Does Humidity Affect COPD?

Most people assume that higher humidity levels are harder on people who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While this is generally true, humidity levels actually affect COPD sufferers in different ways.

According to Dr. Phillip Factor, Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, “Many patients with COPD have a component of asthma and some of those patients prefer warm, dry climates while others prefer more humid environments.” 

While this is true, generally about 40 percent humidity level is ideal for those suffering from COPD.

More Humidity Leads To More Mold

One major thing to consider, however, is that mold is more likely to grow in areas with high humidity levels. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urges people to act quickly when a water leak occurs in their home.

If a water leak is cleaned up within 24 to 48 hours after a leak happens, mold will most likely not grow.

How to Reduce Humidity

The EPA also offers some suggestions as to how to reduce humidity:

  • Use a hygrometer (humidity measuring instrument) to keep an eye on humidity levels in your home. Ideally humidity levels will stay between 30 to 60 percent.
  • Vent appliances that produce moisture, like clothes dryers, stoves and kerosene heaters whenever possible.
  • Only use air conditioners and de-humidifiers as needed – try not to keep them constantly running.
  • Always run the bathroom fan or open a window after showering.
  • Use the stove fan when cooking or running the dishwasher.

More Humidity Means More Smog

Often times COPD sufferers’ symptoms will worsen on days with higher levels of heat and humidity, however, days with high heat and humidity are often associated with high levels of smog.

Smog levels certainly affect COPD symptoms, so this is something to consider when thinking about how humidity levels affect someone with COPD.

Additionally, humidity in the air increases the moisture and reduces the oxygen, making it more difficult for anyone to breathe, particularly those with COPD.

More Humidity Means More Allergens

Furthermore, hot, humid days also come hand-in-hand with allergy season. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that one in five people suffer from asthma and allergies, including those with COPD. More allergens in the air make it much more difficult for those with COPD to breathe.

While humidity in the air can make it more difficult for those with COPD to breathe, humidity alone isn’t necessarily the reason for difficult breathing.

Humidity comes with things like increased smog and allergen levels, which contribute to worsening COPD symptoms. The easiest way to combat these threats is to keep track of humidity levels and stay inside on days when levels are significantly high.