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Chances are that you or someone you know will bring out the humidifier anytime someone comes down with a nasty cough or asthma issues.
It’s considered common knowledge that a humidifier helps with coughing, but the extent as to how much isn’t that clear.
There’s a lot of debate surrounding this topic, including which kinds of coughs require a humidifier and whether to use warm or cool mist humidifier for a cough.
What does a humidifier do for a cough?
In order to gain a better understanding of humidifiers and their benefits when it comes to coughing, it’s important to know all the facts.
The million dollar question is, does a Humidifier Help With Coughing?
Understanding the Difference in Coughs
Not every cough is the same.
There are wet coughs and dry coughs, and they are each caused by different things.
Dry coughs are considered “non-productive” as they don’t produce mucus or phlegm from the lungs.
Dry coughing is typically caused by things like allergies, minor throat and windpipe irritants, and acid reflux.
Wet coughs brought on by viral infections sometimes turn into long-lasting dry coughs.
Dry coughing can worsen if the air you breathe is dry, which is why a humidifier is helpful.
Wet coughing is considered “productive” because it loosens phlegm and mucus in the lungs.
Most wet coughs are the result of a virus or an infection.
Wet coughing is usually painful (particularly in children) and gets worse at night, interfering with sleep.
As the editorial staff at Parents points out, humidifiers are most often used in cases of wet coughing due to the fact that the additional moisture added to the air loosens mucus.
This both reduces the urge to cough and makes it easier and less painful to do so.
Which Type of Humidifier Works Best for Wet and Dry Coughs?
Which kind of humidifier to use for the different types of coughs is a topic of debate.
For a long time it was widely believed that warm mist humidifiers were the best remedy for all coughing ailments.
However, that’s not actually the case. As Jay L. Hoecker, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic explains, both types of humidifiers are equally effectual at adding moisture to the air.
What’s more, the mist from a warm mist humidifier will become room temperature by the time it’s breathed in, meaning that the temperature makes no real difference.
Though both types of humidifiers do the same thing in regard to treating a cough, there are some select differences between the two that can influence your buying decision.
Warm Mist Humidifier Benefits and Drawbacks
Warm mist humidifiers (also known or “vaporizers”) use boiling water to create steam.
The pros and cons of a warm mist humidifier are as follows:
- Pro: No bacteria released into the air – During the steaming process, the high temperature eliminates any bacteria or mold present in the water.
- Pro: Heating effect – Warm mist humidifiers make rooms feel more humid and muggy. This makes them a popular choice for people who live in colder climates.
- Pro: Nearly noiseless – This type of humidifier doesn’t create a lot of noise.
- Con: Hazard factor – Due to the boiling water, these humidifiers are not recommended for use in children’s rooms as they pose a burn hazard.
- Con: Not recommended for large rooms –
Warm mist humidifiers are more effective at humidifying the air in smaller rooms, like offices or bedrooms, Mercia Tapping of Allergy Consumer Review explains. They aren’t as effective at humidifying larger spaces.
- Con: Harder to clean – The boiling process may leave behind mineral buildup, making this type of humidifier harder to clean than the alternative.
Cool Mist Humidifier Benefits and Drawbacks
Cool mist humidifiers don’t use heat.
Instead, the water inside is agitated by a motor in order to create a mist.
Some cool mist humidifiers have a fan that disperses that mist throughout the room.
The pros and cons of this humidifier type are:
- Pro: Safer for children – Because there’s no heat involved, cool mist humidifiers are a safer option for any household with children.
- Pro: Requires less power – Because there’s no need to heat the water, this kind of humidifier typically uses less electricity.
- Pro: Better for large spaces – If you need a humidifier for a larger area (like a family room or an apartment), a cool mist humidifier is the best choice.
- Con: Noisy – Cool mist humidifiers can be noisier than vaporizers due to gurgling water as it’s agitated. Those with a fan might make additional noise, as well.
- Con: Bacteria Growth – Due to the lack of sterilization that comes with boiling water, there’s a greater chance of bacteria and mold growth.
- Con: Distilled water over tap water – In order to restrict the amount of harmful particles being released into the air, it’s best to use distilled water with a cool mist humidifier.
Choosing the Best Humidifier for Your Situation
Because adding moisture to the air helps with cases of both dry and wet coughing, it’s a good idea to purchase a humidifier – particularly if you or members of your family tend to get sick often.
Which type of humidifier you choose depends on how you weigh the pros and cons of each.