Why You Should Proceed With Caution When Using a Humidifier to Treat Childhood Asthma Symptoms
A humidifier is a device that converts water into water vapor, then releases the vapor into your home environment in order to increase moisture in the air. Common uses include easing sore throats, stuffy noses, and any other cold-related symptoms that disrupt quality of breath or sleep, particularly when it is dry. While these devices may provide symptom relief for some children, humidifiers can pose certain risks for children with asthma if not properly regulated and cleaned.
If your doctor gives you the okay to use a humidifier and it seems to help alleviate symptoms for your child, there are a few guidelines that our asthma coach recommends in order to keep your household safe:
1. Keep the humidifier clean. This may seem like an obvious point, but we know it can be easy to overlook in day-to-day life. It is important to clean the humidifier very regularly as these devices can become a site for mold to grow due to the combination of moisture and heat. Keeping your humidifier clean means emptying the water tank on a daily basis and wiping it down with a clean cloth. This wipe-down can be done with distilled water, or undiluted vinegar to cut down on mineral buildup.
If you choose to de-sanitize with white vinegar, be sure to rinse the tank out with fresh distilled water afterwards. If your humidifier has a filter, it is also important to swap it out regularly with antimicrobial filters. Before sanitizing, we suggest consulting your humidifier’s user manual, as your model may have specific cleaning instructions that will suit your device best.
2. Make sure humidity levels do not exceed 50%. Ideally, humidity levels in your home should sit between 30-45%. While humidifiers can be useful to add moisture to the air if your house dips below 30%, any level above 45% has the potential to invite unwelcome bacteria, mold, or dust mites. We recommend using a hygrometer to measure humidity levels so that you can prevent any exposure to these potentially harmful asthma triggers. These can be purchased for less than $10 online, at a hardware store, or at most large retailers that sell home goods.
3. Use distilled water in your humidifier. It is likely that any humidifier you purchase will encourage the use of distilled water over tap. That’s because tap water contains minerals that create deposits within the device that can promote bacteria growth.
We hope these tips give you a better sense of why you should be cautious when using a humidifier and steps you can take to decrease some of those risks. Even with these tips, we still recommend consulting your doctor on the use of humidifiers prior to purchasing.