufferers, especially in a home with exceptionally low humidity levels. But we also learned that if the humidity in your home is too high, it can also present other serious problems for asthma sufferers.
How can we strike the balance?
Many homeowners found it helpful to install whole-house humidifiers to maintain the ideal humidity level of 30% to 50%. What are the advantages of going for a whole house humidifier system over purchasing several portable or room humidifiers?
- You can manage the moisture level in your entire home rather than having to control multiple devices in separate rooms.
- A whole-house humidifier is a great addition to your existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at fewer costs.
- Maintenance and servicing of your humidifier and HVAC systems are centralized so it is easy to keep tabs on your routine cleaning and maintenance schedule. Regular servicing of your humidifier can minimize the risk of the growth of indoor allergens that can trigger asthma.
- Whole house humidifiers have a humidistat, which functions similarly to a thermostat. But instead of regulating the temperature, it manages the level of humidity in your home and keeps it at the right level for your family’s specific needs.