Using Moisture to Manage Dry Air

This information explains how to use moisture to help with trouble breathing during dry months.

In the winter, the air is drier than in other seasons. Heating or air conditioning systems can also add to this problem. When there isn’t enough moisture in the air, the lining of your mouth, nose, and throat can become dry, which can lead to crusting and bleeding. This problem is worse if you’ve had:

  • Radiation to your mouth, throat, nasal cavity, or sinuses.
  • Surgery to remove your larynx (voice box). This is called a laryngectomy.

How to Use Moisture to Manage Dry Air

Here are some ways you can use moisture to manage dry air:

  • Use a humidifier
    • Buy humidifiers for rooms where you spend most of your time. Try to buy a warm-mist humidifier (also called steam or evaporative humidifiers) instead of a cool-mist one (also called ultrasonic or impeller humidifiers).
    • Place a humidifier by your bed so that you breathe moisturized air while you sleep.
    • Use distilled water to limit the amount of minerals that build up in your humidifier.
    • Make sure to clean your humidifier so it doesn’t grow mold. Follow the instructions that it came with.
  • Run a hot shower for 10 minutes to steam up the bathroom. Breathe in the warm mist for 30 minutes to keep your nose and throat lining moist.
  • Use the “low” setting on your heating or air conditioning systems instead of the “high” setting.
  • Drink 8 (8-ounce) glasses (2 liters) of liquids a day.
    • Limit how much coffee, tea, and soda you drink. These caffeinated drinks are diuretics and cause you to urinate more.
    • If you have a feeding tube, add an extra 480 mL of water in divided doses to your free water flushes.
  • If you have dryness in your nose:
    • Use a nasal saline spray, such as Ocean®, as needed.
    • Apply a water-based cream, such as Eucerin®, to the inner lining of your nose.
  • If you had a laryngectomy, try to be in a room with a humidifier. If you can’t, place moist gauze over your stoma. The gauze will warm, filter, and moisturize the air you breathe. Change the gauze regularly so that it stays moist.

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