Humidifier vs Dehumidifier for Stuffy Nose

A stuffy nose or congested nose occurs when the nasal passage is full of mucus or the tissue lining is inflamed. It is often a symptom of a respiratory problem such as a sinus infection caused by a common cold, flu, or sinusitis. Nasal congestion makes it difficult to breathe in and out and it is a common problem during dry and cold winters. 

To help alleviate these symptoms, it is vital to control indoor humidity in the winter. Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air. The ideal indoor humidity level is between 30 to 50 percent. Anything below 30 can cause dehydration and skin and respiratory ailments. Conversely, extremely humid air will encourage mold growth and attract pests to your home. 

To prevent any of these problems, it’s important to maintain healthy humidity levels inside your house. There are many different products that aim to help you control indoor humidity, such as a humidifier and dehumidifier. Some people may need one of these, and some may need both, depending on the conditions in your home. For relief of sinus congestion, the quick answer is a humidifier is typically most helpful. But how do the two appliances differ and how can you benefit from them? Let’s learn about them below. 

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Humidifier or Dehumidifier for Stuffy Nose

A stuffy nose becomes a problem when the air is too dry or lacks enough moisture. Low humidity can cause nasal passages and the throat to become dry and irritated. This is because dry winter air absorbs moisture from any moist surface, including your skin, eyes, and airways. 

Humidifiers and dehumidifiers both work to control indoor humidity levels. However, they are completely different products. They can sometimes be confused with each other since the two can have a similar exterior. The main purpose of a humidifier and dehumidifier is to control indoor humidity, and that’s where their similarities stop.

During winter, dry skin, chapped lips, and itchy eyes are often signs of low humidity. It can also cause dehydration, nosebleeds, itchy throat, and other cold symptoms. To help relieve these symptoms, you need to add moisture to the air. This can be done easily with a humidifier.

How Does A Humidifier Work?

A humidifier simply works to add moisture to the air. Different types of humidifiers use various methods or technologies to do this. 

Cool Mist Humidifiers

There are a couple of different types of cool mist humidifiers – and you can find our recommendations for the best cool mist humidifier here. These humidifiers work by pushing water into the air by passing it over a fan or using an ultrasonic vibrating diaphragm. These humidifiers typically self regulate because it is more difficult to evaporate water as the air becomes saturated. It’s important to note that cooler air also absorbs less water – so one downside is, with stuffy notes often coming with dry air in winter, these humidifiers can struggle to put enough moisture into the air if the temperature is too low. A benefit is that many have a built in air purifier.

Warm Mist Humidifiers

With this type of device, a steam humidifier or vaporizer emits warm mist. It has an internal heater that boils water before releasing the warm steam into the air. This type of humidifier can be great for cough and cold symptoms. Some ultrasonic humidifiers have cool and warm mist options. Our recommendations for the best warm mist humidifiers can be found here.

How Does a Humidifier Help With Stuffy Nose?

A humidifier releases moisture into your room. When you inhale moist air from cool mist humidifiers, it might help free up the dry mucus in the nasal passage and also reduce the inflammation in the tissue lining due to nasal infection or other respiratory ailments.

It works just like inhaling steam from boiling water. Steam from a hot shower or a cup of tea can thin mucus and help it drain from your nose so you can breathe more freely. You can get the same benefits from a warm mist humidifier.

Similar to nasal congestion or a stuffy nose, other symptoms of cold and cough can be relieved with a humidifier as well. The humidifier will ensure you inhale moist air that doesn’t instigate your allergies and breaks the mucus wall in your throat. 

If you have seasonal cough and cold, use the humidifier for 2-3 days to subside them. But when this situation prolongs, consulting a doctor is better than sticking to this quick remedy.

How Does A Dehumidifier Work?

A dehumidifier does the total opposite of a humidifier, it reduces the amount of moisture in the air. This is done through different dehumidification methods.

Compressor Dehumidifier

Most people are familiar with the compressor-based or refrigerant dehumidifier. It works with a similar principle as an air conditioner. The compressor pumps the refrigerant to the condenser and evaporator coils to cool the air, remove moisture, then reheat the air. A fan draws the humid air and passes it over the cold coils. As the air temperature decreases, it loses its ability to hold vapor. The moisture condenses into water and drips down into the internal tank or flows out through a drain hose.

Peltier Dehumidifier

Another method that mini dehumidifiers use is called thermoelectric cooling or the Peltier effect. It is based on the idea that a voltage of electricity creates a temperature difference between the two sides of a Peltier module. Humid air is drawn by a small fan through the cold side on the front of the unit. The moisture condenses and collects in the tank. The cold and dryer air then passes through the hot side. Warmer, dryer air exits through this side. 

Desiccant Dehumidifier

The other type of dehumidifier is called a desiccant. It uses a substance that absorbs or adsorbs moisture from the air. It comes in a variety of sizes, from disposable containers, rechargeable units, to full-sized models similar to compressor types. The main difference is that the desiccant dehumidifier doesn’t use cooling coils to remove moisture. Instead, moisture is transferred to the desiccant material until it is fully saturated. Some desiccant chemicals dissolve into the moisture while others can be renewed for repeated use.

Does a Dehumidifier Help with a Stuffy Nose? 

The short answer is no, a dehumidifier does not help with a stuffy nose. In fact, when a dehumidifier makes the air drier, congestion and other similar symptoms can get even worse. 

A dehumidifier absorbs moisture from the room and releases warm and dry air. Inhaling this kind of air can further irritate your nasal passageways, thicken the mucus, and block your sinus. This can also lead to nosebleeds, coughing, and sore throat. Therefore, you should absolutely avoid a dehumidifier when you have dry air problems like a stuffy nose.

Remember that a dehumidifier works to remove moisture from the air, but when you have a  stuffy nose, what you need is more moisture in the air. Only a humidifier can tackle this problem by increasing the humidity levels in your room. However, it’s also important to increase the humidity only within the recommended relative humidity level.

Inhaling dry air with less than 35 percent relative humidity will trigger allergy symptoms and increase your discomfort. On the other hand, if the humidity goes above 50 to 55 percent, it can cause a different set of problems like shortness of breath and allergic reactions due to the organisms that thrive in high humidity. Thus, you must always maintain a relative humidity level between 30 to 50 percent.

When Do You Need a Dehumidifier?

If you need a humidifier in dry environments, then you need a dehumidifier in humid conditions. High humidity creates a haven for common indoor allergens like mold and dust mites, triggering allergy symptoms and asthma attacks. 

Touching mold or inhaling mold spores can be harmful both to allergic and non-allergic individuals. If you notice any damp stains in any part of your home, it’s critical to get the moisture levels down before mold problems develop.

High humidity also makes the interior air feel heavy or sticky and humid air can’t absorb your sweat since it is already saturated with moisture. The more humidity in the air the more difficult it is to breathe. If you live in a region with a wet or humid climate, then you need a device that can keep the humidity levels down to the optimal range. 

A dehumidifier removes excess moisture in the air while also improving the air quality and eliminating musty odors in the process. The indoor relative humidity is usually higher in warmer seasons, but it can vary depending on the climate per region. So, while humidifiers are common during the winter, you may benefit from a dehumidifier during summer. 

To be sure, it’s best to check and compare the humidity levels with a humidity-measuring device or hygrometer. 

How About Air Purifiers?

Air purifiers are another useful tool in improving indoor air quality. They consist of a special filter made of mesh, fiber, or fabric, with tiny pores that catch microscopic contaminants, thereby purifying the air. Similar to dehumidifiers, air purifiers work to reduce airborne allergens such as dust mites and mold spores. They also remove all other impurities in the air that may trigger allergies and other respiratory problems.

While a humidifier adds moisture to the air and a dehumidifier extracts excess water vapor from the air, an air purifier simply circulates the air from the room through its filters. Furthermore, air purifiers clean the air from smoke particles, pollen, pet dander, and bacteria. However, they do not control humidity or change the moisture levels.

Air purifiers are the best solution for enhancing polluted indoor air, but they aren’t particularly useful for relieving runny nose, throat irritation, persistent cough, or other similar symptoms unless they are being cause by allergies related to pollution or thriving dust mites.

Final Words

The main purpose of both humidifiers and dehumidifiers is to help control indoor relative humidity, protecting your health from too much or too little moisture. A humidifier adds moisture, while a dehumidifier reduces moisture. Each of these appliances can be highly beneficial for your respiratory health if used correctly. For a stuffy nose and similar conditions brought by dry air, you need a humidifier to help moisten your nasal passage. Remember that a dehumidifier could make your condition worse in this case. Whether it’s a humidifier or dehumidifier, always use the appropriate product for your particular needs to maintain optimal levels of humidity in your home.

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