Will a dehumidifier help a cough? It’s a question I asked myself recently as I found myself spluttering and trying to soothe my throat.
I just came back from a short holiday in Spain and on the plane home, the guy sat immediately behind me was sneezing, coughing, blowing his nose. I instantly knew what was going to happen next. I’d be strapped into my seat and forced to breathe in his cold, adopting it for myself. And so the next day I woke up feeling like I had razor blades in my throat. I tried the cough sweets but they only provided relief for the time that they were in my mouth.
Then I thought about where I always seem to pick up these colds – on a plane. Why did I always feel so bad after the journey. Well it’s a confined space, so you don’t have any option but breathe in the air that you share with your nearest fellow passengers. And also, the air on a plane is so so dry.
That got me thinking of the dry air pushing down through my extremely sore throat. If the air wasn’t so dry, would I feel better? Will I need a humidifier to put more moisture in the air ? … or will a dehumidifier help a cough by taking excess moisture out of the air? How much humidity should there be in the air? and how much would be best for my sore throat.
So many questions thrown up by my cough, so let’s have a think…
What is a comfortable level of humidity?
We usually talk about humidity levels as a measure of relative humidity. Relative humidity is the amount of moisture in the air relative to the amount of moisture in the air if the air was completely saturated. The reason that this is (pardon the pun) a ‘fluid’ kind of measurement, is because humidity is also dependent on temperature. If the air is warmer if can contain more moisture. When the relative humidity is 100% you won’t get rid of sweat – the air will not let it evaporate, and so it clings to your skin, making you feel much warmer than the temperature would suggest.
So if relative humidity is higher, you’ll feel stuffy, hot and uncomfortable and if the relative humidity is much lower then you’ll feel the effects of dry air, like itchy throat and skin. You can read more about dry air here.
A comfortable level of humidity would typically be between 30 and 50% relative humidity, the optimum level being around 45% relative humidity.
Will a dehumidifier help a cough ?
I’m afraid the answer begins with “it depends…” because it really depends on what is causing the cough.
If a common cold is the cause of your cough, then you probably need to add moisture to your nasal and sinus passages to allow the mucus to escape. This suggests that you may benefit from more moisture in the air. If you need more moisture in the air then you could do with a humidifier.
If asthma or chest congestion is the cause of your cough then your lungs may be producing excess mucous. That’s when you may benefit from less moisture in the air. This suggests that in this case you may benefit from less moisture in the air. If you need less moisture in the air then you could do with a dehumidifier.
The problem is of course, Asthma and lung related conditions can be related to chest congestion. It could also be related to just having a cold. It would be safest to consult your doctor and ask questions about the cause of your cough.
Will a dehumidifier help a cough or do I need a humdifier ?
However it’s always worth checking, whether the relative humidity in your home is way outside the comfortable level. The comfortable level is below 30% or above 50% relative humidity. If so, then you should try and stabilize those levels by using either a humidifier to add moisture to the air, or a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air. Having either too much moisture or too little moisture in the air is going to aggravate your cough.
How is relative humidity measured ?
You can measure relative humidity very easily these days with handheld humidity monitors. These can be bought at very low cost – there’s a few here that cost less than $10.
Is there an app to check indoor humidity ?
There are several apps for ios and android that tell you the outside humidity level at your current location. The problem is that they can’t tell you what the humidity level is inside your house.
Home room humidifiers
So if you find your room humidity is on the low side, you’ll want a humidifier that can inject a little more moisture into the air to bring it up to a comfortable level. There are tons of options to be had for less than $100.
Home room dehumidifiers
What if you find your room humidity is on the high side? Well you’ll want a dehumidifier that can remove some of that moisture from the air. You’ll want to bring it down to a comfortable level. Again there are lots of models that you can pick up for less than $100.