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Some people report that humidifiers help relieve their eczema symptoms. However, there are some safety considerations a person should note before use.

Eczema results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors that disrupt the skin barrier, causing excess moisture loss. A person can use moisturizers and topical creams to help add moisture back into the skin.

Some people may also find relief from adding moisture to the air using a humidifier, but it is important to use them safely.

Read on for answers to common questions about whether using a humidifier can help relieve eczema, as well as important considerations for safe humidifier use.

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Some people find that dry air can trigger their eczema. They may find it helpful to use a humidifier to increase the amount of moisture in the air.

Whether this helps and is practical may depend on the current humidity level in the home, the time of year, and the presence of allergens.

The National Eczema Society recommends keeping indoor humidity levels at around 30–60%. If a person measures the humidity in their home and the air is on the dry side, a humidifier may help raise the levels.

Indoor humidity can also change through the seasons. The air tends to be driest in the winter, but air conditioning also removes moisture. Therefore, the air in some homes may continue to be dry during summer.

Measuring humidity in different rooms and at different times may help a person decide when to use a humidifier. People may also need to experiment with the humidity level that works best for their skin.

In certain situations, a humidifier could exacerbate eczema. This could be due to:

High humidity

Indoor humidity levels over 60% can cause mold growth and attract pests, such as cockroaches or dust mites. These are potential allergy triggers.

In people with both allergies and eczema, high humidity could lead to more exposure to these allergens, worsening eczema symptoms.

In a 2016 study of 3,302 children between ages 5 and 7 years living in Southern California, those who had used a humidifier in their home were 44% more likely to have eczema than those who had never used one. This increase only applied to non-Hispanic white children, but it is unclear why.

In the study, other types of humidity exposure, such as from flooding, water damage, and mold, also increased the risk. This could suggest that exposure to too much humidity more generally could increase the risk of eczema.

Using humidifiers according to the instructions, staying within the 30–60% humidity range, and ensuring the home is free of other irritants or allergens may help.

Improper maintenance

Leaving standing water in a humidifier or not regularly cleaning the device could cause mold to grow inside it, which then circulates the room when in use.

Keeping humidifiers clean and regularly replacing the water is important for safe humidifier use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and do not use disinfectants inside the device, as a person may inhale them when they next use the humidifier.

If the humidity levels in the home are low, a humidifier that can raise them to a healthy range is potentially beneficial for eczema.

However, the device should have a few safety features, such as a humidity gauge so that a person can check how humid the air is, and an auto-off feature to stop levels from getting too high.

Some people may opt for quiet devices so they can use them at night. Some humidifiers purify the air at the same time, but these are more expensive.

Humidifiers may help relieve dryness, which could reduce eczema flare-ups in some people. However, there are no studies to prove this.

Itchiness in eczema happens due to the immune system. When a flare-up happens, it is a result of the immune system causing inflammation. Reducing this inflammation and avoiding triggers is how many people manage eczema.

If dry air is a direct trigger for flare-ups, humidifiers could help prevent this. However, there could be multiple factors involved.

Dry air can exacerbate eczema. Human skin is roughly 64% water. When the amount of water in the air gets much lower than that, it can cause the skin to become dehydrated.

This is because water molecules move from areas of high concentration to low concentration, meaning that if the air is dry, water can leave the skin. This may happen more easily in people with eczema, as the skin barrier works less effectively than it should.

Oil-based moisturizers and emollients can help return moisture to the skin and seal it in, preventing some moisture loss. Thicker barrier creams may be more effective for this than thinner lotions.

An impaired skin barrier in people with eczema can cause moisture loss, which may worsen when the air is dry. Many people with eczema experience symptom flares during periods of low humidity and may turn to a humidifier to relieve their symptoms.

Some experts recommend using a humidifier during dry periods such as winter, but it is important to take certain precautions to ensure safe use. Regularly cleaning the humidifier and changing the water can help prevent bacterial and mold growth.

People with eczema who are concerned that their symptoms worsen in dry air can talk with a dermatologist about whether a humidifier is right for them.