According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 19 million adults and over 6 million children in the US who suffer from asthma. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs. Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Depending on the individual, these episodes may occur a few times per month, per week, or even per day and can be triggered by numerous environmental factors.
If you or someone you love suffers with asthma, then you are very well aware that the air quality in your home can impact the disease. You may have even had a doctor or respiratory therapist recommend that you use an air purifier or humidifier at home to help relieve the symptoms.
Both air purifiers and humidifiers offer unique benefits to people looking for help with allergies, asthma and other respiratory ailments. But air purifiers and humidifiers are not the same thing, and to get the help you need, you should understand the differences and how to use each machine most effectively.
What Does an Air Purifier Do?
As the name suggests, an air purifier cleans the air in your home by removing harmful pollutants. Most air purifiers on the market use one of two – and sometimes a combination of both – a HEPA filter and/or an activated carbon filter.
A HEPA filtration system removes microscopic particles from the air such as bacteria, pollen, dust, pet dander and mold spores. As powerful as HEPA filters are, they cannot trap gaseous matter, only particles. That’s where an activated carbon filter comes in.
Activated carbon filters are designed to trap volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are off-gassed from numerous common household products like furniture and cleaning products. Both gasses and common allergens like pollen and dander can trigger an asthma attack. People with allergies and/or asthma use an air purifier to remove the triggers from their environment. This can greatly reduce the symptoms of asthma and reduce the frequency of attacks.
What Do Humidifiers Do?
A humidifier does not clean the air, rather it adds humidity to it. Some humidifiers boil water into steam and then send vibrating water droplets into the air using ultrasonic technology. Other units may evaporate the water using a fan and wick.
It’s important to mention that humidifiers that use ultrasonic technology may also introduce tiny mineral particles into the air if you use tap water instead of distilled water. While the health effects of these particles are not clearly known, current research suggests that they could negatively impact lung tissue. That’s why the EPA recommends always using distilled water in your humidifier and cleaning and disinfecting it regularly.
While humidifiers have no impact on the allergen levels in the air, they can help upper respiratory symptoms feel less severe. When our nasal passages are dry and irritated, it can make us feel very sick.
Again, it’s important to mention that while a humidifier can relieve some nasal irritation, if not maintained properly, a humidifier can even increase the risk of allergies and asthma, because it can develop mold and introduce those mold spores into the air, potentially triggering an asthma attack for those allergic to mold.
Air Purifier + Humidifier: The Perfect Combination?
Seeing as both an air purifier and a humidifier offer benefits for those suffering with allergies, it would make sense to use them in combination. Doing so would also decrease your risk of exposing yourself to potential mold spores from a not-so-clean humidifier.
It’s important to mention that while you can absolutely use a humidifier and an air purifier together, you should avoid placing them too close because the moisture from the humidifier can negatively impact the filter of your air purifier. For example, if a HEPA filter were to become damp from the output of the humidifier, mold growth could take hold or bacteria may grow on the filter. To avoid this scenario and health risk, simply place the humidifier and air purifier on opposite sides of the room.
As far as selecting the right humidifier, you would want to ask your doctor or respiratory therapist if they recommend one that releases cold or warm mist into the environment. Warm mist humidifiers tend to be quieter than cool mist, as cool mist units rely on fans to evaporate the water.
But what about selecting the right air purifier? What things should you keep in mind?
Tips on Choosing the Right Air Purifier for Asthma Sufferers
Here are some things you should keep in mind when shopping for an air purifier to help relieve your asthma symptoms.
Determine Your Triggers
It’s important to know what things seem to trigger your asthma attacks. This will help you understand whether you need an air purifier with a HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter or both.
To review, a HEPA filter is great for removing 99.97% of particulate matter from the air including dust, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria and a variety of pollen. An activated carbon filter will not remove these but instead filter out harmful gasses from common household products.
If you’re not sure of your exact triggers, start keeping a journal. You may even want to go get tested for allergies, because allergens are one of the biggest causes of an asthma attack.
Select the Right Size
Air purifiers are a bit like AC window units in that they are built specifically to be able to handle certain-sized rooms. You can’t install a tiny window AC with 5,000 BTUs that was built for a small 250 square foot bedroom and hope that it effectively cools your 700 square foot living/dining great room.
The same is true for air purifiers. Each unit’s packaging should clearly display the square footage it can handle. Follow these specifications so you ensure the unit can do its job and you can breathe easier.
As far as how many units you will need, most of our customers buy an air purifier for the rooms they spend the most time in. For most people that means the bedroom, living room and home office.
Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommendations
In order for your air purifier to do its job and help you decrease the frequency and severity of your asthma attacks, you’ve got to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and change the filter as often as necessary. This will ensure the allergens that are triggering your attacks are continually being removed from your home’s environment.
Air purifiers and humidifiers can both help in treating the symptoms of asthma. If your budget is tight, we would recommend you focus on getting an air purifier or two for your home, as these units actually remove the harmful pollutants from the air.
Need More Help?
Have any more questions? Get in touch with us. We don’t just sell air purifiers, we like to think we’re in the business of actually helping people breathe healthier.