Coughing is nature's way of removing unwanted particles from the airway. Often, a cough produces mucus, which aids in eliminating the intruder. When the cough is dry and non-productive, it can be due to irritation in the upper respiratory system. Moisture helps to soothe dry passages and thin mucus, making it easier to cough up. Humidity, the amount of moisture in the air, can facilitate easier breathing while low humidity can aggravate an irritation and produce a dry, tickling cough.
Add a Humidifier
Some areas of the country, such as mountains and desserts, have drier, less humid climates. Low humidity levels can dry out delicate mucous membranes in the throat and airways and cause irritation, which may lead to a cough. Low moisture content can also thicken mucus secretions, making them more difficult to cough up.
Adding moisture to the air of a room can minimize the severity and duration of a cough that arises from low humidity levels. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest adding a vaporizer or humidifier to rooms to increase humidity levels. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor relative humidity levels at 30 to 50 percent. This can be accomplished with a room-size humidifier or a whole house humidifier, which is attached to the house's heating unit.
Take a Shower
For temporary relief from low humidity levels, taking a steamy shower can help reduce humidity-related cough. Just being in the bathroom with the steam from a hot shower can help add moisture to the lining of the parched respiratory tract and reduce the irritation of airway passages that have been dried out due to low humidity levels. The NIH recommends breathing steam to soothe a dry throat.
If taking a shower is not convenient, filling a basin with hot water and putting a towel over the head to trap steam can be beneficial for short-term relief of a humidity-related cough.
When relative humidity levels are low, it is important to keep the cells and tissues hydrated from the inside. Increasing the amount of fluids taken can help improve coughs due to low moisture levels.
The simple act of breathing requires moisture and when humidity levels are low, the body must supply the difference. Litholink.com, the website of the Kidney Stone Prevention Program, suggests getting at least 2 to 3 liters of fluid each day, more if the environment is hot or dry, such as in areas of the country where the humidity is low, when flying in an airplane, or when heating and ventilation systems remove moisture from the air.