Is a Humidifier Good for COPD Patients? – A COMPLETE Guide
You could say that lungs are both sensitive and robust.
The individual parts of lungs are sensitive but the lungs overall are quite robust.
That being said, when the lungs are stressed too far, they start to fill up with gunk and fail.
In people suffering from COPD, this leads to symptoms such as shortness of breath, chronic cough with phlegm, and chest pain.
These three symptoms don’t seem like a big deal they result in great discomfort and can lead to more serious outcomes.
Thankfully, there are ways to provide comfort to those with these symptoms, but is a humidifier good for copd symptoms?
Read on to find out more about how humidifier can help soothe COPD symptoms.
What is COPD?
Before we consider - is a humidifier good for COPD? - we first need to look at how COPD can affect us. COPD is an umbrella term for several lung problems and stands for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”.
Examples of problems include bronchitis and emphysema. Let’s analyze the term word by word.
Chronic is the opposite of “acute”, which means sharply arising; meaning that it's slowly worsening.
Obstructive means the path is somehow blocked. In the case of lungs, the path involves airways and means air can’t get through the gunk.
Finally, disease means a doctor should get involved.
COPD can be fatal and it is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. COPD kills when the gunk triggers an inflammation in the lungs and that inflammation gets out of hand.
There were 251 million cases of COPD reported worldwide in 2016 and it’s a major impact on quality of life.
Those who suffer from COPD feel increasing breathlessness.
Breathing machines with oxygen help but also inconvenience because they’re treating the symptoms rather than the causes.
Causes of COPD
COPD has been associated with exposure to lung irritants, with smoking being the leading cause in the US.
This especially likely to arise from prolonged exposure during childhood.
One Australian study tracked 2,438 volunteers for nearly 50 years, discovering 75% of COPD cases start in childhood.
Childhood pneumonia, asthma, smoking and allergies were linked to poor lung function and moderate-to-severe COPD in adulthood.
By the time they were in their 50s, there was a clear path showing how COPD evolved for those 75% of volunteers.
Another study revealed a window of opportunity between 1-6 months of age where poor lung function could be improved, however, for children who had asthma or whose parents smoked during this crucial period, these children were most likely to develop COPD later in life.
Heart disease and lack of physical exercise may also play a factor in COPD.
A Danish study tracked 4,730 men for 46 years and found strong heart and lungs reduced COPD incidence by 20-30%.
Danish researchers speculate physical activity somehow resolves lung inflammation but oddly enough, disinfection might play a part.
One study examined 55,000 US nurses and found those who used disinfectants had a 22-32% higher risk of COPD. Scientists speculate some chemicals or even the spraying action could be a risk factor for COPD.
Hold on, what’s going in the lungs? How do lungs work anyway?
How do COPD lungs work?
The lungs have up to 500 million alveoli, small sacs that inflate and deflate with each breath.
They grab all the oxygen from each breath and make sure all the CO2 from blood gets exhaled.
There are so many alveoli but they’re fragile on their own. As COPD develops, the alveoli can get filled up with gunk and shut down, which eventually leads to sweeping inflammation and poor airflow.
The chronic damage is insidious, since it occurs over time and without any apparent cause.
The sufferer mostly ignores COPD, even though it causes pain, discomfort and shortness of breath.
Meanwhile, the lungs are continually damaged by the inflammation, which can lead to fluid buildup and further block the path.
Issues with lung health take decades to develop but are extremely difficult to resolve.
These issues are so complex and layered that one should attack them from all sides.
One of these sides includes the use of steam…
Does inhaling steam help with COPD?
If you are wondering: Is steam good for COPD?
Inhaling steam is an age-old home remedy for respiratory problems of all sorts that all have to do with mucus.
Inside the respiratory path and lungs themselves there should be a constant flow of mucus.
It traps all the particles, such as pollen, that threaten to enter deep into the lungs.
The mucus should be clear, slick and constantly flowing. It’s antibacterial so it never allows one pathogen to start dominating.
If the mucus dries up or if a single pathogen somehow starts dominating, the gunk forms. Simply put, it all gets stuck deep in the lungs and can’t get out.
When gunk gets stuck inside the lungs is when the body triggers the cough reflex.
The phlegm that’s coughed up is the gunk that’s been stuck down there for days or weeks.
Different colors in the phlegm are all the different, dead pathogens that were trounced by the immune system.
Here’s where steam comes into play.
Inhaling steam moistens the airways and softens the gunk to restart the mucus flow.
Once mucus starts moving, the blood flow increases and inflammation lowers.
Is Steam Good for COPD?
One Japanese study found that steam reduced anxiety and heart rate in elderly COPD patients.
While steam didn’t improve lung function, it did improve their state of mind.
COPD doesn’t just ruin the body but also the mind. People wracked by COPD are in a constant state of worry, anxiety and panic.
Patients with COPD are anxious about a rising sensation of being smothered since their lungs can’t absorb as much oxygen.
Combined with unstoppable coughing, they can have a terrible sense of helplessness.
Any therapy or treatment that helps them regain a sense of calm and control is a useful one. In that study, the scientists wanted to see if steam can be one such treatment.
16 elderly COPD patients aged 67 and up were given 600ml of steam at 38 °C (100 °F) for 10 minutes through a custom mask. The treatment had the following effects:
The study concludes that “a relaxation effect can be expected” after a COPD patient receives a 10-minute steam treatment.
Another study found something similar, this time in New Zealand. 108 COPD and lung disease patients were either given steam treatments or usual care for 12 months. 
Those on the long-term steam therapy had the following benefits compared to those on usual care:
However, the New Zealand study did find an improvement in lung function. The explanation for improvement is that—steam softened the mucus and helped clear the lungs.
Taken together, these studies imply that simple, affordable and long-term solutions can help manage COPD.
A humid ambiance can serve as a legitimate COPD therapy, helping the sufferer finally relax and enjoy life without worry.
However, there is no way to know the exact effect inhaling steam will have. It’s best to cautiously try it and avoid overdoing it.
Alternatively, a humidifier provides a way to create an atmosphere of cool steam that doesn’t require constant effort to maintain.
So, is a humidifier good for COPD?
Is a humidifier good for COPD?
Fresh, cool air from a humidifier helps to bring down the temperature in the lungs, attenuating inflammation the same way a cold shower cools down the entire body.
The fine mist from a humidifier both cools and provides moisture, with the effects compounding the longer it’s used.
Humidifiers may help with COPD, in particular with the subjective feeling of comfort.
As the moisture penetrates inside the lungs, it lubricates the mucus and helps the person cough it out.
Thanks to more humid air, the irritation of the airways is reduced and bouts of coughing diminish.
Making the COPD sufferer comfortable is of the utmost importance.
Humidifiers may provide the sufferer with soothing, fresh air that instills a sense of comfort, security and inner peace..
Having the ability to fine-tune the humidity of the indoor air helps each COPD sufferer create the perfect ambiance for comfort.
So, is a humidifier good for copd patients?
Humidifiers big and small are a great choice to ease the bouts of cough and provide cool, calm comfort to everyone inside.
Humidity levels of 50-60% are optimal for treating COPD symptoms.
COPD and rainy weather
Did you know that the combination of heat, humidity and rainy weather can also trigger COPD? This is known as “exacerbation trigger”.
If dust or allergens are kicked up by the wind, they too can exacerbate COPD.
The cold slows down the mucus flow that is meant to lubricate the airways, while the dust and allergens build up in the alveoli.
Staying indoors with air conditioning is the best solution for the rainy weather COPD trigger.
Breathing through the nose and wearing a scarf over the mouth should help prevent COPD triggering.
Drop in atmosphere pressure can reduce the capability of oxygen being carried to the lungs.
While this is not perceptible to a healthy human, a person with COPD would most likely feel it and start panicking.
What are some other home remedies for COPD?
Vitamins and breathing exercises are the two most common home remedies for COPD.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance. Almost all other animals on Earth can produce their own vitamin C but humans have to get it through diet.
Fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and apples, provide vitamin C but effervescent tablets are a good choice too.
Humans most often get vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Again, there are vitamin supplements that can provide the daily dose.
Breathing exercises serve to provide a sense of control in the sufferer’s life.
Strengthening the diaphragm, the muscle between the chest and the abdomen, through stomach breathing can help maintain control over breathing.
However, it is always best to consult with your doctor for your ideal course of action.
Conclusion: Is a Humidifier Good for COPD?
COPD is a nasty, vicious disease. It slowly eats away at the lungs, with nary a symptom until decades later, when it strikes.
COPD begins in childhood through either exposure to allergens, harmful chemicals or other irritants and pollutants. It’s impossible to catalog all the triggers for COPD, however, they all have to do with low air quality.
Anything that improves air quality also indirectly assaults the root causes of COPD.
Not just air conditioners but humidifiers and dehumidifiers too can help with the unique COPD triggers for the person.
COPD most likely has multiple causes and they all act upon the lungs to make them way too sensitive to irritation. The worst part is that it affects quality of life and the peace of mind.
Every COPD patient should work to restore his or her lung function and peace of mind.
This means creating a comprehensive array of treatments and solutions to avoid panic and overreaction.
There can be any number of COPD triggers for a person and they most likely have to do with the original childhood trauma to the lungs.
Any attempt to attenuate COPD would always have to do with addressing the underlying long-term lung damage.
Anything that soothes the body and mind should be used against COPD. It can and should be assaulted from all sides, including diet, exercise and steam therapy.
As for humidifiers; is a humidifier good for COPD patients? Well, humidifiers are an excellent tool for managing COPD and its symptoms. Better yet, they can ease the sufferer’s anguish and provide a peace of mind.
Ultimately, resolving COPD is about staying calm and creating an environment of fresh, pleasant and clean air that improves quality of life and provides peace of mind.