Does a Humidifier Help with Eczema?

Man turning on a humidifier.

If you are one of the more than 31 million Americans affected by eczema, you may be in a position where you would be willing to try most anything to find relief. These itchy, uncomfortable red patches often worsen in dry climates or winter months, leaving behind dry, scaly skin that craves moisture. In these situations, a humidifier can be used to calm and hydrate the skin, thereby reducing uncomfortable eczema symptoms. 

How a Humidifier Calms Eczema

Eczema tends to flare up in winter months more than other seasons for two reasons. Outdoor air becomes dryer with lower humidity levels, and indoor air becomes dryer from running heaters and furnaces. All of this dryness in the air has a solution—humidifiers. These devices put moisture back into the air by emitting water vapor into the air, causing humidity levels to rise. This moisture in the air delivers more effective eczema or dry skin relief than constantly slathering on lotion. 

Running a humidifier in a room where you spend a lot of time will help keep your skin affected by eczema smooth, supple and soft. This reduces risks of infection by encouraging quicker healing of any open, cracked skin. Since these types of open wounds are vulnerable to bacteria and other germs, a humidifier can make a huge difference in your body’s ability to defend against infection. It is essential to keep your humidifier clean in order to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Choosing the Right Humidifier

Anyone who does a quick internet search for humidifiers can quickly become overwhelmed, as there are countless options from which to choose. Choosing the right size is one of the more important decisions to make. If you are wanting to increase the moisture level in numerous locations throughout your home or a whole-house, an in-duct humidifier would be the best choice, although these should be professionally maintained yearly to promote cleanliness. These can be expensive, but since some models tie into your central water supply, you would not be inconvenienced by having to refill water tanks every day. 

Alternatively, you might prefer a more affordable, portable unit that you can take from one room to the next or you may prefer to purchase individual units for each room. Tank sizes vary to accommodate different room sizes. Importantly, you will want to select humidifiers that are easy to clean and maintain. You should also use distilled or demineralized water to reduce the number of minerals released into the air and to keep your unit as clean as possible. Finding a humidifier with self-cleaning features, such as UV cleansing technologies and germ-resistant plastics, would be a plus.

Cool Mist vs. Warm Mist Humidifiers 

We recommend a cool-mist humidifier for patients with eczema since warm-mist humidifiers pose a significant burn risk. Cool-mist humidifiers work by simply vaporizing water into the air through a nozzle as an invisible, cool mist. These humidifiers usually push water into the air with a built-in fan, but there are some ultrasonic humidifiers that are fanless. These humidifiers create water droplets through vibrations at ultrasonic frequency. Since these units do not have a fan, they are quieter than those that do use a fan. 

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Other Treatment Options for Eczema

Humidifiers should be used in conjunction with many other treatments for eczema. For many eczema patients, the basics of treatment and care comes down to managing flares by understanding triggers, having a daily skin care routine and using over the counter or prescription medication as recommended by a board-certified dermatologist. Phototherapy treatments can also minimize flare-ups and immunosuppressants may be prescribed in some cases.

Eczema can be an uncomfortable skin condition, but it is possible to manage symptoms and understand triggers in order to minimize flare-ups. 

At Dermatology Associates of Plymouth Meeting, our board-certified dermatologists and licensed physician assistants will work with you to understand your lifestyle, symptoms and concerns to develop the best treatment plant to manage your eczema and flare-ups.