How To Correctly Use Humidifiers To Reduce Allergy Issues

Ile Kauppila

Written By

Ile Kauppila

Expert Reviewed By

Josh Mitchell

Last Updated On

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My nose runs, I keep sneezing, and my ears just will not stop itching. My allergies are awful — and dry air makes it all worse.

Fortunately, I’ve found an easy and affordable solution! A humidifier helps with many of my allergy symptoms — and it can also help with yours.

But you must use humidifiers correctly or you could risk only making your allergies worse.

In this guide, I will teach you how humidifiers help with allergies and how you can use one safely.

Key Takeaways

  • Yes, a humidifier can help with seasonal or year-round allergies caused by pollutants and sensitivities to certain contaminants.
  • Take extra measures in maintaining the humidifier and keeping it clean if you suffer from allergies.
  • Always use distilled water with humidifiers to keep airborne allergens at a minimum.

4 Ways A Humidifier Can Help Relieve Your Allergies

A humidifier CAN help with allergies and bring you relief.

My life is much more tolerable during allergy season, thanks to my ultrasonic humidifier.

How do the units do it, though?

Here are 4 major ways a humidifier can help with allergies:

1. Keeps The Nose And Throat From Drying Out

how humidifiers can help alleviate allergy symptoms

Many allergies — like mine — dry your nasal passages, throat, and ears which causes irritation, coughing, mucus secretion, and even nosebleeds.

A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which in turn keeps the mucous membranes of your nasal cavity moist.

Well-moistened membranes are less itchy and fragile, so you’re likely to cough less and have fewer nosebleeds.

Even your ears itch less, if you suffer from that issue like I do.

Your body also doesn’t need to produce excessive mucus to keep your membranes wet, so you’ll experience fewer stuffy noses and reduced sinus inflammation.

Finally, allergens are less likely to stick to moistened nasal tissues.

You can more easily blow them out of your systems, which will ease symptoms from allergies.

TL;DR: Moistened nasal passage can keep your nose and throat healthy.

2. Helps Maintain The Body’s Defense System

As I mentioned, dry membranes in your nose and throat are vulnerable to attacks from allergens.

Using a humidifier introduces more humidity into the air, which aids in keeping your nose and throat well-moistened.

You can think of air moisture as a lubricant for your airway. It makes it harder for allergens and particles to stick to your body.

As a result, when you blow your nose, the airflow will kick the unwelcome pollutants out of your irritated nasal passages.

With fewer allergens sticking around, your immune system can more effectively tackle those that remain.

I’ve experienced much less severe reactions from allergens as my body can properly defend itself.

TL;DR: A lubricated airway makes it hard for allergens and micro organisms to stick to thus bolstering your immune system.

3. Reduces Airborne Particles Due To Condensation

What many people don’t realize is that humidifiers improve indoor air quality.

By maintaining healthy indoor moisture levels, you can reduce the number of airborne particles.

This is due to condensation. The water vapor your humidifier produces condenses around pollen, dust, and other air contaminants.

The forming water droplet weighs the particles down and drags them to the ground — and you can then effectively vacuum them up.

While your body is battling off allergens, you may be vulnerable to cold and flu viruses.

Air humidity between 40-60% can reduce the number of viruses in indoor air. As such, you’re less likely to catch a cold that could aggravate your allergy symptoms. (1)

TL;DR: Vapor from humidifiers can drag the airborne allergens and contaminants down. 

4. Soothes Dry And Irritated Skin

Humidifier can keep your skin moisturized

Many allergies can cause skin conditions, such as dry and itchy skin, eczema, and dermatitis. A humidifier can soothe these irritating conditions by adding moisture to the air.

The higher indoor air humidity can prevent moisture from evaporating off your skin.

Your skin stays moist and won’t dry out, which can reduce itchiness, inflammation, and red splotches.

Additionally, as humidifiers can reduce the amounts of allergens in the air, your skin conditions are less likely to flare up.

As a cherry on top of it all, you’ll save money by using less skin lotion, cream, and ointment to treat your dry skin!

TL;DR: If you suffer from dry skin conditions, or if your skin is susceptible to allergic reaction, a humidifier can help.

How Different Humidifier Types Keep Your Allergies Away

You should pick the right kind of humidifier for your home and health to avoid making your allergies worse.

Here I will compare different humidifier types to help you make the right purchase.

Warm Vs. Cool Mist Humidifiers

Types of humidifiers

Humidifiers are generally split into warm and cool mist humidifiers. Both pump moisture into the air, but they do so in different ways.

Warm mist humidifiers, also called steam humidifiers, use a heating system to boil water and release steam vapor.

The warm moisture they provide can soothe inflammation and is a particularly good fit for cold climates.

Important Note:

Warm mist humidifiers should be avoided if you have kids or pets as the device's high temperature can cause burns.

A cool mist humidifier produces a cold cloud of water vapor through various methods, depending on the device.

The cool mist may be more comfortable to breathe, so these units are a great choice for allergies and around children.

They are also very easy to clean, although they require more regular cleaning since there’s no boiling water to sterilize them.

TL;DR: While both warm and cool mist humidifiers serve the same primary function - to increase the humidity levels, cool mist are considered safer.

Evaporative Vs. Ultrasonic Humidifier

ultrasonic vs evaporative humidifiers

Evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers are the two main types of cool mist humidifiers. Both are efficient at providing allergy relief but they work very differently.

Evaporative humidifiers suck water from the tank into a wick filter.

A fan blows air over the wick, turning the moisture into water vapor and distributing it into your home.

Evaporative humidifiers can filter allergens out of the water, but they are pretty noisy.

Important Note:

Natural evaporative humidifiers are a special type of evaporative humidifiers that do not have a fan and are completely silent. They are not as effective as fan-powered evaporative humidifiers though.

Ultrasonic humidifiers use high-frequency vibrations to break water into tiny droplets and release it into the air (They are my favorite type!). The evaporating fine water mist then increases air moisture.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are practically silent, so I like keeping one in my bedroom to help ease my allergy symptoms during the night.

TL;DR: Evaporative humidifiers have the added benefit of a filter, ultrasonic humidifiers are quieter.

Whole-House Humidifier – For Maintaining Humidity Throughout Your Home

how does a whole house humidifier work

If your entire home suffers from low humidity levels, a whole-house humidifier can be what you need.

Whole house humidifiers attach to HVAC system to provide moisture throughout your home.

Whole-home humidifiers can be a very effective option for treating allergy symptoms in dry, warmer climates.

However, they can be rather expensive and challenging to install.

4 Common Types Of Home Allergies Explained

Humidifiers can help with allergies — but which kinds? My humidifier relieved my allergy symptoms, but many things can cause allergic reactions and humidifiers may not be able to address all of them.

Here’s my quick breakdown of the 4 most common types of allergies that can be treated with proper humidity levels. (2)

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies are triggered by a variety of factors associated with the change of season.

In spring, the increased pollen levels can cause irritation and inflammation (which is why I don’t really look forward to spring).

In winter months, the general relative humidity falls, which can dry out your airway.

A humidifier can help with all kinds of seasonal allergies. Higher indoor humidity can lower the amount of pollen wafting around in the air inside your home and help your body expel pollen particles.

Meanwhile, in winter, moist indoor air can prevent your membranes from drying out, reducing coughing, mucus production, sore throats, and other flu-like symptoms.

TL;DR: Optimal humidity levels help combat airborne pollen reducing chances for spring allergies.

Cat & Dog Allergies

A humidifier can help you in many ways if pet dander triggers your indoor allergies.

Perhaps the biggest advantage is helping your furry friend. Proper humidity levels keep your pet’s skin and fur moisturized, which can help reduce dander.

The increased humidity can also condense on airborne dander particles and pet hairs, weighing them down and making them easier to vacuum up.

Finally, some models come with air filters that can help remove some pet dander from the air.

TL;DR: As vapor condenses around airborne fur and dander, it drags it down reducing its saturation in the air.

Skin Allergies

Certain allergies cause skin issues, like dryness, chapped lips, redness, itchiness, and more. Dry air only makes these symptoms worse, as I know painfully well.

Adding moisture to dry indoor air can help relieve skin problems brought on by allergies.

The humid air moisturizes your skin, which can prevent or relieve itchiness and cracking.

A humidifier may not address the cause of your allergic skin reactions, but it can make dealing with them more tolerable.

TL;DR: A well moisturized skin responds better to allergens and pollutants in the air.

Dust Mite Allergies

Dust mites are very common allergens and they thrive in high humidity.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends keeping your home’s humidity levels below 50% to prevent excessive dust mite infestation. (3)

If dust mites trigger your allergies, I recommend investing in a humidifier with a built-in humidistat.

This kind of device allows allergy sufferers to keep the humidity at a healthy level that can relieve allergy symptoms while preventing it from rising too high.

However, if you live in a region with high natural humidity, you might be better off getting an energy-efficient dehumidifier to lower humidity levels.

TL;DR: Dust mites are the ugly side of excessive humidification. Do not let humidity rise beyond 50% if dust mites are the cause of your allergies.

How To Use Humidifiers Correctly For Allergy Relief

Before you start using a humidifier to alleviate your allergies, there are a few things you should know for setting up and using the device.

Here are my tips and warnings for using your humidifier for allergy relief:

Keep Humidity Levels Between 30-60%

What are the Optimal Humidity Levels

Excessive humidity encourages the growth of dust mites, which can make your allergies worse.

Invest in a hygrometer or a humidifier with a built-in humidistat to monitor humidity levels.

Use Only Distilled Water – The Purest Form Of Water

use only distilled water in humidifier

Tap water can contain minerals and waterborne bacteria that can cause breathing difficulties or trigger allergies.

Always use distilled or demineralized water to fill your humidifier to prevent mineral deposits and bacteria growth.

TL;DR: Using the wrong type of water can in fact increase the chances of triggering an allergic reaction.

Keep Humidifier Clean And Tidy

Humidifiers require frequent cleaning to prevent them from spewing bacteria and mold spores into the air.

Clean your humidifier at least once a week with a water/vinegar solution, although I recommend doing so every other day.

Remember To Replace The Filter Often

If your unit has one, you should replace the humidifier filter regularly. A dirty filter can grow mold and allow allergens to enter indoor air.

Choose The Right Place For A Humidifier

Living room humidifier placement

Pay close attention to where you place the humidifier, especially to the humidifier in a baby’s room. Incorrect placement could cause humidity issues and aggravate allergy symptoms.

TL;DR: Observing best practices like using distilled water, performing regular maintenance, and being mindful of proper placement will give you the best benefits from a humidifier and also improve its longevity. 

FAQs

What Is Better For Allergies: A Humidifier Or An Air Purifier?

Whether a humidifier or air purifier is better for you depends on the cause of your allergies.

If you’re allergic to air impurities, like dust mites or pet dander, then an air purifier will probably serve you better. But if dryness triggers allergies, I recommend a humidifier — or perhaps both devices.

What Kind Of Humidifier Is Good For Dry Cough?

The best kind of humidifier for a dry cough is a cool mist humidifier, as you can keep them running safely for a long time.

However, both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers are effective at treating a dry cough.

Do Cool Mist Humidifiers Make The Room Cold?

No, cool mist humidifiers do not make rooms any colder.

Although they produce cold water vapor, it doesn’t lower room temperatures — and the increased humidity may even make you feel warmer.

Do Humidifiers Make The Room Warmer?

Humidifiers don’t generally make a room warmer, although the higher humidity can make you feel less chilly.

A warm mist humidifier could produce a slight warming effect immediately around it, but it’s typically not enough to impact the room’s overall temperature.

In Short, Humidifiers Help With Allergies

So does a humidifier help with allergies? The answer is YES!

Humidifiers are an amazing solution for allergy relief, especially if your allergies result from dry air.

Even if your allergies are a result of airborne particles — like mine are — a humidifier can bring you much-needed relief.

You just have to use the right humidifier in the right way.

With my guide, you’re ready to soothe your allergies with a humidifier that’s the best for you!

References:

  1. https://www.hcplive.com/view/humidifiers-decrease-levels-of-flu-virus-in-homes
  2. https://aafa.org/allergies/types-of-allergies/
  3. https://aafa.org/allergies/types-of-allergies/insect-allergy/dust-mite-allergy/
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Ile Kauppila

MA Multimedia Journalism / BA English Philology

Ile Kauppila
Ile Kauppila is a globetrotting writer and editor living in Virginia. Ile holds an MA degree in Multimedia Journalism and a BA in English Philology. Ile has written for a variety of home, HVAC, and energy-related websites and publications. He has covered HVAC solutions, insulation, and energy-efficient construction, automotive AC systems for multiple auto dealerships and garages.

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