Humidifiers, Moisturizers and Air Filters—do they really help?

Martha S. Steffen, PA-

By: Martha S. Steffen, PA-C

Low relative humidity in an environment like ours causes a number of issues: dry eyes, skin, throats and noses. This dryness makes us prone to itching. Once the skin barrier is broken, it can become inflamed, bleed or become infected.  Localized or systemic infection can then occur. We’ve all had the wintertime cold, the runny nose that won’t stop or the bloody nose that shows up at the worst possible moment. But what is the most effective treatment?

How to find moisture when it’s not in the air

Humidity in the form of steam, saline or a room humidifier are several of the ways to improve this dryness. Moisturizers in the form of topical creams and nasal emollients can help as well.

A whole house humidifier can be installed on your furnace (at a cost).  Room humidifiers can also be used to help during the winter months. Try to increase the indoor humidity to 30-50% as measured on a humidistat.  Above 50% and you may find condensation on your windows. Picking a humidifier can be a challenge, and we aren’t able to endorse particular brands.  Cool mist humidifiers get the best reviews and are safer if small children are in the home. Keep them clean as per the manufacturer’s instruction.

How to keep your moist air clean

What about air filters?  Yes, there are many ways to filter your indoor environment. Whole house filters are able to make dust, dander and irritants more manageable, but can be expensive. Changing your regular furnace filter on a routine basis is important as well so that it filters correctly and keeps the unit running efficiently.

Individual room HEPA filters are rated for the size room and the size of particulate they will filter.  Reading consumer reviews, comparing product features and warranties are the best ways to pick a product to suite your home.

It’s always a good idea to ask your allergist what he/she recommends as each situation is unique.