Do you suffer from moderate to severe headaches? Also known as migraines, these debilitating headaches are caused by a variety of factors, including lack of sleep, allergies, hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, alcohol, caffeine, and certain food chemicals. You might have wondered if high humidity causes headaches.

But, did you know?

Recent studies also show a link between headaches and high humidity. In fact, changes in indoor humidity levels largely contribute to migraines! If headaches frequently visit you while you hang out at home, then indoor humidity may be the root of your problem. In this article, we will explain how headaches and high humidity correlate and how a dehumidifier can help reduce indoor humidity.

Ready to nip headaches in the bud? Let’s get started!

Can High Indoor Humidity Cause Headaches?

According to the World Health Organization, more than 16 % of the population, or 303 million people worldwide, suffer from chronic migraine headaches. That’s a lot of people!

So, how does high indoor humidity affect migraines?

According to researchers, high humidity does not directly cause headaches. However, the mold associated with humidity is the REAL root of the problem. Confused? Let us break it down for you.

can humidifiers cause headaches
Headaches aren’t caused by moisture directly but could be caused by elevated levels of mold.

Mold and Indoor Humidity

Mold and mildew grow best in a warm, damp climate. Therefore, as high humidity increases, so do the production of mold. But wait, there’s more.

Humidity also allows microscopic dust particles to clump up, especially in moisture-laden areas like your bathroom and basement. As you may know, indoor mold and dust tend to cause sinus and allergy problems. And as the pressure begins to build up in your sinuses and cause strain, you will experience a headache.

How The Weather Can Give You a Migraine

Sometimes, when the temperature and indoor humidity levels change fast enough, they can cause headaches too. But, why? It all has to do with barometric pressure.

headaches and high humidity correlate with changes in weather
A storm rolling in can drive up humidity and migraines

What Is Barometric Pressure?

Barometric pressure measures the exerted force of the air around you. You’ll often hear that people get a headache when a storm rolls in; this is due to the increase in barometric pressure, which pushes on their sinuses and gives them a headache.

Generally, the closer you are to sea level, the higher the barometric pressure. Two main factors cause this:

  1. the amount of gravitational force pushing the air down around you
  2. the density of the air, based on the amount of water vapor in the air

So, what does barometric pressure have to do with indoor humidity?

Barometric Pressure and Relative Humidity

Relative humidity is a measure of the temperature and how much water is in the air. So the higher the humidity, the heavier the air is. That’s why when you’re in the desert mountains, the barometric pressure is entirely different than when you’re in a seaside town!

When the weather changes outside, the amount of air pressure and humidity inside changes too. As you can see, a change in barometric pressure can give you a sinus headache.

Now, let’s learn how to stop headaches and high humidity…

Lower Indoor Humidity with Dehumidifiers

Did you know? You can use a dehumidifier to lower indoor humidity levels and reduce mold growth and air density. And here’s the best part: while we usually can’t feel the difference with our hands, we typically can in our sinuses. Goodbye migraines!

So, if lower humidity in your room decreases the air pressure, then a humidifier must make it worse then, right?

Not necessarily.

Humidifiers Can Help Headaches

humidifier gives me a headache eva dry
Some people who experience ‘humidifier headache’ also get them from aromatherapy kits.

A brand new humidifier shouldn’t cause you to have a headache. If the humidity is too low– say around 10-18% –then your humidifier can actually help soften and unclog your sinuses. If the humidifier runs too high or for too long, the high humidity cause headaches.

Here are the facts: our sinuses use the air we breathe to lubricate themselves. Too much, and you invite dust, pollen, and mold. Too little, and your sinuses can’t process the mucus keeping itself protected.

can high humidity cause headaches eva dry

But, here’s the catch: humidifiers could give you a headache if they are unclean.

Have You Cleaned Your Humidifier Lately?

Humidifiers spray water into the air, pulled from a tank. Usually, you don’t want to let the tank totally empty, or it could damage the pump. Other times, you may turn off the machine without using all of the water in the tank. Either way, this tends to result in still water that doesn’t get thrown out.

Still water is precisely what it sounds like: water that stays still. When water isn’t running out of your faucet or down a stream, it generates more germs, mildew, and mold.
This is generally why it’s not safe to drink or swim in a pond as opposed to the river or the beach. Whereas you can visibly see bacteria and pond scum, you usually won’t be able to see a build-up of bacteria and germs in a humidifier tank.

You Can Get More Than A Headache From a Humidifier

A few studies like this one from the Children’s Hospital of Colorado shows how humidifiers usually carry bacteria with them. There was even a report by Time Magazine about this problem with humidifiers and indoor humidity headaches.

Humidifiers can make you sick and give you a headache. The increase in air pressure, if it’s done too fast, can give you a problem also.

How To Prevent Humidifier Headaches

If you need to use a humidifier, use a hygrometer to check the indoor humidity levels. You don’t want to drive the humidity too high, or you’ll increase the mold and bacteria in your room. You’ll also want to make sure you regularly clean your humidifier tank with soap and water.
Finally, don’t use a humidifier if you’re congested. Talk to your doctor about what medicine you should take, or use a nebulizer instead. A nebulizer is essentially the same thing as a humidifier, but it can also deliver inhalants used for asthma or other respiratory problems.

Prevent Indoor Humidity Headaches with a Dehumidifier

Just like humidifiers are meant to raise the relative indoor humidity in the room, you can use a dehumidifier to lower it. A small electric dehumidifier can handle most bedrooms and drop the increased air pressure due to the weather and higher humidity.

There’s no big trick to it– keep an eye out for the weather, turn on your hygrometer and see if you need your dehumidifier close by. If you live in a naturally humid climate, check out these additional indoor humidity tips.

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