can a humidifier make a cough worse

Can a Humidifier Make a Cough Worse? (More like when?)

Can a humidifier make a cough worse?

Humidifiers are simple devices with one job which is to add moisture to the air when the relative humidity has dropped below a comfortable point. Which is usually around 30%.

Humidifiers are generally known as winter appliances because that’s the time of the year when the outdoor air tends to be dry and the indoor air is being dried out by a heater running all season.

Along with dry air comes a multitude of miserable symptoms like a dry cough, dry throat, chapped lips, and both crusty and bloody noses.

Can a humidifier make a cough worse?

“A clean humidifier moisturizing the air with clean water will not make a cough worse. Adding some clean moisture back into the air when you are feeling dried out by the lack of humidity in the house is a great way to relieve dry cough symptoms.”

When can a humidifier make a cough worse?

1. When the humidifier is dirty
Humidity is already at a appropriate level

1. Dirty humidifier

A neglected, dirty humidifier can make a cough worse.
They can not only make a cough worse, they can exacerbate allergies and even give you mold sickness. Maybe you’ve heard of humidifier lung.

Why is this?
  “The design of a humidifier lends itself to the production of bacteria and mold spores that if not addressed regularly can make a humidifier into a virtual air pollution machine that distributes mold spores and germs into the air with every drop of humidity that it emits.”

Can a humidifier make a cough worse

2.  Humidity is already at a appropriate level

Adding humidity to an already humid room can add fuel to the production of mold growth and provide food for dust mites.

Both are common household allergens that can bring on symptoms like sneezing, watering eyes, and chest discomfort.

Too much humidity can be just as much of a problem as too little humidity.
And depending on the season keeping the relative humidity inside the house at the 40% level can be a balancing act.

3.  A dirty humidifier combined with an already humid room.


If you want a super size the problem, using an already dirty humidifier that has had standing water in it in a humid room can turn up the production of mold spores and dust mites to full steam.

Why would someone want to do that?

There’s probably no one that wants to do that.

No one would knowingly spread germs and bacteria in their air.

But the truth is, humidifiers are not kept as clean as they should be, generally speaking.

And there is a lot of confusion when it comes to what a humidifier does and doesn’t do.

For instance, you would never want to add more humidity to the air when the climate is already humid,

But there are a great deal of people who do not understand the difference between a humidifier and a dehumidifier.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of appliances that do something to the air and it can be confusing figuring out which is which.

If the air is already too humid, a dehumidifier will reduce the amount of moisture in the air.

What to do if you have a humidifier that is making you cough.

How to Lower Humidity in a House1.  Measure your humidity with a hygrometer

If you do not know what your relative humidity is, then you have no way of knowing if you even need a humidifier running in the first place.

According to the National Library of medicine, the humidity in the home should be between 40 and 60% to avoid humidity related problems.

A hygrometer will let you know when a humidifier is actually needed.

Using a humidifier when you don’t need it will help populate dust mites and fuel mold growth which fills the air with mold spores.

If you find that you don’t need the humidifier because you’re relative humidity is already sufficient,

Then turning the humidifier off is the first thing you should to keep from coughing.

2.  Thoroughly clean the humidifier

Adding clean moisture to the air when the air is dry is a great way to alleviate the symptoms of dry cough.

But if your humidifier is dirty then it can become a source of mold and bacteria in your air when it is turned on.
And at that point it is actually doing the opposite of what you wanted to do.

Keeping the humidifier clean is a major component of operating a humidifier and should be emphasized a great deal more than it normally is.

Not only should the water be changed every couple of days, the humidifier should be routinely cleaned and disinfected with a light water and bleach solution to kill any mold and to help inhibit any mold and bacteria production.

Another helpful hint for keeping your humidifier clean is to add a little bit of  vinegar in the water. This will also help reduce mold and bacteria production in your humidifier between cleanings.

There are also additives that you can purchase that will keep mold and bacteria production down inside of a humidifier.

3. Avoid tap water


Most people know that tap water is not exactly the healthiest way to hydrate.

 But not a lot of people realize that when you use it in your humidifier that the additives in tap water like fluoride and herbicides become part of your air you breathe as they are disseminated into the air through the moisture that the humidifier is emitting.

The best way to avoid this is to simply use deep mineralized water or water that has been boiled.

The exception to the rule is a vaporizer.
Vaporizers boil water and emit the steam into the room to humidify the air.

The act of boiling sterilizes the water and eliminates the need to purchase distilled water.

Vaporizers also do not have the same amount of problems with mold and bacteria production because of how it works also.

Vaporizers still need to be cleaned and emptied when not used to avoid standing water.


A clean humidifier emitting clean moisture to a room that has a dry environment is a great way to lessen the symptoms of a cough. Especially a dry cough that usually comes with chapped lips, a crusty nose, and a raw throat.

But humidifiers are predisposed to mold and bacteria growth. And failure to maintain a humidifier regularly can cause the humidifier to be a source for the symptoms of household allergies and coughing.

To ensure that you are reaping the good benefits of a humidifier,

Changing the water and thoroughly cleaning the humidifier every couple to few days is absolutely necessary.

Avoid standing water by emptying the reservoir when the humidifier is not in use,

And consider purchasing distilled water or pre-boiling water to use in your humidifier to avoid any chemicals like fluoride for other herbicides used in tap water from becoming part of the air you breathe.

And consider purchasing a hygrometer to measure your relative humidity.

  After all, how will you know if you actually need more humidity in the first place, if you don’t measure it.

Published by

Dennis Reed

Dennis Reed Owner and Author @