One in four Americans suffers from allergy and asthma, according to recent statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you fall into this group, you may try lots of techniques, including running a humidifier, to relieve your symptoms. But did you know that using a humidifier can actually be worsening your condition?

Humidifiers come in different shapes and sized but their goal is generally to add moisture into the air, either using water vapor or steam.  This extra moisture can help prevent or treat dry lips, dry skin and dry nasal passages that are common inconveniences caused by dry air. Yet many humidifiers also create an optimum environment for mold spores, bacteria and dust mites to form, and these are common asthma triggers.

Is Using a Humidifier Worth the Risks?

If you think that a humidifier might help you to breathe better, it is important to talk to your doctor first to be sure that the benefits you get will outweigh the risks.  If you get the go-ahead, here are some easy steps you can take to maintain your humidifier properly and keep your airways functioning at their best:100407

  • Invest in a hygrometer (they start at about $10 for a basic plastic model available at most hardware stores) to measure your home's humidity level or the amount of moisture that exists in the air.
  • Understand that between 30 and 50 percent humidity is ideal and be prepared to monitor your home regularly to be sure it stays in this healthy range.

  • Choose a steam vaporizer instead of the cool mist variety to minimize allergens from being released into your air. (Just be careful if you have young children, since these can heat up quickly and be dangerous.)

  • Use distilled water instead of tap with your humidifier.

  • Replace the water with each use to prevent any deposits to build up inside the reservoir.

  • Deep clean the device at least a few times a week with bleach or hydrogen peroxide to remove any mineral deposits.

  • Change filters regularly (follow the manufacturer's guidelines).

  • Be on the lookout for signs of wetness near the humidifier, which can mean there is too much moisture in the air.

Starting Fresh Has Benefits

Some physicians also suggest replacing your humidifier each season. These start at about $25 for a simple model, which can be a small price to pay for relief of dry air without triggering your asthma symptoms.