Admin on January 9, 2015 0 Comments One in four Americans suffer from allergies and asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each day, an estimated 30,000 people have an asthma attack, with approximately 5,000 visiting the emergency room as a result. Controlling humidity levels is one key to managing and relieving asthma symptoms. Asthma is a chronic disease that impacts the airways carrying air in and out of the lungs. With asthma, the inside walls of the airways become sore and swollen, making them sensitive and easily reactive to irritants. When airways react, they become narrower and the lungs take in less air. This results in coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Symptoms can be especially persistent early in the morning and at night. Certain environmental substances can trigger an asthma attack. The body of someone with asthma interprets these triggers as threats, and the lungs overreact by triggering an asthma attack. During a severe attack, airways can close so much that vital organs don’t get enough oxygen. In fact, approximately 4,000 people die annually from asthma attacks. Breathing cool, dry air can irritate nerves in the lungs, leading to inflammation and causing airways to constrict. On the other hand, warm, humidified air can relax lungs, allowing more air to make its way into the lungs. Humidifiers disperse moisture back into the air, helping sooth airways and allow for easier breathing. When using a humidifier for asthma relief, the placement of your unit is an important consideration. Place the unit away from draperies and furniture, and make sure the floor or carpet near the humidifier doesn’t become too damp. Excessive levels of humidity can lead to mold and bacteria growth, which will only exacerbate asthma and may trigger an attack, as well as potentially lead to other problems in your home. Humidifiers vs. Dehumidifiers There’s some debate over whether humidifiers are good for asthma. Increased humidity may ease breathing, especially during a cold or other respiratory infection. At the same time, increased moisture in the air can lead to the increased growth of allergens, such as dust mites, which can trigger or worsen allergy symptoms. If a humidifier isn’t properly cleaned, it can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which can then be released into the air and trigger an asthma attack. Steam vaporizers or evaporators may be slightly less likely to release airborne allergens than cool-mist humidifiers; however, even steam vaporizers require regular cleaning. While a humidifier may be a good investment in winter months or in drier climates, air conditioners or dehumidifiers can be equally important during hot, summer months or in more humid climates. Air conditioners dry the air and keep indoor humidity levels at a comfortable and safe level. Dehumidifiers collect excess moisture from the air and lower humidity levels. Regardless of whether you choose a humidifier or dehumidifier, the ideal humidity range for your home is between 30 and 50 percent. Once you have a humidity level that’s comfortable, use the humidistat feature to keep the humidity at a constant, comfortable level. If your unit doesn’t have a humidistat, you can measure humidity with a hygrometer, a device that measures the amount of moisture in the air. Care and Cleaning Keeping a humidifier clean is important for asthma sufferers. Mold spores, bacteria or other allergens released into the air along with the moisture can trigger an asthma attack. In addition to regular and thorough cleaning, it’s important not to allow stagnant water to sit in the tank for an extended time. Change water daily, especially if you’re using a cool mist or ultrasonic humidifier. Use distilled water or water with a low mineral content to prevent mineral buildup, which can promote bacterial growth. Clean humidifiers every three days using a 3-percent hydrogen-peroxide solution. Be sure to thoroughly rinse the tank after cleaning to keep harmful chemicals from becoming airborne when the humidifier is in use. Use demineralization filters or cartridges if recommended by the manufacturer, and change filters regularly. When storing a humidifier for an extended period of time, make sure it’s thoroughly cleaned and dry. With careful attention to cleaning and care, a humidifier can be an important part of asthma maintenance.