Humidifiers and indoor allergies

Girl reading book on the background of humidifier

During the winter, dry air is often the cause of chapped lips, dry skin and irritated sinus passages. Doctors might advise that the moisture from a humidifier could soothe dry sinus passages. A humidifier might also provide comfort for some patients with persistent cough or asthma.

However, if you have indoor allergies, it is important to consider that the concentration of dust mites and mold might increase as a result of high humidity, and the humidifier might cause more harm than good.

The number one indoor allergen in frequency is the dust mite. Dust mites growth is favored where there is moisture. Moisturizing the air with a humidifier creates an environment for dust mites to proliferate.

Mold spores are a common trigger for people with allergies. The release of spores is favored by high humidity, which might happen indoors as well as outdoors.

In a house with mold growth, a dehumidifier might be more useful, especially in places with running water, such as the bathroom, kitchen or laundry room.

For allergy and asthma patients it has been recommended to keep the humidity level in your house between 30-45 percent (Center for Disease Control). You can monitor the humidity levels with a hygrometer, which might be found with thermometers for indoor temperature.

Also, it is important to clean the humidifier or dehumidifier on a regular basis so mold does not grow in the unit and blow into the home. If possible, use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier.

Houston is within the top ten list of American cities with highest humidity, averaging 90 percent in the mornings and 55 percent in the evening. Air conditioning systems decrease indoor humidity, however whether optimal humidity is reached indoors depends on characteristics of each dwelling.

If high humidity significantly improve symptoms, however indoor allergens are a concern, consider small water steamers that might be used for limited amount of time.

To learn more about Texas Children’s Allergy and Immunology, please click here.

Modified from guidelines of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. January 2014

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About Dr. Javier Chinen, immunology, allergy and rheumatology

I'm a specialist in allergy disorders and immunology defects. I've completed graduate studies in immunology, which provides me with the basis for the understanding of allergic and immunological mechanisms of disease. I strive to provide personalized care to my patients, with emphasis on sharing the knowledge needed to manage complex medical conditions.
Posted in 101, Allergies

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