Does a humidifier help with asthma?

Asthma is a common lung condition where air flow is disturbed due to narrowing of the airways which causes occasional breathing problems.  It is a long term or chronic condition that arises due to the inflammation of lungs and excessive mucus production that blocks the air passages. There are different types of asthma, some common types include; allergic, non-allergic and cough variant asthma. 

The most common symptom of asthma is wheezing which is characterized by a whistling or squealing sound while breathing. Asthma patients may also experience gasping of air, severe difficulty in breathing, coughing, tightness in chest and difficulty sleeping.

What is a humidifier?

A humidifier is a device used to increase the moisture content present in the air. It works by releasing water vapours or steam. It differs from an air purifier, which purifies the air by trapping the pollutants present.

Humidifiers do not have any effect on the pollutants or allergens present in the air, but they help to ease the breathing of asthma patients by keeping an optimum humidity level in the room where they are installed1,2. It is an efficient way through which the symptoms of asthma and the frequency of asthma attacks can be kept in check within the house.

Using a humidifier

Interestingly, the use of humidifiers can help to relieve the symptoms of an asthma attack as the level of humidity may affect the health of asthma patients. The lower the humidity, the drier the mouth and throat will be, which makes it harder to control asthma attacks.

In contrast, when there is a rise in the humidity level, the humid air is much heavier, and it is very difficult to breathe in. Therefore, the use of humidifiers can prove to be beneficial as this maintains humidity levels within an optimum range; thus, making it easier to manage and control the symptoms of asthma1,3.

The use of a humidifier will only be effective if it is maintained properly, otherwise it can easily become a breeding ground for moulds, virus and bacteria. The presence of these pathogens might eventually lead to a severe lung infection which can be fatal for asthma patients. There are a few guidelines that the asthma patient should keep in mind for the proper maintenance of humidifiers4

  1. Always use pure water like distilled water and purified water for the unit. Empty the standing water when the humidifier is not in use. Rinse and dry out the unit thoroughly and  always replace the unit with clean purified water.
  2. Using chemicals to clean the humidifier can cause irritation to the respiratory tract so a mild cleansing agent is recommended. 
  3. Use a humidifier that features UV light to prevent the growth of microbes.
  4. Avoid the overuse of humidifiers as it may increase the humidity level as highly humid air is heavier and more difficult to breathe in. 
  5. Always maintain the humidity level within the optimum range, between 30 to 50 percent in the room.
  6. Always change the air filter as and when required on a regular basis depending on the manufacturer’s instruction. 

Types of humidifiers

There are different models of humidifiers available based on vapour delivery methods. The most commonly used types for asthma patients are:

Steam vaporizer

This is where water is heated in the unit until it boils, and the steam formed is released into the air. This provides a warm humid environment.

Warm mist vaporizer

This is where the steam produced is cooled and vented out slightly heavier. So here the air will not get as hot as steam and it works efficiently when combined with central air as it emulates the exact room temperature.

Cool mist vaporizer

This is where water is vibrated to form small, tiny molecules and the formed mist is dispersed into the air which makes the room cooler.

The effectiveness of this type of humidifier does not only depend on the temperature of the room, but also on the size of the room in which it is used. Cool mist vaporizers are recommended for bigger spaces.

By choosing the correct humidifier, problems such as irritated asthma, dryness of mouth and throat, and nosebleeds can be prevented in a much more efficient manner. From the above discussion, we can conclude that humidifiers are not used to treat asthma, but rather to prevent the symptoms of it, as well as to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. However, you will need to maintain your humidifier properly before it can be benefitted from.


  1. The truth about humidifiers: do they hurt or help asthma sufferers? [Internet]. Heating & AC Contractors | HVAC Services | Air Professionals NJ. 2020 [cited 2021 Dec 14]. Available from:
  2. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction(Eib) [Internet]. ACAAI Public Website. [cited 2021 Dec 14]. Available from:
  3. Kalaci O, Giangioppo S, Leung G, Radhakrishnan A, Fleischer E, Lyttle B, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine use in children with asthma. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019 May;35:272–7.
  4. Do humidifiers help with asthma? [Internet]. Everlasting Comfort. [cited 2021 Dec 14]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Pavithra Saravanan

Pharmacist, MA Pharmacy, The Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, India
Pavithra Saravanan is a pharmaceutical professional and member in TOPRA. She completed her masters in pharmacy in Pharmaceutics department from The Tamilnadu Dr.M.G.R.Medical University, India. Pavithra has 2 years experience in Drug Regulatory Affairs, is equipped with knowledge in Clinical Data Management and Drug Safety and is currently working in the United Kingdom.

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