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Can a Humidifier Help With Eczema?

Can a Humidifier Help With Eczema?

Yes, using a humidifier can help relieve eczema symptoms by adding moisture back into dry air. Dry air exacerbates eczema by causing transepidermal water loss, which strips the skin of moisture and damages the skin barrier. Humidifiers work by increasing humidity levels and preventing moisture loss from the skin.
Eczema is a common chronic skin condition characterized by dry, irritated, inflamed skin that often appears red and feels very itchy. Eczema can occur anywhere on the body but most often affects the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids and insides of the elbows and knees.
While eczema affects people of all ages, it occurs most frequently in infants and children. About 10-20% of infants and children have symptoms of this chronic inflammatory condition. For many, the condition improves over time and symptoms may disappear completely by adulthood. However some people continue to experience eczema flares throughout their life.

What Causes Eczema?

Eczema arises due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with certain genetic mutations have an overactive immune system response in the skin. The immune system releases inflammatory chemicals, triggering inflammation when the skin comes into contact with various irritants or allergens.
While genetics play a central role, environmental triggers also impact the onset and severity of eczema. These include:
  • Dry skin
  • Irritants like household cleaners, soaps, shampoos and detergents
  • Allergens from pollen, pet dander, dust mites
  • Microbes like staph bacteria or viral infections
  • Stress and fluctuations in hormones
  • Cold, dry weather
  • Course fabrics like wool against the skin
Of all these environmental factors, dry skin is arguably the most significant. Keeping the skin properly hydrated and moisturized is key to preventing and managing eczema flares.

How Humidity Impacts Eczema

Dry air actively draws moisture away from the skin through a process known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
With eczema, the skin barrier is already compromised so moisture escapes even faster when humidity is low. This leads to more cracks, fissures and dry, itchy, damaged skin that characterizes eczema breakouts.
Dryness also interferes with the skin’s microbiome and impairs the body’s ability to repair skin lesions. The resulting itch-scratch cycle further deteriorates the skin barrier and worsens inflammation.
Cold weather in the winter also dries out both indoor and outdoor air. Forced air heating systems only add to the problem. Some people notice their eczema worsens during winter months as humidity plummets.
Since keeping skin hydrated is key for eczema management, maintaining sufficient humidity levels is recommended. According to the National Eczema Association, 40-60% humidity is ideal for preventing eczema flares.

How Can Humidifiers Help Eczema?

Humidifiers introduce cool, water-based mist into dry indoor environments to boost humidity levels. This keeps moisture in the air instead of allowing it to escape from your skin.

By preventing moisture loss, humidifiers help:

  • Improve skin hydration and reduce dryness
  • Maintain adequate skin suppleness and elasticity
  • Reduce itching and inflammation
  • Promote better skin repair and healing
  • Prevent cracks and fissures in skin
  • Restore normal skin pH and microbiome
  • Prevent flare ups of symptoms
Studies demonstrate eczema severity improves when indoor humidity is increased through proper humidification.
One study found eczema patients who used humidifiers for 8 weeks experienced reduced itching, along with improvements in skin dryness, redness, peeling, edema and lichenification. Patients also reported better quality of sleep thanks to itch relief.
Another study investigated effects of nocturnal humidification on eczema symptoms in winter when bedroom humidity levels were below the recommended 30-50% range. Using ultrasonic humidifiers in bedrooms significantly decreased the severity of eczema symptoms after 4 weeks.
Overall, research indicates that boosting moisture in the air with humidifiers can minimize eczema flares and related discomforts. Humidification therapy enhances quality of life by promoting restful sleep versus restless scratching.
Along with frequent moisturizer use and medications during flare ups, maintaining humidity through a humidifier can be an integral component of eczema management programs.

Choosing a Humidifier for Eczema Relief

If one or two people live in a small house, they can choose a 3L small-capacity evaporative humidifier. If there are three to four people in a large space, they can choose a 10L large-capacity evaporative humidifier.
Several types of humidifiers are available for home use. Consider the following factors when selecting one to help relieve eczema:
Type of humidifier: Evaporative humidifiers are best for eczema relief because they add moisture to the air quickly and cover a wide area.
Size: Choose a model rated for the square footage of the room where you spend most of your time, like the bedroom or living room. Larger rooms may require multiple humidifiers.
Humidity output: Look for sufficient moisture output measured in gallons per day to humidify the room to 40-60% relative humidity. Monitor with a hygrometer.
Runtime: Run times of 24 hours or more allow humidification around the clock. This prevents humidity from dropping at night when heating systems are off.
Features: Humidistats automatically regulate moisture output. Antimicrobial tanks reduce mold and bacteria buildup. Auto shut-off prevents over-humidifying.
Maintenance: Daily cleaning is vital for sanitation and preventing mineral deposits which can spew into the air as dust.
Noise level: Choose a quiet model that won’t disturb sleep. Ultrasonic and impeller types are quieter than evaporative humidifiers.
Filters: Replace any filters as per manufacturer guidelines to maintain performance.

Tips for Using Humidifiers for Eczema

To maximize benefits from humidifier therapy:
  • Place the humidifier near your bed or where you relax most. This ensures you reap the localized effects.
  • Maintain humidity between 40-60%. Excessively high humidity encourages mold and dust mites which can worsen allergies.
  • Clean and disinfect the tank and parts frequently to prevent microbes and minerals in standing water from becoming airborne.
  • Use purified or distilled water to minimize mineral deposits. Tap water contains minerals that leave white dust when aerosolized.
  • Run the humidifier daily starting before eczema flares begin. This helps prevent dryness that triggers itching and inflammation.
  • Replace old humidifiers that develop leaks and are difficult to clean thoroughly. These can spew microbes and minerals into the air.
  • Keep humidifiers out of reach of young children and pets to prevent accidents and injuries.

The Takeaway: Can Humidifiers Relieve Eczema?

Humidifiers can be a useful addition to eczema management programs which focus on repairing and protecting the skin barrier through gentle hydration and reduced inflammation.
By replenishing moisture in the air of low humidity environments, humidifiers prevent the dryness which triggers eczema flares for many people. Studies show eczema severity improves with proper humidification.
While not a standalone treatment for moderate to severe eczema requiring medical intervention, humidifiers provide adjunctive relief between flares and may help.

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