Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by dryness, itching, rashes, peeling and occasional blistering. The exact cause is not known, but it is likely due to genetic and environmental factors.
According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), more than 31 million Americans suffer from some type of eczema. Some people have mild symptoms, but others have severe flare-ups that disrupt their quality of life.
Common therapies to manage symptoms include over-the-counter topical creams, avoidance of triggers, and prescription medications or treatments. However, these are not the only possible remedies. Some people also use a humidifier.
If you’re curious about whether you should use a humidifier for your eczema, keep reading.
A humidifier is a device that adds moisture to the air. It works by releasing water vapor or steam.
Although there is no scientific evidence that humidifiers help eczema, says the AEN, some people find them helpful in relieving dry skin.
There are different types of humidifiers. Humidifiers are designated by size:
- Central humidifiers are integrated into your home’s cooling and heating system.
- Console humidifiers are larger units intended to remain stationary.
- Portable humidifiers are smaller units that can be easily moved from room to room.
They can also be categorized by how they create and disperse air mist. For example:
- Ultrasonic humidifiers using ultrasonic vibrations to create a mist.
- Cool mist humidifiers use a rotating disc to create a mist.
- Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to blow air through moistened material.
- Vaporizers with hot mist or steam use a heating element to create mist.
While all work to add moisture to the air, some doctors recommend a cool mist over a warm mist because it’s safer (the water doesn’t heat up, reducing the risk of burns).
However, the Environmental Protection Agency notes that cool mist and ultrasonic humidifiers are more likely to disperse microorganisms or minerals into the air. They state that it has not been established as a serious health risk, but it is possible that breathing in these irritants could cause problems.
If you are looking for the easiest and most economical solution, you can simply put a bowl of water in a warm room. Just be sure to clean the bowl and change the water regularly.
A cool mist and warm mist humidifier can help add moisture to the air and relieve dry skin. But under certain circumstances, a humidifier can potentially make eczema worse.
This can happen when you don’t clean the device.
It is important to properly clean a humidifier. This can prevent the growth of bacteria, yeasts, molds and fungi. If a humidifier is not cleaned or disinfected regularly, the device can release harmful microorganisms into the air.
This can cause respiratory illnesses and possibly aggravate eczema and other skin conditions like psoriasis.
Proper cleaning is also important because using the wrong cleaning products can be harmful. An older study from South Korea also found that a disinfectant (which has since been banned) added to humidifier water had devastating effects. As such, be careful with any products or additives and speak to your doctor about any questions.
In addition to proper cleaning, you may want to talk to your doctor about using a humidifier if you or a family member also have allergies. Dust mites thrive in humid air, which could aggravate allergies and eczema.
Damp weather and humidity can often reduce eczema symptoms in some people.
The skin is 64 percent water, notes the US Department of the Interior. Therefore, the skin begins to dry out when there is too little moisture in the air.
Higher humidity, on the other hand, puts moisture back into the air, which helps hydrate dry, itchy skin.
Humidity levels are higher during the warmer months. Therefore, your eczema symptoms may improve in the spring or summer.
Increasing the level of humidity indoors can also relieve symptoms. That’s where a humidifier comes in. In addition to helping you manage dry, itchy skin, a humidifier can also improve cracked lips and dry eyes.
However, although humidifiers are sometimes effective in increasing humidity, there is no evidence that they have the same effect as humidity related to outdoor weather conditions.
They are also not a substitute for a healthy skincare routine. So, in addition to using one to increase the humidity levels in the air – and then bring the moisture back into your skin – you should also use daily creams and moisturizers.
Too much or too little humidity in the home can exacerbate eczema, so it’s important to maintain a comfortable level.
To prevent skin from drying out, maintain an indoor humidity level of 50-60%. Humidity above this level can promote mold growth.
A person’s bathing habits can also make eczema better or worse. A good skincare routine helps reduce the severity of eczema flare-ups and may even prevent some flare-ups.
Hot showers and baths are not the best options for eczema. These can make symptoms worse because too much exposure to hot water can dry out the skin and strip it of its natural oils.
Instead of long showers and long baths, keep the bath duration short – maybe 10 to 15 minutes. You should also avoid hot water and bathe in lukewarm water. Also, use a gentle cleanser, pat your skin dry, and liberally apply moisturizer to your body after toweling off.
Some people also suffer from eczema flare-ups in the winter. This is due to dry air caused by low humidity, which draws moisture from the skin.
This can be more problematic in regions with a dry climate, such as Arizona or Colorado. It can also be amplified when using heaters during the winter, which tend to draw moisture away from the skin.
Eczema symptoms can get worse on parts of the body exposed to cold air, such as the hands and face. Wearing a scarf, drinking plenty of fluids, and moisturizing your skin can help reduce symptoms.
You can also avoid wool, as lanolin allergies can lead to eczema flare-ups. Some people also react to compounds in leather gloves and hats. Silk, bamboo or cotton are preferable materials.
Also, increasing the heat during the winter can cause the air to be too dry. A home humidifier, however, helps combat dry air and keep skin hydrated.
Eczema is a chronic, itchy, inflammatory skin condition that can wax and wane. Symptom management involves keeping the skin hydrated with lotions and creams.
And depending on the severity and type of eczema, your doctor may prescribe a combination of topical, oral, or injectable medications to control flare-ups.
Along with these therapies, you can make adjustments like using a humidifier, moisturizing regularly, and taking shorter, cooler showers that can improve skin health.
There are also benefits to avoiding triggers, such as known allergens and scented products, as well as reducing stress.
If you have any questions about your allergens or if a humidifier is right for you, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor.