Can Too Much Humidity Cause Coughing? – A COMPLETE Guide
It’s already an established fact that dry air causes coughing. But, can too much humidity cause coughing as well?
Humans feel most comfortable at 40-50% relative humidity. Anything below that can lead to dry airways and mucus buildup, which can cause great discomfort.
On the other hand, hot, heavy, and humid air can also feel like a wet blanket over the face.
So, can too humid air cause coughing? Let’s jump straight into it.
Can too much humidity cause coughing – effect on airways
The airways in humans are lined with a delicate mucous membrane. It’s constantly being moisturized by special mucus-producing cells inside the membrane.
As humidity climbs above 50%, it becomes more likely to affect the mucous membrane. However, that doesn’t have to be a reason to panic.
Excess humidity lubricates the mucous membrane deep inside the airways. Built-up, crusty mucus suddenly becomes moist and the body seizes the opportunity.
The coughing suddenly flares up as the mucus buildup starts moving. You might cough up a glob of colored mucus and freak out, but there’s no need to worry.
The mucus is normally clear and the color comes from all the debris that was lodged in your lungs. In this way, extra humidity helped your lungs clear out.
What happens to a person with asthma if the humidity is cranked all the way up? Will an asthmatic have the same reaction?
Effect of too much humidity on asthma
You know how your calf can cramp up during the night? Asthma is a disease that makes the same thing happen inside the airways.
There is no cure for the airways cramp but there is management medicine. That’s the small pump asthmatics carry with them and breathe in when they feel their symptoms trigger.
Asthma can happen at any time of the day but usually needs a trigger of some sort. This trigger can be as harmless as aspirin, with each asthmatic having their own set of triggers.
There is no definite proof low or high humidity triggers an asthma attack. However, what can happen is that high humidity can cause mold overgrowth. It is these very spores which can trigger an asthma attack.
Doctors used to recommend dry air to avoid triggering asthma but today we know humidity alone can’t be a trigger for an asthma attack. However, temperature might be.
In one study, asthmatics that breathed in a 49 °C (120 °F) air had their asthma triggered. The study theorized the real cause is heat stress, so the solution would be to cool the air rather than fiddle with humidity.
What’s interesting is that 75% of asthmatics have allergies. It seems there’s an underlying connection between the two.
So, what would too much humidity do to an allergy cough?
Effect of too much humidity on allergies
Allergies happen when the body gets tickled way too much for whatever reason. The trigger for allergies again varies from person to person, just like with asthma.
Anything from metals to food and medication can trigger an allergy. This can lead to a stuffy nose, airways cramping, coughing and trouble breathing.
The most common cause of allergies is pollen. They swarm the skies especially during summer months but they aren’t the only trigger.
High humidity could be a cause as well.
One theory states high humidity is caused by the lack of wind. This makes all the pollen and other particles linger in the air, where they can cause allergic breakouts.
And hust like with asthma, heat stress can trigger allergic symptoms too, not humidity alone. What high humidity can do is prevent sweating, which is how the body cools itself.
So what does this mean?
No matter the actual cause, allergic coughing or allergic symptoms can’t be caused by high humidity alone. There has to be a combination of factors that all lead to trouble breathing.
This combination of factors is most commonly accumulates to bronchitis, which is the inflammation of airways leading into the lungs.
Can of too much humidity on bronchitis
Bronchitis is most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection of the bronchi, airways leading into the lungs. Tobacco smoke can be a trigger for the infection flare-up.
Even when the infection is cleared, the cough can persist for several weeks. That’s the lungs pushing out all the mucus that got encrusted in the lungs.
High humidity can help the mucus clear but there is no proof it causes coughing. What there is evidence of is that using a humidifier to maintain humidity levels during the night can help prevent cough due to dry air.
Conclusion: Can Too Much Humidity Cause Coughing?
Airways can sometimes work in mysterious ways. However, what we do know about airways tells us that air humidity can make them tick or keep them healthy.
Whereas dry air encrusts the mucus inside the airways, too humid of air irritate the nerves in the lungs. The body feels it and triggers coughing to get it out.
Cough can flare up all of a sudden but it is not necessarily a cause for concern. Even if cranking up the humidifier triggers it, coughing is normal as long as it lasts less than 8 weeks.
Naturally, if asthma, allergies or bronchitis are present, a cough can be worrisome, but on its own, is no cause for immediate concern. Coughing is a normal, natural reflex that protects the lungs from mucus buildup.
Short-lasting cough can be caused by anything that irritates the airways, while long-lasting cough is a worrisome and you should definitely work towards figuring out what triggers it.
From all the available medical and practical knowledge, it appears high humidity is unlikely to be a trigger for coughing. It can be a factor in coughing but never a major one.
Doctors still can’t tell if too humid air is bad for airways problems, but what they do know is—too much humidity is no coughing matter.