Does a Humidifier Help with Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic, or long-term health condition that affects the lungs. Asthma sufferers often have inflamed and narrow airways in their lungs. This inflammation causes the airways to swell up, making it difficult for air to circulate effectively.

As a result, asthma sufferers may have what’s known as an ‘asthma attack’ where they struggle to breathe. This can be very dangerous. Luckily, you can monitor and effectively manage asthma. Let’s find out if using a humidifier can help an asthmatic by first discovering how humidity affects asthma:

How Humidity Affects Asthma

Humidity affects asthma in a number of ways. Air that is too humid is heavier, due to the increase of water particles. For people with asthma, this makes the air seem more difficult to inhale. Their lung pathways are often not big enough for sufficient air to be taken in as it is, so breathing in air that is too humid can be a real struggle.

Humidity and heat are often connected. In the summer months, humidity is usually higher, and there are usually more allergens in the air. As a result, the increased humidity by higher temperatures can also cause problems related to breathing for asthma sufferers. 

Moreover, too much humidity can actually reduce the quality of the air you breathe. Someone with asthma has to ensure their air quality is good to ensure they can inhale as much ‘good air’ as possible. Therefore, air that is too bogged down by water molecules can worsen the symptoms of asthma. 

Is a Humidifier Good for Asthma?

The quick answer to this is a cautious yes. Yes, it can be argued that humidifiers are good for asthma if the moisture content in the air is too low. Humidifiers work by forcing an invisible mist of water into the air you breathe. Thus, if your air is too dry and you use a humidifier, your asthma symptoms will be less severe.

However, for asthma sufferers, it is imperative to monitor moisture levels in the air very carefully. Why? Because both ends of the moisture spectrum will worsen symptoms. Dry air is bad because your airways are lined with a thin layer of fluid. This fluid evaporates as you breathe.

When the air is too dry, it evaporates too quickly, leaving your airways without the protection and lubrication the fluid provides. Dry airways like these are more likely to become irritated and swollen. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your indoor environment is not too dry.

Air that is too moist is also bad for asthma sufferers, so you have to be extra vigilant when using a humidifier if someone in your household has asthma. First, air that is too moist is too heavy, making it difficult to inhale effectively. Second, air that is too moist increases the level of allergens and encourages the growth of mold.

Allergens can irritate airways just as much as dry air, and the spores released by molds can become trapped in the airways. Clearly, air that is too moist is just as bad as air that is too dry with regards to asthma symptoms.

Thus, we can say that humidifiers are good for asthma, but only if you carefully monitor the moisture level in the home.

Does a Humidifier Help with Shortness of Breath?

Yes, a humidifier can help with shortness of breath. When you are short of breath, getting enough oxygen into the body becomes more difficult. Being short of breath can be caused by a number of factors, but it signals that the body has entered stress mode, or something like the fight or flight mode caused by a sense of danger

Thus, the most important thing to do in these situations is to become very aware of your breathing and do whatever you can to slow it down. Humidifiers help to relax your airways by ensuring the protective fluid does not evaporate too quickly. Moreover, adding moisture causes your airways to relax and open up, allowing you to breathe in more oxygen.

What Type of Humidifier is Best for Asthma?

All types of humidifiers are equal with regards to asthma. The key to alleviating asthma symptoms with a humidifier relies heavily on the maintenance of the machine itself. First, you are probably better off buying a humidifier that doesn’t use ultrasonic technology because this type of humidifier often emits a residue known as white dust. This white dust will detract from the overall quality of the air.

However, that being said, it is very easy to reduce or eliminate white dust altogether. All you have to do is ensure you use distilled water in your ultrasonic humidifier, and white dust won’t be a problem. Still, the sheer expense and inconvenience of having to buy a regular supply of distilled water may not be an attractive idea if you prefer to keep things simple.

When selecting a humidifier for an asthma sufferer, check out the features for anti-bacterial or filtering functions. The key to buying the right humidifier for someone with asthma is to ensure the air in your home will be as pure and allergen-free as possible. It’s also advisable that you look for features that will help you to monitor the moisture level. A display on the front of the unit that tells you the current moisture content in the air will be a very useful addition that will ensure the air doesn’t get too moist.

Cool Mist or Warm Mist Humidifier for Asthma?

A warm mist humidifier is better for someone with asthma than a cool mist humidifier. This is because warm mist humidifiers heat the water before they release it into the air. The process kills off a lot of the bacteria or allergens that may be present in the water. Warm mist humidifiers will release water that is purer, so the air in the room will be easier to breathe.

However, there will be times when you simply want the refreshing cool mist from a cool mist humidifier, and improving the moisture levels in your home already kills a large proportion of airborne viruses. Thus, the best thing you can do, if you can’t decide between the two, is to buy a humidifier that is cool and warm mist in one. These units will typically have a simple button to change your selection from cool to warm easily.

Humidifier or Vaporizer for Asthma?

Vaporizers are actually just a type of humidifier. The main difference between other types of humidifiers and vaporizers is the way they release moisture into the air. Humidifiers typically create mist using cold water, while vaporizers heat the water in order to create steam. It is worth noting that warm mist humidifiers and vaporizers aren’t technically the same, either. Warm mist humidifiers warm the water before release, but vaporizers actually use boiling water.

In this sense, then, we could argue that out of all the different types of humidifier, vaporizers might be best for asthma suffers. Boiled water will have much less contaminants than warm or cool water. Even better, the steam itself will open up and relax the airways more effectively.

Moreover, vaporizers are more likely to include functions and features that allow you to add other ingredients into the water. This might be essential oils or some kind of soothing vapor. Therefore, if you find a concoction  that will improve your breathing, the vaporizer will soothe your asthma symptoms even more.

Humidifier or Dehumidifier for Asthma?

Dehumidifiers are essentially the opposite of humidifiers. Humidifiers aim to increase the moisture level in the air, while dehumidifiers aim to decrease the moisture in the air. There is no correct answer to this question as it depends entirely on the moisture level in your home. If the air in your home is currently too dry, a humidifier is going to be better than a dehumidifier. If the air in your home has too much moisture, a dehumidifier is going to be better than a humidifier. 

The key thing to remember, no matter what device is best for you, is to maintain ideal humidity levels in your home. You should always aim for a humidity level of 40-45 percent. You can have a little bit more moisture if there are no asthma sufferers, like around 50 percent, but the air becomes too heavy to breathe at any percentage over 45 if you suffer with asthma. As such, it really doesn’t matter what device you choose to buy or technique you use as long as you keep within this safe and comfortable region.


Asthma can cause a lot of stress and discomfort in daily life. It can also be a serious problem if you don’t managed it properly. The first thing you should do if you suspect you have asthma is to consult a medical professional in order to find the best treatment to suit your needs. Humidifiers are only recommended as a supplemental aid for anyone with asthma. They are not designed to eradicate the symptoms; only alleviate them. Now that you have discovered how to use a humidifier properly for asthma sufferers, it can help you live a more pleasant daily life.

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Melanie Mavery is an aspiring HVAC technician who is fascinated by the trends and opportunities in the HVAC industry. She spends most of her day writing content on home improvement topics and outreaching to prospects.  She's always looking for ways to support HVACs!