There are many different reasons to start using a humidifier – dry skin, cracked lips, chronic sinus issues, allergies… but one of the most effective uses for a humidifier is finding relief from a cough.
Whether your symptoms include congestion, a sore throat, nonstop dry coughing, or trouble sleeping, there’s a very good chance that a humidifier can help. This guide to the best humidifiers for all types of coughs and colds can help to treat and alleviate symptoms in both children and adults.
Why Use a Humidifier for Cough Relief
The main goal of any humidifier is to add moisture back into dry air. Since dry air can cause a lot of irritation in our sinuses, throats, and lungs, it makes sense that reversing it can quickly bring relief for coughs, colds, and congestion.
Medical News Today says that in addition to relieving a cold, flu, or cough symptoms, “dry air with cold temperatures may promote the transmission of viruses, making an infection more likely. Adding moisture to the air may, therefore, help protect against infections.”
What is Better for a Cough – Warm or Cool Mist Humidifiers?
Honestly, it really depends, specifically on where, what, and who you’ll be using this humidifier for. Who is the most important; if this humidifier is for an infant, toddler, or child, always go with a cool-mist humidifier. Hot water or steam from a warm-mist humidifier or steam vaporizer can burn a child that gets too close. This doesn’t mean that warm mist machines don’t offer benefits, though.
A stream of warm, soothing mist can bring a lot of relief, especially in the wintertime, when the house is generally drier and colder. If you can’t decide between a warm or cool mist humidifier for cough relief or you know that you want a little bit of both, the best option is to go with a humidifier that offers both warm and cool misting.
Comparing Humidifiers for Cough Relief
Choosing a Humidifier for Coughs & Common Colds
Depending on the type of humidifier, it may or may not come with a built-in filter. There are pros and cons to both filtered and filterless designs. The obvious benefit of choosing a filtered humidifier is that most germs and bacteria are filtered out of the water before being released as mist. The downside is that you’ll have to take extra steps – and pay extra money – for filter replacements.
Filterless humidifiers don’t require regular filter changes, and most of them come with more advanced cleaning features. Some of them even use UV technology to eliminate bacteria from the water, which is just as (if not more) effective than an actual filter.
There are two main types of humidifiers: ultrasonic and evaporative. Evaporative machines tend to be more basic, they’re built with a filter, and they’re cheaper on average. They also tend to be bulkier, noisier, and less effective at producing an even, soothing mist. Although more expensive, ultrasonic humidifiers are better, especially if you want a compact, powerful, and quiet machine for the bedroom.
Size & Coverage Area
Every humidifier comes with a room size/coverage area recommendation – you should be able to find this information right in the product description. Some humidifiers are meant for small rooms, some for large rooms, and some can even handle the entire home.
If you plan on using this for a specific room, comparing size and coverage area is easy. Just keep the square footage of the room in mind as you search around for a good humidifier for cough relief.
Water Tank Capacity & Runtime
In order to pump moisture into the air, every humidifier requires water. Most machines’ water tanks can easily be removed for refilling or cleaning, but some have a top-fill design that requires you to pour water in from above. Size is the other significant difference between water tanks, ranging anywhere from ½ gallon to 3+ gallons.
The size of the water tank has a lot to do with a machine’s maximum runtime. The larger the tank, the longer it can run. Depending on tank capacity and mist output, some machines can only run for 8 hours, while others can work nonstop for 80.
Ease of Setup, Use & Maintenance
Nobody, especially those suffering from a cough, wants to spend hours setting up a humidifier. The good news is that the best-rated machines have a straightforward setup process, and the same goes for operating the humidifier. The more challenging aspect tends to be maintenance, so check the recommended maintenance/cleaning steps before buying.
Most humidifiers come with basic features like auto-shutoff when the tank runs out, a programmable timer, and mist output control. But some take it a step further by offering more advanced features like an aromatherapy diffuser, a built-in hygrometer/humidistat, and a Sleep setting for quiet running.
Price & Warranty
Your new humidifier doesn’t have to break the bank, but if you want all the bells and whistles or you’re looking for a whole home humidity solution, expect to pay more. No matter what you end up paying, check to see how long the machine defects are covered under warranty, as well as what’s included.
6 Best Humidifiers for Cough Relief Reviewed
1. Homech Quiet
Best Humidifier for Cough Relief
|Type||Ultrasonic Cool Mist|
|Room Coverage||430 sq. ft.|
|Water Tank Capacity||4 liters (1 gallon)|
The Homech Quiet Ultrasonic is a great humidifier in general, but it’s especially beneficial for cough relief. There are a few reasons for that, and the first is that it’s virtually silent. If you’re struggling with nighttime coughing that affects your sleep, choosing a quiet humidifier is a must. Not only is the Homech quiet, but it has a noise level of 26 decibels, which is softer than a whisper. Literally.
The quiet operation is just the start of why this machine is perfect for cough relief. The overall design is another reason, specifically the rotating nozzle covering every inch of a room (up to 430 square feet). The nozzle height can be adjusted up to 2 feet so that you’re always guaranteed an even distribution of humidity.
The 4-liter, 1-gallon tank is the perfect size for most people (which is why so many humidifiers are built with a 1-gallon tank). On a full tank with a low mist output setting of 60 ml/hr, you can get up to 60 hours of continuous use out of your Homech. If you’re craving more mist or your home is extremely dry, the maximum output is 300 ml/hr.
With its clean, simple design, the Homech is nice to look out, plus it’s compact enough to sit on your bedside table or desktop. It comes with all the most important settings you should look for in a humidifier, like auto shut-off and dry burn protection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have many advanced features, like aromatherapy, warm misting, or humidistat control. But for the price, it’s hard to complain.
- Thousands of high ratings
- Simple cleaning and filling
- Aesthetically pleasing design
- Full room coverage
- Great value for money
- No advanced features
2. Vicks Filter Free
Best Humidifier for Asthma Cough
|Type||Ultrasonic Cool Mist|
|Room Coverage||400 sq. ft.|
|Water Tank Capacity||1.2 gallons|
In terms of cough relief, Vicks is by far the most well-known brand. Their products are specifically marketed for relieving dry-air discomforts, including cough, congestion, and colds. The company’s Filter-Free Ultrasonic Cool Mist humidifier stays true to the Vicks promise, especially for those suffering from asthma-related coughing.
The first great feature of the Vicks humidifier is the filter-free design, which means you won’t have to mess around with filter replacements. But the thing that makes this model the best for irritating, dry asthma cough and wheezing is the soothing mist output. The steady stream of mist is quiet and relaxing, making it an excellent choice for bedrooms of babies, kids, and adults.
In terms of cough and congestion relief, Vicks understands that getting a good night’s sleep can feel impossible.
“When you or your kid has a cold, it can be difficult to sleep through the night,” says Vicks.
“Humidifiers, vaporizers, & steam inhalers provide temporary relief from coughing & congestion, so your rest won’t be as disturbed by coughing fits.”
This machine will do just that by keeping your throat and nasal passages moisturized.
The main complaint is that this is only suitable for small and medium-sized bedrooms ranging from 100 to 400 square feet. Any space more than 400 square feet, and you’ll need to consider a different option.
- Well-known brand
- Great for sleeping
- Low maintenance, easy cleaning
- Vicks Vapor Rub tray included
- Easy to adjust mist output
- Not suitable for large rooms
- Basic controls (no extra features)
3. Pure Enrichment MistAire
Best Humidifier for Baby Cough
|Type||Ultrasonic Cool Mist|
|Room Coverage||250 sq. ft.|
|Water Tank Capacity||1.5 liters (0.4 gallons)|
Whether you’re looking for the best humidifier for toddler cough, the best humidifier for a child’s cough, or one for your newborn baby, Pure Enrichment should be high on your list of considerations. Several features make this a great choice for little ones, like the calming cool mist that’s a much safer choice for kids than a warm mist humidifier.
The fact that this is an ultrasonic humidifier (and not an evaporative one) means that it’s ultra-quiet, and therefore ultra-soothing. Even on the highest setting with the strongest mist output, your baby will get a more restful sleep, which means that YOU will get a more restful sleep as well. The optional night light that gives off a soothing glow is another nice added touch.
The main drawbacks are the very small water tank, which holds just 1.5 liters, and the relatively short runtime compared to other cough-relieving humidifiers. On the plus side, some people prefer a small water tank for easy refills and less risk of spillage, and if you’re just using it overnight in the nursery to relieve your child’s cough, 16 hours is plenty.
- Soothing night light
- Quiet mist output
- Long 5-year warranty
- Safe cool misting for babies
- Short runtime compared to others
- Very small water tank
Best Warm Mist Humidifier for Cough
|Type||Ultrasonic Warm Mist + Steam Inhaler|
|Room Coverage||250 sq. ft.|
|Water Tank Capacity||0.5 gallon|
So far, we’ve covered only cool misting humidifiers, but many benefits come with warm mist, especially if your cough is accompanied by sinus congestion. The warm mist helps loosen that congestion, plus the warm air adds extra soothing properties in the dry, cold winter months. If you’re looking for the best humidifier for congestion and cough that outputs warm mist, go with the Crane.
This is a 2-in-1 device that includes a steam inhaler as well as a warm mist humidifier. The personal steam inhaler can be easily set up by simply replacing the humidifier tank with the inhaler attachment. It’s a great non-medicated alternative to over the counter cough and cold medicine. You can also add in the Crane HS-1950 Vapor Pads for more added benefits.
As far as the humidifier goes, the 0.5-gallon tank is small but can run for 8 hours, which should be just enough to get you through the night. It features a filter-free design, but you still don’t have to worry about germs or bacteria thanks to the optional demineralization filter (HS-1932). It’s not essential that you buy this extra piece, but it’s recommended if you’re not using distilled, demineralized, or purified water.
The Crane humidifier is effective up to 250 feet and helps relieve cough, cold, and flu symptoms, nasal congestion, dry cough, sinus irritation, nose bleeds, and dry skin and hair. Aside from the low room coverage and the relatively short runtime, the only other drawback is the bulky, not-overly-appealing design.
- Steam inhaler attachment
- Bacteria free warm mist
- Easy cleaning with removable pieces
- Optional demineralization filter
- Small tank and short runtime
- Bulky, unappealing design
5. Elechomes UC5501
Best Humidifier for Coughing at Night
|Type||Ultrasonic Warm + Cool Mist|
|Room Coverage||750 sq. ft.|
|Water Tank Capacity||6 liters, 1.5 gallons|
The Elechomes is a sleek humidifier that fits well into the modern home. It comes in 2 colors – black and white – and the touch display is ultra-advanced compared to the other machines reviewed. The 6-liter, 1.5-gallon tank is larger than average, allowing this compact yet powerful humidifier to run for up to 40 hours.
The UC5501 is great for large rooms – it’s effective in a space as large as 750 square feet. That’s actually pretty surprising considering the dimensions are only 11.6 x 7.7 x 11 inches, and the machine weighs just over 5 pounds. This compact design means that moving it from room to room is easy, so everyone in the family can benefit from this guy.
This device deserves the “best for coughing at night” because it operates quietly (around 30 dB) so that you can sleep soundly, all while reaping the benefits of either cool or warm moisture. That’s right; you can choose between the two. The cool mist moistens the air for better sleep while the warm mist gives extra heat and comfort in the winter.
And now for the downsides. First, the price of the UC5501 is reasonable considering all the cool features, like the built-in humidistat and aromatherapy tray, but it’s still higher than other products. The good news is that you won’t have to purchase any filters over time. The only other complaint is that the water tank is too bulky, making it more challenging to refill.
- High hourly mist output
- Great for large rooms
- Quiet for restful sleep
- Intelligent humidity sensing
- Cool + warm mist functions
- Water tank too large for some
- High cost
Best Warm and Cool Mister for Coughing
|Type||Ultrasonic Warm + Cool Mist|
|Room Coverage||500 sq. ft.|
|Water Tank Capacity||4 liters, 1 gallon|
Thanks to its seamless humidification performance, the Hupro is the best humidifier for dry cough.
MyDr says that dry coughs “are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds and flu, but they can also be caused by allergies or throat irritants.”
Whatever the cause, bringing moisture levels up can bring instant relief, and the Hupro is one of the most effective at quickly raising the humidity.
The 4-liter, 1-gallon tank can pump warm or cool mist into a room as large as 500 square feet for as long as 30 hours. This is one of the smartest room humidification systems available, incorporating three different types of humidity control in one easy-to-use machine. This includes auto mode, constant humidity, and 5-speed unique levels.
The Hupro’s ultrasonic technology produces an ultra-fine mist, vibrating 2.4 million times per minute. It’s a solid choice if you want to use this machine all year long and not just in the dry winter months. It also uses air ionization technology that producеs 300 million cleansing ions per min, keeping the water fresh, clean, and germ-free.
If this is for a kid’s room, or even if you just have kids at home in general, the Hupro might not be the best choice. The warm mist is soothing and great for dry cough, but it gets hot, reaching up to 140°F. The only other thing that might make you hesitant about the Hupro is the high cost. Like the Elechomes, the high price tag is justified by cool features like aromatherapy and smart settings.
- Cool + warm misting
- Air ionization for clean water
- Ultra-quiet and efficient
- Aroma box for essential oils
- Top-filling, leak-proof design
- High cost
- Very warm mist, not ideal for kids
Identifying Different Types of Coughs
Coughing is our body’s way of removing foreign particles and bacteria to prevent a possible infection. Maybe you think a cough is a cough, but there are several different types, and each one is characterized by different triggers, symptoms, risks, and treatment.
The main types of coughs to look out for include:
- Dry cough
A dry cough can sometimes be caused by inflammation of the respiratory tract (bronchi, throat, and larynx). Since there’s no mucus, there can be a lot of throat irritation.
- Wet cough
A wet or phlegmy cough is your body’s response to an overproduction of mucus. It’s usually caused by a cold or flu and is more common to happen at night.
- Asthma cough
It’s easy to confuse asthma cough with dry cough since both are characterized by irritated throats and don’t produce much phlegm. The main difference is that an asthma cough is characterized by other asthma symptoms, like chest tightness and wheezing.
- Whooping cough (aka Hacking cough)
Also known as Pertussis, this is the most severe type of cough.
CDC says that this “is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.”
Infants and children are extremely susceptible.
The good news is that a humidifier can help with every type of cough. It might not cure it entirely, but it can help alleviate some discomfort and lessen the severity of the symptoms.
Humidifiers & Aromatherapy for Cough & Congestion
Using essential oils in a humidifier for cough relief has many benefits, and some oils can even be used to loosen congestion, alleviate sinus pressure, and relieve coughing.
Healthline says that some of the best humidifier oils for cough include eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, and bergamot.
If you’re wondering what to add to humidifier water for cough, eucalyptus is probably the best since it’s “recognized for its ability to treat coughs and associated respiratory ailments like pharyngitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis.”
Comparing Humidifiers with Similar Home Devices
A humidifier isn’t the only home device that can help with cough relief – there’s also dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and vaporizers. The one you choose depends on a few things, like your symptoms as well as your home’s current air quality and humidity levels.
Choosing between a dehumidifier or humidifier for cough depends entirely on your home’s humidity level.
Aer Industries says that “a humidifier may be used to moisture the nasal passage and airways when you have chest and sinus congestion due to a cold while dehumidifiers basically remove moisture from the air and may be useful in treating asthma which may be triggered by humid air.”
Vs Air Purifiers
Air purifiers and humidifiers offer different benefits. A humidifier adds moisture into the air while an air purifier cleans the air of dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, smoke, and more. Having both can be beneficial, but if you just want one or the other, look for a humidifier with a germ-free design.
A vaporizer works very similarly to a humidifier, so it doesn’t really matter if you go with a humidifier or vaporizer for cough relief.
According to Healthline, “the type you ultimately choose comes down to your personal health, budget, and family considerations.”
People Also Ask (FAQ)
Can a humidifier make a cough worse?
Yes, but only if you use them improperly or go against your doctor’s recommendations.
The most humidifier harm is caused by “inappropriately cleaning humidifiers or use of tap water can cause bacteria and microbes to grow and be released into the air. It is important to thoroughly clean humidifiers every 1-3 days…”
How often should I change my humidifier filter?
Many units come with no filter at all, but more basic evaporative humidifiers have built-in filters that need to be changed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Some units say that you should replace the filter every season while others give more specific timeframes, like 6 months or 1 year.
Is it possible to make a DIY homemade humidifier for cough and congestion?
Technically yes, but for safety reasons, you’re better off buying a humidifier from a reputable brand like Homech, Vicks, or Pure Enrichment.
How often should I change the water in my humidifier?
For coughs, humidifier water should be changed every day. Don’t use tap water, always use distilled water since this will help prevent calcium build-up in your water chambers, and to avoid sinus infections from dirty water. Before adding new water, rinse the water tank out and give the unit a thorough cleaning once a week.
Is a humidifier safe to use around children & pets?
Yes, but it’s suggested that you use a cool-mist humidifier. Warm mist is great for loosening mucus in the sinuses and chest, but cold mist units are safer to use around kids and pets.
Out of all the humidifiers for cough relief, the Homech Ultrasonic is the top pick for a number of reasons. It covers the entire room thanks to the 360-degree nozzle design, it’s quiet enough for a sleeping baby, it has a large capacity, and it’s long-lasting, and best of all, it’s affordable.
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