You might be surprised to know that the air is drier during winter than it is during summer. The reason is that cold air can hold only a limited amount of moisture than warm air can.
It is no shock then that some respiratory problems such as colds, flu, and other infections are aggravated due to extremely low humidity. Another common health issue people contend with this time of year in the cold weather is a cough.
Many turn to humidifiers to solve the dry air dilemma at home. Some even believe these moisture-adding devices can help with their coughs.
Is it true, though? Will a humidifier help with a cough? Can the level of humidity in your home genuinely affect your health? Do high or low levels of moisture impact cough, or possibly, asthma? How can the use of humidifiers in your home help with a cough?
Keep on reading to know the answers to these questions and more.
Does Using A Humidifier Help With A Cough?
Coughing can intensify when there is little or no moisture in the air because the throat can get irritated easily when the air is dry. Additionally, the dryness can make mucus even more difficult to blow out or cough up. Some types of cough-causing viruses thrive in places with low humidity.
Humidifiers can help with a cough in at least 5 ways:
- Keep your throat and nasal passages moist.
- Ease congestion.
- Soothe cough and asthma symptoms.
- Reduce the likelihood of fungi-related cough.
- Limit the effects of airborne viruses.
Can Humidity Impact Your Health?
Does the level of water in the air of your home harm your health?
If you’re going to ask an average person, the quick response to this question is an emphatic, “YES!” It’s because, when there’s too much humidity, anyone can feel terrible and out of sorts.
Now if you ask the scientific and medical community if humidity affects your health and well-being, you will still get a resounding “yes” answer, but with facts.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The more water present in an environment, the higher the humidity.
You may be more familiar with the term “relative humidity”, expressed in percentages and generally used in weather broadcasts. This is the actual amount of moisture in the air versus the maximum amount of vapor the air can hold at a given temperature.
For example, 50% relative humidity means half of the air’s capacity to hold moisture has already been occupied by water, while 100% relative humidity is showing that the vapor in the air has reached its full capacity.
Once the relative humidity rises above 60% to 70%, most folks already feel uncomfortable because their sweat cannot evaporate effectively. Due to the high concentration of water already in the air, one can feel icky, out of breath, and irritable because their body cannot cool off.
This leads to hyperthermia which manifests as fatigue, headache, dehydration, muscle cramps, vomiting, fainting, or heat stroke.
But did you know that significantly low humidity is just as bad as high-level humidity?
When there is a very limited amount of water in the air, your skin feels dry and more prone to other skin conditions, your lips chapped, and your eyes also become dehydrated and easily turn red and itchy.
But one of the major drawbacks of low humidity is on your nasal passages and throat. If these mucous membranes dry out, it can trigger upper respiratory infections evident by coughing and sneezing. They are also at times accompanied by headaches, sore throat, sinus pain, and nosebleed.
If the humidity level is a problem, are humidifiers a good solution?
Effects Of Humidifiers On Coughing And Asthma
A humidifier is a device that adds moisture to the air to increase the humidity in a room or an entire building depending on its capacity. It does the job by simply pushing more moisture or water vapor mist into your indoor air.
How does a humidifier help with pesky respiratory illnesses such as cough and asthma?
First off, a cough is more of a symptom rather than a disease itself. It is a sudden and involuntary reaction of your body to free your airway from irritants such as mucus, germs, smoke, or dust.
The most common causes of cough are upper respiratory tract infections such as nose and throat. While chronic or long-term cough can be caused by asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung conditions.
There are 5 ways vapor-adding devices can help relieve cough and other more serious conditions like asthma:
Keep Throat and Nasal Passages Moist
As mentioned, a cough can be triggered by dried-up linings of mucous membranes. These sensitive glands should be moist all the time but due to low humidity, they can get irritated and infected quickly.
A humidifier can relieve you from these potential cough triggers by adding moisture to the air and preventing your throat, sinuses, or nasal cavities from inflammation or discomfort.
A stuffy or congested nose caused by colds and fever can lead to coughing and difficulty breathing. Another way humidifiers help is by thinning and loosening your mucus. As this happens, the thick, slippery fluid will be easier to cough up.
Soothe Cough and Asthma Symptoms
If you don’t know it already, asthma makes the airways swollen and causes them to produce more mucus. This makes breathing extra harder and leads to coughing and wheezing.
With the right amount of moisture in the air, cough and asthma symptoms can be remedied because the vaporizer in the room put mucus production under control.
A fair warning, though. Excessive and improper use of a humidifier may make asthmatic patients feel worse. Too much humidity can make the air feel heavier and makes it harder to breathe in.
Reduce the Likelihood of Fungi-Related Cough
A fungus that made its way to your lung cavities can cause aspergillomas and can manifest through coughing. Another condition to watch out for is fungus-associated chronic cough (FACC) caused by basidiomycetous fungi.
While some believed that fungi only thrive in a wet environment, certain types of fungi can grow at lower amounts of moisture.
The humidifier can help resolve the low humidity situation to prevent fungi-related coughing. Yet overuse of vapor-adding machines can also excessively increase the level of moisture in the indoor air, making your home an ideal breeding ground for fungi.
Limit the Effects of Airborne Viruses
The flu virus is mostly notorious because of its back-to-back symptoms of coughs, fever, sore throat, chills, body aches, stuffy or runny nose, headaches, and overt tiredness.
The latest medical research shows that low humidity is “the best friend” of the flu virus because 1) It keeps the small hairs in the airway from kicking out viruses and mucus; 2) less moisture prevents airways’ ability to repair cell damage, and 3) decrease in water in the air can weaken our immune defense system.
The humidifier will knock these factors down by keeping the humidity in your home at the right level.
What Is The Best Kind Of Humidifier For A Cough?
Now that we are sold on the idea that a humidifier helps with cough and other related illnesses, it would not hurt to do additional research on which humidifier is suited for your home.
No two families have the same exact humidifying needs so take extra care in choosing the best humidifier products for you.
You can pick from the following kinds of humidifiers:
- Central Humidifiers. Also called whole-house humidifiers, are designed to add moisture to the entire home. Unlike regular humidifiers, central humidifiers do not emit steam nor cause burns while in use. They can also be attached to your heating or cooling systems.
- Evaporators. These vaporizers add moisture to only one room at a time because they are portable and also cheaper. Evaporators increase moisture in the area by blowing water through a filter with the help of fans to expel the vapor. Be cautious in overusing these devices as they tend to release too much moisture and cause mold growth.
- Impeller Humidifiers. This is a variety of humidifier that produces cool mist so it is safe for children. They increase the humidity by rotating disks that run at high speeds.
- Steam Vaporizers. This may be the cheapest option for a humidifier, but caution is needed in using this type of vaporizer. Besides being powered by electricity, it heats the water and then cools it before expelling it into the air. It should be placed away from children’s reach to avoid burning.
- Ultrasonic Humidifiers. These kinds of vaporizers add humidity by ultrasonic vibration. They can come in cool-mist or warm-mist designs.