Humidity And Asthma: Is My House Humid Enough?
It’s pretty established that cold or dry air—or cold AND dry air!—can cause asthma symptoms.1 This is because without enough humidity in the air we are breathing into our lungs, our airways can become irritated. That’s the last thing those of us with asthma need!
I used to only think about humidity in the summer, when heading out to work at the daycare for example. However, it’s true that it’s important to keep in mind year-round - and not just when you’re outdoors, either.
Checking indoor humidity levels
As I sit here, my Atmotube device’s app is alerting me every 5 minutes or so as to the humidity of my house being too low. It’s been doing this to me for about, oh I don’t know, a month or more now? So maybe it’s about time I figure out what, exactly, is ideal and what to do about it.
The Atmotube device is telling me my house is at about 18% humidity. The app states that ideal relative humidity is between 40 and 60%. Health Canada verifies this, though giving a lower threshold, stating “[K]eep humidity low, about 50% in summer and 30% in colder weather.”2
The Government of Canada also tells me I can buy an “inexpensive” device called a Hygrometerat the hardware store to measure humidity (I just checked, they are about $27 CAD at Home Depot).
Humidity levels, your health, and your house
According to the Mayo Clinic, low humidity can cause dry skin, nasal and throat irritation (including nosebleeds), and even lead to itchy eyes from dryness!3 Dryness of the upper airways (nose) probably hints that, while not mentioned specifically, the airways in our lungs could be drier, too, so while too much humidity is also a problem for many with asthma, balance is important! Lower airway dryness can lead to irritation, potentially making lungs more “twitchy” when exposed to an asthma trigger.
It’s not just us humans, but our houses that can be negatively affected by low humidity. Many of us know that humidity that is too high in your home can lead to condensation and mold growth. However, potential structural damage to wood—yes, the very frame of your home!—can result from too much drying and low humidity levels, resulting in potential cracking. Wood floors and furniture are also prone to damage from humidity exposure that is too low.4
Maintaining proper household humidity
Knowing your home’s humidity level is the first step to being able to rectify low—or high—humidity levels. Ensuring all of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment is working well is a good first step, including inspection both indoors and outdoors. Using a humidifier or dehumidifier may be necessary, either as a standalone unit or connected to your HVAC equipment such as your furnace, but you may be able to take other steps, too.
It makes sense that steps to increase household humidity are often the opposite of what is recommended to decrease household humidity: adding plants (if not an asthma trigger), boiling water on the stove (I am not sure how much you’d have to boil to humidify a house adequately!), and air-drying clothes indoors, are all commonly stated ways to increase your home’s humidity without buying a standalone humidifier.5
Another website went so far as to say to distribute buckets of water around your house to help humidify… but honestly, that seems a little much, no? I haven’t made any changes yet, and I sure won’t be going that route!
Have you ever checked your indoor humidity levels or made changes to modify the humidity inside your house? Let me know in the comments!
Do you check the humidity levels in your home?
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