Warm vs Cool Mist Humidifier? Which is Better for a Cough?

Getting a cough is a common problem that can be painful if left untreated. Fortunately, humidifiers can help and soothe a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses: from diabetes to common cold and even coughs.

But there are many questions that might be lingering in your head about how a humidifier can help relieve cough symptoms including:

  • Can humidifiers actually help remedy cough?
  • Are there models that are better than others?
  • When should you use humidifiers for coughs?

Thank goodness, we’re here to help. First, let’s find out the causes of a dry cough in winter:

What Causes a Dry Cough in Winter?

We tend to become ill more often in winter for several reasons.

  • Ideally, the cold weather can stress our bodies and create tension. As a result, our bodies become more prone to disease and infection.
  • We rely too heavily on artificial heating appliances during winter. The dry heat wreaks havoc with the moisture levels and makes the air dry. And this explains why we get a dry cough during the winter.

When the air is too dry, the fluid in our lungs that protects and insulates our airways evaporates faster than it can be reproduced. Thus, the airways become dry and are likely swell, resulting in a dry cough.

Can Humidifiers Help with a Cough?

Yes, humidifiers can help relieve a cough.  They introduce more moisture into the air, which helps to alleviate a cough by loosening the mucus in the throat and the nose areas. Your sinuses are directly connected to an array of cold and flu symptoms. Therefore, giving them a boost during the winter will inevitably relieve your cough.

Moreover, if you use humidifiers regularly, you may find that you get coughs much less often. They can also be beneficial for chronic coughs due to smoking or general dry coughs. This is because they soothe the dryness that is causing the cough and ensure your airways are well lubricated. The process helps your body fight off the cough more effectively and your symptoms will go away much more quickly.

When using a humidifier, you need to be careful so that you don’t do more harm than good. Human health benefits from humidifiers when they bring the indoor air environment to an acceptable level of moisture. The optimum level for an indoor humidity level is between 40 and 45 percent. Anything above this starts to become counter-productive because moisture levels that are too high encourage the growth of bacteria and contaminants in the air.

Does a Humidifier Help With Coughing at Night?

Yes, a humidifier can help with coughing at night. Coughing at night can be very frustrating and can prevent you from getting a decent night’s sleep. If you find yourself coughing for long periods when you’re trying to get to sleep, you should keep a humidifier in your bedroom.

Place it in an area close to where you sleep so that you can get the full benefit of the invisible mist that is released. The principle of adding moisture to the air is the same both day or night. So, it’s logical to assume that a humidifier will soothe your dry or chesty cough during this time.

If you need an extra boost, you might want to add some essential oils to your humidifier. You should research the properties of essential oils before doing so, of course. Some essential oils are too potent, and will make things worse. Essential oils that help coughs include eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint.

When Should You Use a Humidifier for a Cough?

Prevention is always better than cure, but perhaps you’ve only just found out about humidifiers. You can use a humidifier whenever you like, and the more you use it the more you will notice the difference. However, you should never use a humidifier obsessively because many problems can arise when your indoor environment is too humid.

These problems can create health issues and even damage your home, so always monitor your home’s humidity level. Many humidifiers include a display that will tell you the current humidity level. Alternatively, buy a hygrometer. This is an instrument that measures humidity and is widely available in drugstores.

What Type of a Humidifier is Best for a Cough?

There are many types of humidifier out there, and they all have advantages and disadvantages. Some may require filters, which can be inconvenient. Others may leave residue known as white dust, which is not conducive to a healthy indoor environment. However, there is no single humidifier specifically designed for coughs, so it’s misleading to say that one type is best.

The most important thing to remember when buying a humidifier specifically for a cough is to examine the features a particular humidifier offers. An in-built filtering system that doesn’t require an actual removable filter is a great addition, for example. This means the water will be filtered before releasing into the air without the inconvenience of buying filters.

Other useful features to look out include functions that allow you to add essential oils or soothing vapors to the water. These ingredients will provide your immune system with an extra boost and help you recover from your cough more quickly.

Warm or Cool Mist Humidifier for Cough?

Warm mist humidifiers are generally a better choice for people who want to use a humidifier for health reasons. This is because they warm the mist before releasing it into the air. This helps to kill a large percentage of the bacteria and contaminants present in the water you use to fill the humidifier.

Thus, the mist emitted will be of a higher quality, which will improve the quality of the air you breathe. The less bacteria and contaminants in the air, the better, as this will help you fight current illness and prevent future illness from occurring.

Things You Need to Consider When Using a Humidifier for Your Cough

There are numerous things you need to consider when using a humidifier for your cough. For example, you need to remember that illness comes and goes. And there is no miracle cure for a cough per se. Sure, a humidifier will make you feel better and more comfortable. However, don’t expect your cough to suddenly disappear as soon as you switch it on.

Humidifier maintenance is vital in ensuring it functions effectively. The humidifier you buy will include maintenance instructions, so make sure you follow them. Regular cleaning is essential to avoid contaminants building up in the water capacity tank area.

Moreover, if your humidifier has a lot of extra features, there may be other maintenance tasks you need to carry out on a regularly.  Neglecting your humidifier and still using it can cause more harm than good and reduce the quality of your indoor air.

Some types of humidifier release what’s known as ‘white dust’ into the air. This is when the residue in the water is released into the air, causing micro-organisms to disperse. Thus, if you decide to buy an ultrasonic humidifier, be aware that these release white dust. To avoid this problem, simply use distilled water to fill the humidifier instead of water from the faucet.


Coughs are a common occurrence, particularly during the winter season. From what we’ve discovered, it’s evident that humidifiers can help alleviate cough symptoms. However, if your cough lasts for a long time, consult a doctor.

Humidifiers are designed to create a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere by improving the moisture content and overall quality of the air we breathe. However, they are not a miracle cure, and cold and flu symptoms are still going to appear from time to time. Therefore, make sure you manage your expectations and be realistic about the healing potential of a humidifying appliance.

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Melanie Mavery is an aspiring HVAC technician who is fascinated by the trends and opportunities in the HVAC industry. She spends most of her day writing content on home improvement topics and outreaching to prospects.  She's always looking for ways to support HVACs!