While allergens, various chemicals, and strong odors are mostly known to trigger asthma and allergies, air humidity can cause just as many symptoms for someone with asthma. Humidity is defined as the concentration of water vapor that is present in the air. The higher the humidity, the wetter it will feel when you are outside. When you check weather reports, they will tell you the relative humidity. Is humidity good or bad for asthma? It depends on its levels, as the humidity should be neither too high nor too low.
Asthma causes inflammation of the airways and there are a few reasons why high humidity can aggravate the symptoms or trigger an acute attack:
- A humid air is harder and heavier to breathe for everyone, and even more for someone with asthma. Difficulty breathing leads to hyperventilation and tightening of the airways (bronchoconstriction), and which further aggravates the symptoms.
- Some allergens thrive on humidity. This is true especially for mold and dust mites, which are common asthma triggers. Ground level ozone, another air pollutant that can be problematic for those with asthma and allergies as it irritates the already inflamed airways. Individuals with allergies to pollen and pet dander on the other hand, may experience some symptom relief because these allergens tend to be lower amounts during humid days. However, rainy days lead to increased humidity but also stimulate the vegetative growth of the plant and boost the production of the pollen.
- Humidity often goes hand in hand with higher temperatures, as is typically the highest in the summer. For someone with asthma, very hot, very cold temperatures, or any sudden changes in the environment can trigger symptoms. Increased humidity just makes things worse.
More Details About Allergens, Humidity, And Asthma
- Dust mites.Dust mites are main allergens that contribute to symptoms of asthma and allergies and the development of asthma. Researchers found that the exposure to dust mites at an early age plays a key role in developing sensitivity to them. Furthermore, the indoor air humidity affects the survival and number of house dust mites, although the relationship varies with the type of dust mite. Dust mites thrive and multiply when humidity is above 50%, but they die when the humidity is maintained below 40-50%.
- Molds are living organisms that love oxygen and high humidity levels, growing best in damp places– especially in the shower, kitchen and basements. They produce a characteristic musty smell and tend to stain various surfaces on walls, carpets, furniture or ceilings. There are hundreds of thousands of types of mold. Mold spores are floating in the air and can trigger symptoms of asthma or allergies when inhaled. Some types of mold produce toxins that are poisonous when they are found in large amounts in the environment and a person is exposed to them. Individuals with weak immune systems are particularly vulnerable to these mold toxins. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all mold and mold spores indoors is virtually impossible to eliminate all the mold and mold spores from the indoors, but controlling the moisture can control the growth of the mold. EPA recommends to keep the indoor relative humidity below 60%– ideally between 30%-50%, if possible. These humidity levels limit the growth of dust mites and pests like cockroaches, too.
- Ozone levels. Ozone is a gas and one of the most common pollutants found in the air. It is easy to spot high ozone levels because it causes “smog” or haze. For individuals with asthma, the symptoms can worsen even when ozone levels are moderate ( when the quality air index or AQI is 51-100) because ozone irritates the lungs and reduces lung function. When the AQI is over 101, the ozone levels are considered dangerous for people with asthma.
What Is The Best Humidity Level For Asthma?
Maintaining the air humidity indoors between 30%-50% is best for individuals with asthma. In fact, everyone should feel comfortable with that. Increased humidity over 60% can trigger symptoms, and if the air is too dry the symptoms can also worsen.
- To maintain an optimal level of humidity indoors, it is important during the day to turn on the air condition and close the windows. During the night humidity drops and you can keep the windows open to get fresh air. It is worth investing in a dehumidifier, because they pull out excess moisture. The home should have good insulation to maintain the best temperature all year around. It is best to take short showers, to avoid excess humidity. An extra fan can be used in the shower.
- To prevent exposure to high humidity levels outdoors, check the weather channel. Avoid spending time outdoors when the humidity and/or heat are higher than normal. During these days, try to spend time outside during the early morning or evening. This is even more important if you plan to workout outdoors.
- It is also important to stay well hydrated and have rescue medication handy. Devices like Atomtube can effectively track humidity, atmospheric pressure, temperature, as well as pollutants like pollen, dust, mold, various volatile organic compounds