Humidifier vs Dehumidifier For Cough: Which One Really Helps?

When used properly, humidifiers and dehumidifiers can help alleviate respiratory irritations. Both of these appliances aim to balance out your home’s humidity so the indoor air would be more breathable. However, many homeowners wonder which is better: humidifier vs dehumidifier for cough?

This can be tricky to answer because there are a few factors at play. Your home’s humidity level, the cause of your cough, and your location are just some that need to be considered.

Below, we discuss this topic to help you choose the right solution to help ease your cough.

Humidifier vs dehumidifier for cough

To know what you actually need, the first step is to understand how these two devices work. It will give you a better idea about what suits your home and your condition. Below is a quick discussion for your guidance:

How a humidifier works

Humidifiers work by adding moisture into the air. It comes in two main types, the warm mist humidifier and the cool mist humidifier. Both release water vapors but at different temperatures.

Most humidifiers in the market have an impeller design. This type has a plate that vibrates rapidly to stir the water and create tiny droplets. These droplets will then be propelled into the humidifier’s opening.

On the other hand, you’ll also find an ultrasonic humidifier, which uses a spinning disc. Like the plate from the impeller humidifier, the disc will generate minuscule water droplets that will be released into the air.

Lastly, there are also the so-called evaporators. It uses a built-in fan that blows the moisture into the air. It can either have a filter or belt to create tiny droplets.

Take note that humidifiers can come with or without a built-in humidistat. In this case, you should have a separate hygrometer to monitor your home’s relative humidity.

How a dehumidifier works

On the other hand, dehumidifiers work as the opposite of humidifiers. This appliance removes moisture from the air to lower down your home’s relative humidity. It’s often used during summer or in areas with water damage.

Moreover, dehumidifiers come in two types: refrigerant dehumidifierS and desiccant dehumidifiers. Both eliminate moisture from the air but in different methods.

Refrigerant dehumidifiers work similarly with an air conditioner. It has a coolant pumped into metal coils. As the refrigerant cools the coils, moisture from the air will condensate and be collected inside the dehumidifier.

Meanwhile, desiccant dehumidifiers use a large desiccant wheel inside. This desiccant will absorb the moisture as air passes through.

However, desiccant dehumidifiers can’t hold a lot of moisture, so it’s best used in low moisture conditions.


Which one works for your cough?

When it comes to coughs, humidifiers are often the best pick. However, we have to understand first what’s causing your cough. Here’s a quick rundown of cough types and what a humidifier and dehumidifier can do:

Benefits of humidifiers on cough

humidifier vs dehumidifier for cough
  • Dry cough. A dry cough or unproductive cough takes a while to go away. With this type of cough, a humidifier can introduce moisture into your throat. This will make the cough productive and faster to clear up. You can also add some menthol drops into the humidifier to boost its soothing effects.
  • Wet cough. A productive cough is often due to the inflammation of the mucus membranes. This leads your body to produce more phlegm. Overall, a cool mist humidifier can help a lot here.
  • Whooping cough. Whopping coughs are triggered by a bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. It’s only treated using prescribed antibiotics. Humidifiers may help, but they won’t make a big difference in your illness. In some cases, both a humidifier and dehumidifier could make whooping cough worse.

Potential side effects of humidifiers

  • Mold growth. While humidifiers help a lot in reducing cough symptoms, they can also cause harm if not used properly. Too much moisture in the air will allow mold growth, which can make respiratory issues worse.
  • Dust mite. Dust mites thrive in high relative humidity of about 70% to 80%. If you don’t monitor your indoor relative humidity, your humidifier can easily crank up the humidity to very high levels.
  • Germ proliferation. Dirty humidifiers are cesspools of bacteria and other pathogens. Worse, these icky organisms will be launched into the air while riding on water vapors. Overall, a dirty humidifier can make you sick.

Benefits of dehumidifiers on cough

humidifier vs dehumidifier for cough
Photo Credits – Learning Center Allergy & Air
  • Reduces mold. Bronchitis and dry cough can both be triggered by mold spores. By removing the moisture that causes mold growth, you’re also reducing the intensity of your cough.
  • Alleviates wheezing. Wheezing is the sound your airway makes when it’s blocked by phlegm due to allergies. Dehumidifiers can help reduce this, especially if your triggers are molds and dust mites.
  • Aids asthma control. Moist is heavy and hard to breathe, so it makes an unpleasant environment for asthma sufferers. A dehumidifier can help reduce this moisture by bringing the humidity level down to a normal rate. However, you should remember that dehumidifiers are only complementary solutions and not a treatment for asthma.
  • Provide comfort for COPD patients. Those suffering from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more comfortable at a relative humidity of 40 % and a temperature not exceeding 70F. This condition helps their airway relax, which can reduce coughing and other symptoms.

Potential side effects of dehumidifiers

  • Very dry air. While dehumidifiers help balance your home’s relative humidity, they can also make the air very dry. This happens if you don’t monitor your home’s humidity and if you’re running a dehumidifier in winter. When the air becomes too dry, it will make your airway itchy and prone to coughs.
  • Worsening pneumonia. People with pneumonia should be careful when using a dehumidifier as very dry air can worsen their condition. The target should be anywhere from 40% to 60%, depending on the person’s comfort level.

Which one should you use?

Both a humidifier and dehumidifier can provide comfort among cough sufferers. However, the choice of the device should be based on your home’s condition.

If you have a cough and your home has very high humidity levels, a dehumidifier is the best option. Meanwhile, if the dry air is making your cough worse, you can run a humidifier. Overall, control is necessary to ensure that these two appliances aren’t pushing the limits of what’s considered safe or comfortable.

Aside from that, you should remember that humidifiers and dehumidifiers aren’t a cure for coughs. They can provide some level of relief, but proper medication and diagnosis are still necessary.

If your cough isn’t going away for weeks, it’s crucial to consult a physician right away. In this case, you need more than a soothing humidifier or dehumidifier.


My home advice to alleviate coughing

If you have a persistent cough and a humidifier isn’t working its charm, I recommend the following tips instead:

✔️Clean up your home!

You can run a humidifier or dehumidifier all day, but if your home is mired with dust, your cough will just keep getting worse. Removing the allergens and irritants is crucial for your fast recovery.

Moreover, you should make it a habit to vacuum-clean your carpets, floors, and upholstery. A lot of dust and dust mites could be hiding in these areas, which are possible culprits to your dry cough and nasal congestion.

You may not consider dust a big deal, but experts say it can actually lead to hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This condition occurs when a person inhales a lot of dust on a regular basis.

✔️Take your medicine

A physician can prescribe expectorants or antitussives to help manage your cough. You can take this and use a humidifier blended with a drop of tea tree oil. The minty scent of the oil can help relax your airways and reduce coughing.

You should never rely on your humidifier to ease your cough. After all, these devices are just meant for temporary comfort.

✔️Drink lots of water

Water can help thin the mucus on your throat to reduce coughing. Staying hydrated will also speed up your recovery from the cough. Also, avoid drinking sweet beverages as these will make your throat itchier and your cough more unbearable.

✔️Enjoy some warm soup.

If you’re getting tired of plain water, you can also sip some warm soup. This will help open up your airway and thin the mucus blocking your throat. Runny soaps are better since it’s easier to swallow, and the texture won’t cause your throat to itch even more.

Make sure to add ginger, lemongrass, thyme, turmeric, rosemary, and fresh chives to your recipe whenever possible.

✔️Inhale some steam

If you don’t have a warm mist dehumidifier, you can improvise by inhaling steam from a basin. Simply pour hot water into the basin, then add a small amount of tap water. This way, you won’t burn your face in the process.

Next, drape a towel on your head to trap the steam. You should stop inhaling once you feel uncomfortable or when the steam is getting too hot.

However, never inhale steam if your cough is due to an asthma attack. In this condition, the moist and warm steam can make breathing worse.

✔️Stop smoking

If you’re a smoker, it’s important to quit your vice if you want to cure your cough permanently. Take note that smoke irritates the airway, which can lead to lingering or even whopping cough.

Moreover, you should also avoid secondhand smoke. If someone at home is smoking, it’s best to keep your distance. You can also use a home air purifier for smoke to help filter out the irritant.

✔️Gargle saltwater

Lastly, you should swap your mouthwash with warm saltwater. The salinity of this solution will help kill bacteria in your throat. Also, it’s effective in loosening mucus on your airway so that you can breathe easier.

Aside from that, saltwater can help reduce throat inflammation, mouth sores, and even bad breath. So you’re literally hitting many birds with one stone through this tip.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you humidify a room for a cough?

A: To introduce a healthy level of moisture to your home, you can use a portable humidifier. This can help soothe ticklish throats, so your cough won’t worsen. You can also opt for warm mist humidifiers if the temperature is already cold.

Q: Can a humidifier make bronchitis worse?

A: If not used properly, humidifiers can make bronchitis worse. This is due to the excessive moisture that can promote mold growth. The mold spores will trigger adverse respiratory irritations when inhaled, especially those with compromised breathing.

Q: Can a humidifier cause pneumonia?

A: No, humidifiers are unlikely to cause pneumonia. These appliances can even alleviate pneumonia symptoms if used properly. However, make sure that you also watch out for your home’s humidity level to ensure that you’re not releasing too much moisture into the air.

Q: Is my humidifier giving me a sore throat?

A: It’s very unlikely for humidifiers to give you a sore throat. If you have a ticklish throat, it could be due to bacteria or viral infection. Still, it’s worth cleaning and checking your humidifier for any mold growth that could worsen your condition.

Q: Is a humidifier good for upper respiratory infection?

A: There’s no medical proof that supports humidifiers as a soothing solution for upper respiratory infection. Nevertheless, balancing your home’s humidity levels and inhaling menthol scents can help alleviate the symptoms of the condition.

Q: Can a humidifier cause water in the lungs?

A: Humidifiers won’t necessarily put water into your lungs. However, excessive moisture in the air can trigger mold growth, which can cause respiratory irritations. Also, dirty humidifiers can cause flu-like symptoms.

Final words

Humidifiers and dehumidifiers have a lot of respiratory benefits if used well. When it comes to coughing, humidifiers are often the best choice since they can also double as a diffuser. And if the high humidity is making your breathing worse, a dehumidifier is also handy.

The right pick depends on the condition of your home. Just make sure that your pair these appliances with the proper cough medication to treat the problem.